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August 15, 2010

Diving in Saint Petersburg

BY: Xavier Pastor


© OCEANA / Eduardo Sorensen


We arrived at the Tampa-Saint Petersburg dock, already quite a bit to the north of the western part of the Florida coast that is bathed in the Gulf waters. Today is the day that several shipmates who have been with us during this initial period of the expedition have had to leave the Latitude. Such is the case of Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Oceana’s administrator in Belize, the computer specialist, David Bahm, who has helped us to set some of the ship’s sophisticated electronic and communication systems in motion and Almudena Fernández, the New York-based Spanish top model who is supporting the Oceana and Climate Project campaigns.

But before they leave, we still have enough time for another dive. This time in very shallow waters, less than 5 meters deep, on the cost of Eggmont Key. This is a natural reserve that is also home to the semi-submerged remains of a fort used during the war between Spain and the United States at the end of the 19th century. Once again, very turbid and silted waters, but once again, divers Kike Talledo and Eduardo Sorensen have taken spectacular images of the marine life found in that area, specifically fish, coral and crustaceans.

After we returned from the dive, we ate, and immediately after that, we organized transportation for those who were leaving the ship, in one of the launches, to the Saint Petersburg marina. It is a one-hour trip each way, and we have taken advantage of the trip to revictual the ship with fresh fruit and other products.

Meanwhile, Matthias Gorny, the German scientist based in Oceana’s office in Chile continued struggling with the problem posed to him by an integrated circuit of one of the boards of his ROV, the submarine robot that allows us to film and take photographs of the ecosystems at depths much greater than those that our divers can reach. We need to replace that board soon and have it sent to us to the next port.

At 8 p.m. we weighed anchor again, this time headed to the Florida Middle Grounds, an area in the extreme northeastern Florida Peninsula that contains coral and marine phanerogams that would be quite vulnerable to the presence of oil.

The weather that has accompanied us up to now has been extraordinary. A practically calm sea and a sun that makes working on deck very difficult. However, the weather report for tonight is announcing a bit of a swell, so before we retire to our bunks to rest, we must make sure we leave all our gear well lashed.