Night Diving on the Benwood
It’s gorgeous in the Keys right now! You can feel the summer heat (and I do mean HEAT) backing off slightly during the day with evening temperatures being just right. The ocean is the calmest it’s been since we got here and there’s a beautiful full fall moon so we decided to head out on a night dive with Rainbow Reef. There was a stunning Keys sunset on our way to the Benwood with a thunderstorm right next to it, a common evening occurrence here during the summer. I’ll never get tired of looking at thunderheads lit up by the newly set sun – breathtaking!
I hear a lot of mixed reviews of the Benwood wreck from divers but I love the Benwood. It’s not like the Duane or the Spiegel Grove with passages you can swim through, if you’re expecting that you’ll be disappointed. The Benwood is small & largely destroyed. It sunk in 1942 after colliding with a larger ship traveling blacked out at night to avoid being spotted by German U-boats. Because the wreck is relatively shallow, the bow was further damaged to avoid being a navigational hazard to other boats. The remains give fish endless places to hideout & there’s usually a lot of life on the wreck as well as beautiful sponges, fans and corals.
The site is much more dramatic at night & a little haunting. I feel this way about every wreck though even purposefully sunk ones. There’s just something about seeing a wreck at the bottom of the ocean that feels haunting to me, especially the deep wrecks when there’s a period in the descent when you can’t see anything at all then slowly the wreck comes into sight.
What we saw
- Parrot fish sleeping! They were snuggled into every crevice for the night, it was like a parrot fish hotel down there.
- Turtles – 1 hawksbill and 1 green lazily swimming around the wreck and hanging out with us. Be careful with your light on night dives, shining it in a turtles eyes can mess up their night vision just like it does to yours, this confuses them and they don’t know which way to go for their next breath.
- Huge channel clinging crabs out and about eating.
- Lobsters out eating.
- Worms! I’m not sure what these were but I’m gonna find out. They were free swimming, some as long as 3ft. I scrubbed my hair very well when I got home.
- Burrfish out swimming around – adorable! During the day, these guys are always hiding out on the bottom.
- A cute little squid who came up and checked out my finger before darting away.
- A batwing crab clinging to a fan.
- Bioluminescence – turn off your light and wave your hands to see them light up.
- Huge basket star open and eating.
- Corals open and eating – be extra careful, they are much more delicate in this state then during the day when they’re closed up.
I love studying the behavior of creatures so my favorite part of night dives is seeing the changes from day to night. Creatures that sleep and hide during the day are active at night and vice versa. Did you know that parrot fish make a cocoon out of mucus to sleep in so predators can’t find them by scent? Very cool. If you get in the water just after sunset you can watch the shift change between day and night.
Have you dove the Benwood? What did you think of it?
If you’ve never been on a night dive, go do it! You won’t regret it!
Until next time…
Warm thoughts to all!