Swimming to the SiteEric Michael (editor-in-chief), Mary Frances Emmons (senior editor) and Alec Nielson (intern) kick their way to the dive site, observing a horseshoe crab, a giant starfish and a bearded fireworm.
It’s a sunny Tuesday morning — the kind of day that makes your skin itch for a dive trip. Lucky for us, we’ve got one planned.
We load up the white suburban with enough dive gear for four Scuba Diving staff members, one excited intern and the 2012 North American Rolex Scholar.
Megan Cook, the Rolex scholar, had made a stop in Winter Park to meet up with the staff of Scuba Diving and Sport Diver magazines. Our 3-hour car ride is improved with her stories about lulling sharks to sleep in the Bahamas, joining an NOAA research cruise in the Dry Tortugas and diving with sand tiger sharks at the Florida Aquarium. (Read more about her scholarship adventures on her blog.)
We reach West Palm with just a few minutes to spare. We’ve timed the dive around slack tide in order to get the best visibility.
Gear assembled and buddy checks complete, we head to the beach and swim out to the east side of Blue Heron Bridge. My depth gauge never gets below 15 feet, but in these shallow waters we see everything from a horseshoe crab to a mantis shrimp.
To avoid the public swimming area, we swim straight out before kicking over to the dive site. We’re careful to steer clear of the boat traffic in the nearby channel as well. Boats passing through shallow waters make for dangerous dive conditions, and we don’t want today’s dive to turn into a “Lessons for Life” story.
There’s plenty to see as we make our way to the dive site, including a small sunken boat, which might have been a canoe in a former life, but now serves as a shallow artificial reef.
After a brief swim, we reach the columns of Blue Heron Bridge. Under the shade of the structure, the waters darken. We swim through the eerie space alongside schools of silversides and Atlantic Spadefish. Camouflaged critters crawl along the sand below us, while abundant macro life and lobsters hide in sunken boats that rest on the sunny side of the site.
An hour later we surface, and I’ve got air to spare thanks to the shallow depths.
We call it a day after rinsing our gear in the beach’s free showers, and spend the ride home talking about our sightings and planning the next office dive trip.
Thanks for joining us Megan, and good luck on your scholarship journey!
(For more information about or to apply to be the 2013 North American Rolex Scholar — deadline Dec. 31, 2012 — visit http://www.owuscholarship.org/scholarships/)