How I miss the exciting days of Crockett and Tubbs back when I was mis-managing the old Antonio's Pizzeria with Renee Pantoja and consulting for the Santa Catalina Island Company on their many tours. Hard to believe that was nearly 30 years ago. For those "youngsters" who read this column, Crockett and Tubbs were characters on the TV show "Miami Vice" from 1984 to 1990 played by Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. The two were vice squad detectives in Miami and often dealt with a major issue of the day, cocaine trafficking.
So what does that TV show have to do with diving? Not much, but a recent dive in the Bahamas certainly triggered memories of it. No, I behaved myself despite seeing some pretty Bahamian ladies. One of the sites Blackbeard took us to was called "Smuggler's Plane" and the DC-3 aircraft resting in shallow depths was believed to belong to cocaine smugglers who had to ditch or crash it there. Now cocaine was never my thing... I prefer Greek ouzo, Scotch, sake or Merlot as a means of mind alteration. I wondered whether this wreck would be a good dive site, especially since we would do two dives on it.
Of course the wreck itself was only partially intact after suffering through several hurricanes in the relatively shallow water. I did enjoy filming the plane as I'm sure it will be useful in some future episode of my cable TV series. Perhaps I can refer to it as my corporate aircraft piloted by none other than the good doctor! My occasional dive buddy and Air France pilot Anabel made it amusing when she sat on the wing and pretended to fly the plane. She never did reach sufficient speed to take off though, so I guess that flight was canceled like my Air Tran flight to Nassau from Atlanta..
There was plenty of marine life around the wreck so I had more than enough subjects to film. Perhaps the most interesting sequence came when I started filming a lizardfish that rested on the plane's wing. Lizardfish look like their terrestrial namesake. They are often somewhat skittish, taking off if I get too close. I saw one from a distance and as I started to film, it bolted from the wing toward a huge school of unidentified fish. I couldn't believe it when it grabbed one in its jaws (unfortunately off camera as I'd stopped rolling) and settled on the bottom to swallow its prey whole.
The night dive was even better. The only other divers on it were Bojanna from Serbia and Od from Denmark. Once we got to the plane, there were plenty of subjects to film. I saw a banded coral shrimp on what I thought was a big rock, but as I filmed it I realized it was crawling on the shell of a large loggerhead turtle. The last time I encountered a loggerhead was in the Florida Keys with dive buddy Andrea, and my camcorder battery was dead on that dive so I got little footage.
This time the battery was fully charged and I filmed to my heart's content as the loggerhead rested with its head hidden under the wing. There were two large sharksuckers (a species of remora) attached to the turtle. After a bit I wandered off to film other subjects because the turtle wasn't moving. Shortly after Od and Bojanna got my attention, directing me to what I thought was a different loggerhead swimming away from the plane. I was able to get good footage of it making its way away with the sharksuckers attached to it, but later realized it must be the same turtle. More on that critter in a future column.
I spent the rest of the dive exploring the wreck with my buddies nearby. The nice even light from my video rig allowed me to get some fairly good footage of the banded coral shrimp walking out and about on the wreck. I also encountered an arrow crab hiding under the wing and got some excellent footage of this often secretive critter. These crabs are very thin and have extremely long legs compared to the size of their body. The head is sharply pointed which gives them their common name. Since this was a night dive, there were also plenty of stingrays around to film. When we returned to the boat, the passengers and crew said they couldn't believe how bright my Light & Motion Sola 1200 video lights were... and I had them on low power.
Of course there was no cocaine left in the wreck. My understanding is that pure cocaine is insoluble in water, but its hydrochloride salt is. However, the chemistry of narcotics is certainly nothing I'm well versed in. I prefer to live life in a non mind-altered state as I find it, especially the underwater world... pretty incredible when viewed straight. Of course a little red wine does improve my video editing at night after my dives. If anything, I was hoping that the plane carried another "treasure..." a few million US dollars. Alas, none were found so I will have to continue to self-fund my exotic dive travel.
© 2013 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!
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Shots of the sunken DC-3 in the Bahamas; lizardfish swallowing prey and loggerhead turtle with hitchhiking sharksucker.
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