|Posted by Joel Svendsen on July 5, 2014 at 4:20 PM|
Yet another great day of summertime South Florida diving: seas 1-2 feet, wind less than 5 knots and rain everywhere but where we were. Today’s dive was to be to the MV Augie Ferrigno (also known as the Rex Baer [Bear?]). She was sunk as part of the artificial reef program in 1998 and last dove, purportedly, 10 years ago by AUE. Though of average length for a freighter, she is listed as having 80 feet of relief. As Jody’s sinuses gave him fits around five feet yesterday, the dive team consisted of David Buhlinger and Alex Gilson with Jody and Matt as topside support/captain. After suiting up and doing our equipment match, Jody and Matt lined us up for our hot drop on the wreck. DIVE, DIVE, DIVE! Instantaneously, David and I splashed; a quick bubble check and we started screaming to the bottom. The current topside was over 2.5 knots; any delays in our descent would guarantee a splendid sand dive. At 130 feet the lights dimmed and particulate matter picked up. At 160 feet I could see a small school of what seemed to be jacks. On closer inspection they were Almaco jacks (Seriola rivoliana) and they were well fed. Once we hid 180 feet we could see the shadow of the wreck looming about 40 feet away – a perfect drop! We landed on her port side and she was sitting with her bow to the west. Scootering at about of depth of 228 feet we cruised aft towards the rudder. One hole was noted at about 3⁄4‘s of the way aft. I could see clear through to the other side. At the stern, the rudder was intact slightly turned to the port, but no prop was to be seen; it had been removed well beforehand. We circled the hull until we were at the bow (around 6:30 into the dive). Her mast was lying down and hanging over the rails and looked like a spar. On her deck, the work areas were still full of winches, windlasses and other deck gear. We started to film the superstructure and some of the wheelhouse. On the aft section of the superstructure there were numerous healthy examples of our newest invasive species the Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans); these fish had absolutely no fear of divers. Other species noted in abundance was the hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus). The uppermost portion of the superstructure reminded us of another South Florida dive: the Rodeo 25. The Augie Ferrigno has the same style of football goalposts on top of her. At this time we were 18 minutes into the dive an average of 200 feet and we decided to thumb the dive at this time because she’s a lot to explore on one dive and a little mystery makes for some desire to return. David shot the back and we started our ascent. The ship itself is in great condition with little signs of breakdown or collapse; very little in the way of coral growth was noted other than general encrustation. There was some evidence of fishing on the wreck but nowhere near to the extent noted on the RBJ. The ascent and deco were humdrum (as it should be) until we were almost done at our last stop. Three Live sharksuckers (Echeneis naucrates) started buzzing us. Actually, two were hanging out in the wings and one kept buzzing around David and I and tried to attach itself to his head! We shooed them off and finished our ascent laughing like school kids. A most entertaining end to a great dive.