Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2012
Mission Information

Monday: June 4, 2012
Log Day 5

Randy Rudd
Team Ocean / Grays' Reef

Limited visibility at Gray's Reef during Leg II of cruise

Limited visibility at Gray's Reef during Leg II of cruise
(Photo: Sarah Fangman)

Well, this is Part II of the Gray's Reef science cruises. I was fortunate to be on the first cruise and wrote a blog called "It's All About Tanks". Now that you know about tanks, it's time to put them to use.

We left port last Wednesday afternoon with high hopes and some concerns. Everyone in the science party, in addition to the ship's crew, began preparing for Thursday morning. Of course, I made sure all of our scuba cylinders (tanks) were ready to go, and by Wednesday evening the divers had labeled, analyzed, and loaded their takes in the launches.

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster in Gray's Reef

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster in Gray's Reef
(Photo: "Nemo" McKay)

We launched Thursday morning, two boats, and seven divers. We arrived at, and marked, the dive site. Roldan and I are the first to descend, Into The Blizzard. By blizzard what I mean is that there was so much particulate in the water, it looked like a blizzard. We did not see the bottom until we were two to three feet from it. It goes without saying that you stay close to your partner. We attempted to do some of the scientific work to no avail. Due to the extremely poor visibility, diving was suspended for the remainder of the day. Friday dawned a new day. Out of four attempted dives, Roldan and I canceled two due to low visibility.

Morning dive operations cancelled due to Rough Seas - June 4, 2012.

Morning dive operations cancelled due to Rough Seas - June 4, 2012.
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

Saturday was somewhat better than Friday, we could see all of, maybe, eight feet. So here we are and it's Sunday, the visibility where our team dove is up to a whopping 10 to 12 feet. At least we are able to get the science part of the cruise accomplished.

All of the above brings me to my blog title. Now that we can see the bottom, the hard corals, soft corals, sponges, etc., it is a sad site. Thanks to tropical storm Beryl, the whole place is covered in a brown, silty, dust. I have made close to, if not, a couple hundred dives in the Sanctuary in the last two years, and I have never seen it look like this. Where once there was color, it is brown. You wave your hand back and forth, fan away the silt, and behold color. Yesterday I found a barrel sponge, normally empty to the bottom, half filled with sand and silt. If you are not careful how you move, you stir up a "dust cloud" that obscures your vision.

We are all hopeful that each day the water will clear some, and, that the visibility will get somewhat better. I have to wonder, how long will it take for the silt to be 'washed' away. I wonder what it will take to do that. I tell myself that surely this has happened before, and the color comes back to what I know. I just wonder when. In the meantime, we continue on with the science studies.


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