Scuba Diving Photos
Diving the Bermuda Deep
A thin guideline strung from the anchor is the only contact with the surface.
We had been planning this dive over our entire careers.
Our Mission: Descend more than 200 feet in open water, find the peak of a majestic volcanic seamount, then drop to below 450 feet to search for signs of ancient sea levels on what was once a small Atlantic atoll. Our dive would more than double the depth of previous underwater expeditions into the secretive Bermuda Deep.
Biologist Dr. Tom Iliffe and I scanned each other for bubbles and positioned our open-circuit bailout regulators within close reach. We nodded, with a last look at the support team on board the Pourquois Pas – “Why not?” – the name etched on the transom. I chuckled to myself. Iliffe and I glanced at each other, dumped the gas from our wings and rocketed downward, racing to ensure every possible moment would be spent gathering data and documenting our work. I filmed his descent from above, a tiny figure disappearing into the void.
Bermuda ranks high in the history of deep-sea exploration, yet technical scuba and rebreather diving is completely new here.
In 1934, Otis Barton and William Beebe made a record-breaking descent in Bermuda to more than 3,000 feet in their crude metal bathysphere. We would follow in the footsteps of a more recent, unmanned ROV, dispatched by Iliffe as part of a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration mission to find Bermuda’s hidden underwater caves, to explore links between their prehistoric shorelines and the island’s unique cave ecology.
While famous for its caves, Bermuda does not permit recreational cave diving. This is based on efforts to protect these remarkable environments and the life within them. Bermuda caves are biodiversity hot spots for at least 25 critically endangered species, some of which are endemic to a single room in a single cave on the planet. As a result, only a few fortunate scientists and researchers are granted rare collecting and work permits allowing diving with the support of local guides. In this way, the underwater galleries and tunnels of Bermuda will be preserved as delicate time capsules of unique forms of cave-adapted life that might teach us about survival, evolution and the history of our planet. Our hope was to uncover caves or the evidence of former caves in the depths of the bank and seamounts, and perhaps reveal a migratory pathway for the unusual creatures still thriving on Bermuda today.
Iliffe and his team already had mapped the island’s walls and seamounts using side-scan sonar. Following the best leads, he deployed the ROV to create a video preview for targets we should dive. This unprecedented information gathering allowed us to focus on key features of interest to the mission’s scientists. Two years of advanced underwater imaging have brought us to the day’s objective.
Read More: The Dive Begins