Diving in the Keys Post Irma

I couldn’t wait to see the reefs post Irma. A huge shoutout to Ocean Divers and Rainbow Reef for hosting a free dive for locals to take a break from the storm cleanup. That was extremely generous and much appreciated!

The reef has changed significantly, there’s no denying that. Whether it turns out to be good, bad or neutral remains to be seen. The reef has changed so much that I didn’t recognize sites I knew like the back of my hand before the storm.

One of the greatest challenges in the reef’s recovery here is the number of people who dive it. This is an extremely popular reef and the place a lot of new divers get their start. Buoyancy skills are something that come with time and practice so it will definitely impact the recovery process. Imagine trying to heal an injury while getting kicked all day.

So how does it look out there? The best way to tell you is to show you – all of the photos in this post were taken over 4 dives last weekend with my GoPro. I’ll be back out there today to document more. The water was very green last weekend and visibility was down to maybe 20ft. I’m hoping that cleared up this week so I can see bigger areas at a time.

The biggest changes I noticed last weekend:

  • All of the sand is gone and I mean all of it.
  • Parts of the reef have broken and tipped over.
  • A lot of sponges and soft corals were damaged.

Overall the fish populations looked good and were returning to normal levels, except for the sand-dwellers.

We’ll see what today brings.

A scorpionfish hiding out.

Irma blew in a ton of huge moon jellies. It’s moon jelly season anyway but they weren’t here before the storm. They are beautiful to watch from the bottom especially when the sun is lighting them up.

Sargent Major eggs (purple patch on the rock). This was one of many. It was really nice to see fish displaying their normal behaviors so soon after the storm.

Fish taking cover under ledges and in crevices.

Two goatfish just perched on a rock – not something I normally see them doing. Most of the sand has been displaced so they’re probably wondering where the heck it is.

With the sand swept away, lots of interesting things have been uncovered like this old Triton’s Trumpet. My dive light for scale – that’s a normal sized flashlight. In over 100 dives here I’ve never seen one.

This was uncovered near the Winch Hole – maybe part of the same ship that left the winch?

Top: the Snapper Ledge brain coral where it perched for hundreds of years. It’s been dying the past few years and a coral disease in February of 2017 killed the remaining parts. Bottom: Irma moved it quite a ways from it’s original location and huge pieces have broken off. Here’s my optimistic side – it was already dead and now the crater gives fish a place to hide. They were already moving in.

 

Until next time …

 

Stay warm friends!

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