Being underwater obsessed in North Carolina means also having a complete and total addiction for the magical lore and exploration of shipwrecks. North Carolina holds the brass porthole to some of the World’s best diving and marine life habitat areas. Our mysterious “Graveyard of the Atlantic” is a proud heritage with a rich history that we hear ghost stories about in our youth and many of us venture out and explore as we get older. As an eastern North Carolina youngster, I recall many tales of such wrecks including stories from my favorite folklore novelist, Charles Harry Whedbee. Shipwrecks, as an adult bring an entire new meaning, especially as a diver. To see them up-close and touch and feel them there at the bottom of the ocean, it brings up an entire new reverence for protecting and preserving the historical significance, but it also makes me realize how vital they are to our marine life habitat.
Right off our coast in North Carolina, World War II left behind a catalog of wrecks that biologists find provide a beneficial hard structure habitat which is crucial since most of these portions of the ocean are dominated by sandy bottoms. The hard structure that shipwrecks provide offer a sanctuary for hundreds of species and provides a much needed substrate for other marine species that would otherwise not exist in these sandy bottoms. When I dive wrecks, I find that some of the most fascinating marine animals are attracted to them, including my favorite – sharks!
Since shipwrecks are so crucial to North Carolina for marine habitat and our local tourism economy, I am very excited about the new shipwreck, a 180’ former Menhaden boat that has been announced to become a new underwater reef in honor of our former North Carolina Reef Coordinator, James J. Francesconi. The plan is to sink the wreck in approximately 60-70 feet of water near the wreck of the USS Indra, which is about 12 miles past the Beaufort Inlet.
James J. Francesconi started working at the NC Division of Marine Fisheries in 1987. In 2000 he became the Reef Program Coordinator where he served for 14 years before losing his battle with leukemia on July 18, 2014. This wreck reef project will memorialize and honor his contributions to the NC Reef Program, including his efforts resulted in hundreds of improvements to artificial reefs in North Carolina spanning from the northern Outer Banks to Long Bay, including the creation of the New River Reef off the coast of Jacksonville and Camp Lejeune, the Jim Knight Reef close to Oak Island, the Bob Black Reef located near Frying Pan Tower, and the sinking of the USCG SPAR, the Titan Tug, the Captain Greg Mickey, the Pawtucket Tug, Capt. Charlie, as well as the USCG Falcon aircraft.
Many divers are familiar with these sites and now have the opportunity, not only to contribute to a new dive site and help create marine life habitat, but also to memorialize the man who helped make some of their favorite dive sites happen. The process of creating this underwater memorial has been possible recently due to the continued efforts of the interim Reef Coordinator, Gregg Bodnar, Tim Mullane of American Marine Group, and a local group of fundraising and reef activists including our local dive community. However, creating this underwater memorial is a large financial undertaking and the JJF Reef Project is still seeking donors.
A significant portion of the memorial funds have been raised through the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles license plate program that began in 2005. North Carolina divers who have purchased license plates with the red and white “diver-down flag” have raised around $70,000.00 and those funds are earmarked for the development of North Carolina’s offshore artificial reefs. If you would like to be a part of the JJF Reef Project and thus support marine habitat, fisheries, and tourism, you can visit http://www.GoFundMe.com/JJF-Reef-Project and follow the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JJFReefProject.
The fundraising group is headed up by Bobby Purifoy of Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City, Debby Boyce of Discovery Diving in Beaufort, and Carteret County diver Steve Broadhurst. They have set up accounts for donations with the East Carolina Artificial Reef Association as well as the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.
You can also donate by entering a raffle at Olympus Dive Center. The raffle is for a dive charter with Olympus and chances are you will be able to visit one of the awesome wrecks mentioned here in this article. All proceeds from the raffle will benefit the JJF Reef Project. Please visit http://www.olympusdiving.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/olympusdivecenter for more information.
For more information about the North Carolina Reef Program, please contact Gregg Bodnar, interim North Carolina Reef Coordinator at Gregg.firstname.lastname@example.org and (252) 808-8053.
Blue Skies and Calm Seas to you all.
The wreck of the Caribsea has to be one of my favorite places to dive mostly due to the large community of sand tiger sharks. These magnificent creatures don’t mind sharing their home with a few divers and I adore spending time with them.
Sand tiger sharks will occasionally come to the surface and gulp air. I’ve mostly witnessed this while volunteering at the Pine Knoll Shores aquarium and it’s pretty cool. As it turns out, they store air in their stomachs and this plays a role in how they can float nearly motionless in the water while staying fairly close to the bottom. Divers would call this good buoyancy and others might just say it is a good trait since they appear to be very lazy. It might also be a pretty sneaky way to wait for prey.
The sand tiger shark is listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Specifies and is also a candidate species for the U.S. Endangered Species list. This is due to a couple of reasons, in some parts of the world, these sharks are in serious decline due to over-fishing, the shark fin industry, and commercial fishing methods, and also they have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all sharks (according to http://www.auduboninstitute.org), but here in North Carolina we have what seems to be a really strong population that is thriving.
Here is a short video of my dive this past SharkySunday:
Want to learn more about these super rad dudes in grey? I encourage you to take the PADI Project AWARE Shark Conservation class at Olympus Dive Center and then book a charter for some shark diving or head on out to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores for an up-close and personal (from behind the glass) view.
I truly believe that you get what you give. In the case of marine debris, and the fight to educate, prevent, and remove, I find that these good deeds always bring good karma in the form of a day full of nice ridable waves for surfing, really great dive conditions on the day you book a full-day charter, or ocean-floor-ground-scores.
Almost always do I find a special gift from the ocean during my long beach-sweep walks. Some say, leave only footprints, and take only memories, which is great in most cases. I like to keep some treasures from the sea (none with critters, of course) and use them as ways to teach others about the sea.
Last week, I found is sweet ocean floor ground score:
This, my friends, is a horse conch. Horse Conch (Triplofusus giganteu) also called the Florida Horse Conch is the state shell of Florida and is the largest snail to be found in American waters. They can sometimes reach a length of up to two feet.
This one was found on a free-dive adventure off Bear Island, NC.
Happy Shell Hunting (and beach sweeping)!
Blue Skies and Calm Seas,
A super rad opportunity came my way this past weekend. I hopped on a small skiff with a boat packed to the gills with friends and headed over to Bear Island (NC) for a surfari. Loaded with five people and 7 surfboards, we made our way around some creeks and the ICW to the south east end in order to catch the inlet swell that morning. Bright and early, we ventured. We were joined by another adventurous soul via kayak later that morning and had the entire island to ourselves for the better part of the morning.
I, of course, had several hours dedicated to combing the beach for debris and found a disturbing amount of balloons and random shoes amongst other items such as plastic bottle caps, water bottles, and many micro-plastic pieces in the rack line (showing where the high tide line is and in some cases you will see it marked with a line of sargassum).
It was by far one of the best Sunday Fundays I have had in awhile and mostly due to the great comradery, being able to serve mother nature, getting a little surf session, doing some free diving, seeing some really cool marine creatures, scored several whole sand dollars and a beautiful conch (good ocean karma), and of course getting salty.
Blue Skies and Calm Seas,
I am excited to share the news that I will be part of the http://www.eXXpedition.com Amazon research trip this year doing research on plastics in the ocean.
“eXXpedition” is a series of voyages to “make the unseen seen”, from the toxins in our bodies to the toxins in the seas. The overall mission is to explore the issue of chemicals, endocrine disrupters and carcinogens in our personal and global environment that can cause disease, in particular raising awareness of those linked to the rise in breast cancer rates.
The initiative is to engage women in scientific narratives relating to the consumer choices they make, and their long term health impacts on themselves and our environment.
During this eXXpedition voyage, the key is to collect environmental samples to assess plastic and pollutants, feeding in these samples to wider studies investigating the impacts of toxins and plastics pollutants and linking this sampling to narratives of ecosystem health, personal health, and the products we consume.
The eXXpedition crew, including myself, will participate in biomonitoring with the UN founded initiative ‘Safe Planet‘ to assess personal exposure to known toxic substances. Through personal exploration of our internal environment the focus is to better understand the levels of toxic exposure in women to work on ways to reduce such exposure.
Each eXXpedition voyage includes specific scientific research that will be conducted at sea as part of the over-all mission. My research focus will be studying plastic chemical absorption and plastic accumulation in the ocean and nearby solid waste facility infrastructure as it relates to such accumulation. I will also be working on developing curriculum for formal and informal educators to use in regards to marine debris prevention and best management practices for removal.
The plastic research includes studying the solid waste and recycling infrastructure of Recife, Brazil and Guyana, which will include waste audits and other data collection methods at solid waste facilities. As part of the actual at sea expedition there will be a heavy focus on plastic collection in the ocean during the 15 day journey sailing from Brazil to Guyana, which will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Georgia.
Manta trawl sampling will be conducted along the way in order to collect plastics that are larger than 333 microns. GPS locations of the trawls as well as locations of specific types of debris found will be tracked using the Marine Debris Tracker App.
Bucket sampling will be done on a daily basis to sample microplastics at several different levels. Floating debris will also be collected and tracked using the marine debris tracker. You can even keep up-to-date with news of our journey through different blog sites and track our plastic data collection information as well as GPS through the marine debris tracker app website.
I also plan to study any plastic or other debris accumulation on the bottom of the ocean in specific areas that are within recreational diving depth if the weather conditions are conducive.
This research is all part of a 15 day journey in the month of December 2015 sailing from Recife, Brazil to Guyana, but the research being done here will be far reaching and will serve to provide useful information on reducing plastic accumulation and pollutants around the world and for future generations to come.
As an eastern North Carolina native, I am extremely proud to represent the US and North Carolina on this crew that includes female researchers from all over the world. I am also very excited to be able to share the experience with all of my friends and supporters back home during the creation of eXXpedition’s inspiring narrative of female leadership, personal and environmental exploration, and cultural conversation space aboard Sea Dragon, a 72 foot scientific exploration vessel.
More to come…
Blue Skies and Calm Seas,
My name is Lisa Rider, aka KungPowTofu, aka Treehuggerlisa, aka Coastinista.
This new blog site is about all things Coastal Conservation.
Stay tuned for updates on the eXXpedition amazon research trip I am a part of this year. I will be blogging about traveling light, demoing products and providing info about eco friendly companies that are supporting the research, tips on sailing adventures, BMPs on studying ocean plastics, underwater research tips, marine debris info and research updates, packing lists, and more…
A little about me: I am a self-proclaimed treehugging underwater obsessed ocean protector and has been volunteering and cleaning up shorelines and waterways for over 25 years. I am a proud Eastern North Carolina native and I see that with that pride comes responsibility to make sure the coastal community environment is managed in a sustainable way and while making the connection between the local economy and ecology. I have over 11 years experience in local government and solid waste management. My primary specialty is proper materials management at the coast, which is one reason why I started the annual NC Marine Debris Symposium in 2012. In addition to coordinating the NCMD Symposium and writing for Beach Carolina Magazine, I am also the Onslow County Solid Waste Department Assistant Director, the Keep Onslow Beautiful Administrator, NC Big Sweep Coordinator for Onslow County, and I also coordinate the annual Earth and Surf Fest.
I am a certified PADI Rescue Diver working on my Dive Master certification in 2015 at Olympus Diver Center in Morehead City, NC.
I am also a certified yoga teacher and in my spare time, I volunteer for many local environmental non-profits as well as the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium Diver program.
Blue skies and calm seas,