Only Takes One Encounter to bring a Diver Back
Turns out the Lionfish has a cousin and we got to meet him up-close-and-personal right off the coast of Key Largo. My dive buddy and I skipped the wetsuits and strided into the Atlantic as we continue to follow the Florida Keys Wreck Trek! For this adventure, we’re submerging atop the Norwegian Benwood. A ship that made routine trips from Tampa to Norfolk during World War II.
In 1942 the waters off the Keys were under the constant threat of German submarines. Benwood Captain Torbjorn Skjelbred proceeded with caution like the other ships trying to avoid confrontations and blacked out his lights.
Quiescence boat captain Steve Campbell shared as we suited up, “They all did, otherwise they would have been torpedoed down. But the 285’ Benwood didn’t get hit by a German; they ran into a tanker, the Robert C. Tuttle. She sank and the men fled for shore!”
Her stern has been obliterated from target practice and other unknown explosions and the hull was destroyed so boats could safely navigate around the site. The remaining of the historical wreck has been protected under the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Considered one of the sweetest shallow wreck dives in Key Largo, the scene was sweet as soon as we had our eyes and masks peeled to the remains.
We swam around the bow, chased the tropical fish, played with the delicate cleaner shrimp and searched feverishly for life forms we hadn’t witnessed before in their natural surroundings.
We were expecting an encounter.
Not with a Hogfish.
Not with a stingray.
Or a spiny tail’s antennas.
And we got one.
Just about 15 minutes before our ascent, instructor Colby Cline swims over and writes on his card, “Scorpion Fish.”
True through my Tusa Serene Mask a fish masked to look just like the 70-year rusted and coral-covered ship.
Scorpion Fish are in the same family as the invasive Lionfish, also known by the names Turkeyfish, Dragonfish, Firefish or Stingfish! This marine fish family includes some of the world’s most venomous species. Scorpion Fish sting with their sharp, poisonous spines. They’re widespread in warm tropical climates but mostly found in the Indo-Pacific. (sound familiar?) Unlike the Lionfish who ambush their prey, the Scorpion Fish just hang out, camouflaging themselves, and wait for their next meal (crustaceans or small fish) to swim by.
Our meeting similar to playing a round of golf. One good stroke will keep you coming back for more.
There’s no “Bent” in Benwood!
Max Depth: 50’
Bottom Time: Whopping 55 minutes
Ascend Slower than Your Bubbles