Diving the Hyde June 5, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 10:23 | Filled in NC diving

Bow of the Hyde

Bow of the Hyde

After we finished our cool dive on the John D. Gill on Sunday, we motored inshore a few miles to stop at the USACOE Hyde.  I have mentioned this great wreck in a previous post as being one of my favorite dives.  As usual, the Hyde did not disappoint me. The life on and around the wreck continues to show me why I keep coming back.  This single wreck almost epitomizes why I love diving the North Carolina coast so much.


 

Mother Nature gave us a little leeway for this dive.  Instead of getting worse, the seas calmed down a bit, as if the waters knew we wanted to enjoy our last dive of the weekend. We set anchor towards the bow of the wreck and prepared to get wet again.

 

My dive buddy put away his spear gun for this dive.  With all the Sand Tiger sharks around, it is not too safe to have a dead fish or two hanging by your side.  Trust me on this one!  I was hoping to see the adult Sand Tiger sharks.  I saw the sharks on my last dive, but they were all juveniles, under 5 feet in length.  We see Sand Tiger sharks over 12 feet long and the wreck gets covered with them in the summer.  To see 30 sharks on a single dive is not unheard of.

 

Entering the Abyss

Entering the Abyss

We drop down to the sand on the port side of the wreck.  I spend a minute getting my camera all set and then follow my buddy to the hull.  There is a large opening and he motions to me whether he should go in, or not.  I motion back, ‘Why the heck not?  Lets explore.’  My hand signals were a little less specific than that, but he got the idea.  We entered the wreck and I knew this was going to be fun.  Visibility is good and the water is warmer than my last dive.  The sharks should be coming back.  I still need one of the adult sharks to give me a closeup shot of their pearly whites.

 

Sand Tiger Shark

Sand Tiger Shark

Headed towards the bow over a couple open holds, I was wondering where they all were.  I saw a juvenile and took a couple shots.  She circled around below me as I swam over her.  I saw a few scrapes on both sides of her and wondered what tried to pick a fight with a shark.  It certainly was not me!

 

Spottail Pinfish Eating Atlantic Sea Nettle

Spottail Pinfish Eating Atlantic Sea Nettle

We continued swimming and I saw more of the jellyfish.  This time, they were not alone.  There were groups of Spottail Pinfish around each jellyfish.  They darted in and out taking little swipes at the soft tissue and tentacles, biting little pieces off, while trying to avoid being stung at the same time.  It was nice to see that there was something in the waters that was working on keeping the jellyfish population in check.  All over the wreck, we saw these balls of fish and in the center of each one was a jellyfish being harassed.

 

Barracuda

Barracuda

As we moved towards the stern of the wreck, we see a school of Barracuda cruising overhead.  There are probably 8-10 of them and they are all pretty large adults.  We can see the ball of small silvery fish continuously dart away from the Barracuda as they glide through the water .  The Barracuda were not going after the fish while we were there.  But, I am sure that they have no problem keeping their bellies full around here.

 

Gray Triggerfish

Gray Triggerfish

Then, below us, at the deck of the stern, I spot two large Gray Triggerfish.  One is considerably larger than the other.  I wonder what they are up to and how they have avoided detection and capture from the sharks!  They slowly swim away from me as I approach, wary of my intentions.  I only want them to pose for a few shots, though.  I snap a picture of the larger one trying to hide from me, using the wreck as cover.

 

Adult Sand Tiger Shark

Adult Sand Tiger Shark

I am so happy getting all these pictures of animals on the wreck, that I forget about my quest for adult sharks.  So, when one drifts in front of me, I am not quite ready and stare at her before I realize that I have my target.  I get a couple shots of her cruising past me and hope that they look ok.  I am surprised that there are not more sharks around the wreck today.  In total, I only saw one juvenile and one adult shark.  It is possible that they are on a nearby wreck, the Markham.  I will have to come out and dive both wrecks sometime to see.  Any excuse to go diving, right?

 

Florida Horse Conch

Florida Horse Conch

Back at the bow, my buddy and I drop down to the sand looking for creatures that like to hang out down near the bottom.  First, I spot a large Florida Horse Conch.  I have not seen one this large around here.  I sat on the sand and took a several shots as my model posed for me, sliding along the muck.  A smaller conch was getting a free ride on top of it also.

 

Southern Stingray

Southern Stingray

We followed the bottom of the wreck back along the port side.  My buddy stopped and pointed out in the sand.  Below us, several yards off the wreck was a large Southern Stingray resting on the bottom.  Of course, I took a few pictures of it.  Then my buddy gave me a signal for ’3′ and pointed around the sand.  I looked out, and there were three more, for a total of 4!  I picked the most photogenic one and dropped to the sand in front of him, trying to get a good shot.  I inched closer to it, trying to get as close as possible with scaring it off.  I snapped a picture off, moved a little closer, and in a big puff of sand and silt, he was gone.

 

Florida Regal Sea Goddess

Florida Regal Sea Goddess

We moved back up to the deck of the ship and ran into Sue, who is an awesome photographer and has nice photography equipment I envy.  She also has an eye for spotting the cool things.  She motions for us to follow her to the deck of the stern and points to a spot in the waving sea grass (actually brown/red algae).  Tucked away in the stuff covering the wreck are a couple nudibranchs.  These are the type that I knew was on this wreck, but was never able to find.  I believe that I have always been so focused on finding sharks and getting my shark picture, that I forget about all the cool small stuff.

 

Of course, too soon, we need to surface and end our dive.  I didn’t see all the sharks that I was expecting, but I saw a lot more.  The diversity of life and photo opportunities on this wreck continues to amaze me.  If I cannot find one subject, there are three others to take its place.  This wreck is not just about the sharks.  Today, I rediscover all the other reasons I place this dive as one of my favorites.

 

-Frank

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1 Comment to Diving the Hyde June 5, 2011

  1. Kenney Claffey says:

    June 8th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Nice recap Frank. What a treat it was for me to be on the boat with such good divers and fine photographers

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