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Dive into history with Florida’s Panhandle Shipwreck Trail

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Miles off the Florida Panhandle’s coast rest vessels of history.

The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail is made up of twelve unique shipwrecks, each of which has its own draw and history. The trail was launched in 2012 with the idea of attracting visitors to the Panhandle.

“In order to complete the trail, people would have to travel across the Panhandle,” said Franklin Price, senior archaeologist with the Florida Department of State’s Underwater Archaeology team.

They would also likely have to plan multiple trips to complete the trail, Price said.

The trail was created in part by the archaeology team soliciting  dive operators in the area for the shipwrecks that best represented the Panhandle, Price said. Each wreck’s popularity, ecological diversity and history was considered.

For scuba divers, the trail is not to be missed.

panhandle map

“Even if they’re not divers, I hope they still get a better appreciation of the value of what’s down there, of our submerged heritage and the opportunity to explore the shipwrecks and natural reefs,” continued Price.

Passport 

Divers who take on the Shipwreck Trail can mark each dive with their “passport.”

Dive masters will sign and place a sticker on the passport after the diver visits each wreck.

Locally, you can get your passport from Emerald Coast Scuba, located at 503 U.S. Highway 98 in Destin, or Scuba Tech, located at the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Marler Street.

The Shipwrecks

Destin: 

Miss Louise—A push tugboat that was sunk in 1997. The 95-foot tug lies upright in shallow water about 60 feet down. Storms have flattened some of the top of the tug, said Carla Moore, co-owner of Scuba Tech in Destin. Although it’s close to shore, it can be difficult to reach with fishermen and other dive boats covering the area.

Sea creatures have flocked to the site. Spanish mackerel, kings, barracuda, and baitfish frequent the site. Goliath Groupers, whale sharks, and Manta Rays have also been seen.

“You have to part the fish to see the wreck,” Moore said.

Pensacola: 

USS Oriskany — An aircraft carrier that has become a popular diving destination. After serving in the Pacific, The “Mighty O” served in the Pacific before being sunk in 2006. Also nicknamed “The Great Carrier Reef,” the Oriskany is one of the most breathtaking dives, Price said.

YDT-14 — This U.S. Navy dive tender was sunk in 2000. The ship’s upper structure is at 65 feet of depth.

San Pablo — From a historical perspective, this freighter is the most interesting. It once hauled fruit from Central America before being sunk by a U-boat during World War II. It was refloated and was later sunk again in a secret military operation off of Pensacola.

Pete Tide II — This offshore oilfield supply vessel became an artificial reef in 1993. It has three decks of superstructure.

Three Coal Barges —These barges were sunk in 1974. They rest in about 50 feet of water.

Panama City: 

Black Bart — A oilfield supply vessel that was sunk in 1977. It sits intact from the top down between 40 and 85 feet of water.

FAMI Tugs — These two tugboats once sat bow to bow, but a storm placed one boat on top of the other.

USS Accokeek — A fleet tugboat that served in both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It then became a training vessel for navy salvage divers before being sunk for the last time in 100 feet of water in 2000.

USS Strength — A World War II minesweeper that survived a midget submarine attack and a kamikaze raid.

 USS Chippewa — A veteran Navy tugboat now lies upright in 100 feet of water.

Port St. Joe: 

Vamar — This ship lies in 25 feet of water. It was a support ship for Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 Antarctic expedition, then as a tramp steamer it sank under mysterious circumstances in 1942. Of all the trail’s wreckages, this is the most suitable for snorkelers, but it is still best seen on a dive, Price said.

Shipwreck descriptions courtesy of the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.

More details as well as photos and video on each of the trail’s shipwrecks can be found at www.floridapanhandledivetrail.com. Marine forecast and nearby dive shops for each site can also be found.

 

Source: www.nwfdailynews.com

Main Photo: Tim Thorsen (www.mbtdivers.com)

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive

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British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.


All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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