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mantastrip1 mantastrip2 mantastrip3 Manta Ray - Flower Gardens, Gulf of Mexico 2000 dutchwestindies From Arkansas to the Dutch West Indies 2007 miscstrip1 Misc Strip 2 Misc strip 3 Misc strip 4 All images © Copyright 2009 Michael Tierney


Swimming in liquid topaz

Dive Log 9:
April 2000 CBLDF Cruise: Caba San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta
Gulf of Mexico: Flower Gardens, West Bank -- July 2000
Flower Gardens: East Bank, Stetson Bank/Galveston 393B Oil Rig Platform
The Most Dangerous Photo I've Ever Taken

April 2000 CBLDF Cruise: Caba San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta

Even though I'd vowed to never again cruise on a big liner like Carnival, in April 2000 I sailed on the Elation as part of the first, and last, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Cruise. This was a charity cruise, and it gave me a chance to discuss the launch of Volume 3 of my Wild Stars comic books with some of the top names in the industry.

We made stops along the Pacific side of Mexico, in Caba San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. But, even though these were all places that I'd never been before, I'd learned from past experience that the diving opportunities off a big boat aren't all that great, and didn't take any of my dive equipment. One publisher who did take a dive excursion complained that all he did was shiver on a sandy bottom for an hour.

So instead, I took this opportunity to do another kind of vacation adventure that I'd never done before, and went para-sailing in Mazatlan.

Para-sailing was more fun than sky diving, which for me is too short an experience. But so was para-sailing. In my opinion, scuba diving is still the best 'bang for your buck' sport. You're still doing the human equivalent of flying, but in much more control of your circumstances, and with more to see and do.

Mazatlan Para-Sailing

Gulf of Mexico: Flower Gardens, West Bank -- July 2000

In July of 2000, I was back on a dive exclusive cruise, on the M/V Spree. Drove down to a port in Texas, and sailed with a group from a different dive shop in Arkansas.

By this time I was certified as a Master Diver, which means you have a minimum of 50 logged dives and advanced specialties. Mine are Deep Diving, Night/Limited Visibility, Navigation, Enriched Air Nitrox, Stress and Rescue. All I need to be a registered Divemaster is to take a written test, and I'd be certified to teach. But I don't think I'll ever take it, because when you travel alone they always try to buddy you up with the most inexperienced divers, and I don't want to be held legally responsible if some fool kills themself.

Did dives on this cruise all along the West and East Banks of the Flower Gardens, which is a section in the Gulf of Mexico. Even did some diving beneath the many oil rigs that surround the area. But the first dive was both the best and the worst. I was chasing down two first time ocean divers who hit the bottom and, without paying any attention to me, one followed the other who took out kicking hard with the current at a cross-angle from behind. That's beyond foolish. You always swim into the current, and then at the end of the dive let it take you back to boat.

While I was chasing them down to try and get them back on a navigation course, a Manta Ray sailed up to me, offered me a ride, on which I had to pass because of the lost divers, then sailed off. When I turned back to the chase, the other divers were finally heading back to me, having seen the Manta Ray. The eyes of one diver were wide as he pointed at his gauge. He'd already sucked up all his air. I pointed him to the surface.

This is when the photo strip of the Manta Ray on the left side was taken.

Manta Ray 11 Manta Ray 12

Flower Gardens: East Bank, Stetson Bank/Galveston 393B Oil Rig Platform

Over the next week we dove sites with numbers instead of names. Like the Blackbeard's this was non-stop diving from morning until night. But, while the dives were great, the sites were not as spectacular as those in the Bahamas.

The biggest disappointment was missing a chance to swim with a Whale Shark. When one passed the ship, everyone started to scramble into their gear. That's when the Spree Divemaster decided to give us a long set of instructions. By the time she finsihed half an hour later, the Whale Shark was long gone.

Flower Gardens 15 Flower Gardens 14 Flower Gardens 13 Flower Gardens 12 Flower Gardens 11 Flower Gardens 10 Flower Gardens 9 Flower Gardens 8 Flower Gardens 7 Flower Gardens 6 Flower Gardens 5 Flower Gardens 4 Flower Gardens 3 Flower Gardens 2 Flower Gardens 16 Flower Gardens 17 Flower Gardens 18

After the fiasco of the first dive, I swore that the next time another diver didn't pay attention to my instructions, I wouldn't go after them when they were swept away by the current. I had no intention of ever needing to be rescued by an inflatable boat again. But there was one time when I almost had to break that vow.

Our group from Little Rock was only half of the divers on board the Spree. The rest was a group of teenage Girl Scouts from Oklahoma, accompanied by only a couple of chaperones. It was the first ocean experience for all of them, so I did a lot of sheparding on their dives.

One time, a group of the girls was following me back to the boat after a dive below an oil rig, climbing up the rope through a rip current that had us hanging on like flags whipping around on a windy day. That's when a cloud of tiny jelleyfish hit us, stinging like a swarm of bees. The guy in front hunkered down and froze, blocking the way out. A couple of the girls wanted to let go of the rope and try to swim around him. But I managed to convince them to keep their grip. If they'd let go, they would have been immediately swept out to sea and out of sight of the dive boat. Then I would've had to follow. I'd never let a couple of teenage girls get stranded alone at sea.

After the cloud of jellyfish had passed, we made it back to the boat to discover that our injuries were minor. Didn't even raise any welts. However, the diver who'd foolishly swam with the current on the initial dive, also ran into trouble on this dive when he tried to collect a souvenoir by cutting a sponge off a leg of the oil rig. Sponges may look helpless, but they do have defenses. After the trip was over, the dive shop told me that this guy ended up in the hospital, covered from head to toe with a painful rash.

Flower Gardens 1</div>

The Most Dangerous Photo I've Ever Taken

As I've said before, diving is a potentially dangerous hobby. Even though I've had lots of shark encounters, this picture of a school of barracuda is probably the most dangerous picture that I've ever taken, as the entire group turned toward me at the precise moment when my camera strobe flashed. Since barracuda are known to attack things that flash, like jewelry and wrist watches, I obviously didn't follow that shot with another, and slowly backed away. The barracuda followed for a short distance and then lost interest. If you've ever seen the movie, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, where the sabre-toothed squirrel, Scrat, falls into the water and is surrounded by a school of Piranha, all of which flash their razor teeth at the same time, then you know how I felt at this moment.

Shark Dive 1

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