I’ve always had a love for the ocean and an interest in diving, however, diving took on a whole new meaning when I got involved with the TAMUG dive program. Last semester we took a trip to Florida where I did my first boat dive and saw my first shark! However my favorite part of this trip was after we were finished night snorkeling, charging back into the water to swim with the devil rays a raccoon led us to! Dive club is full of great people who making diving fun, there's never a dull moment.
Dive Club’s first out of state trip started with packing enough SCUBA equipment into and on top of three vehicles to salvage the capitol of Atlantis. However, our mission was much simpler…blow some bubbles in The Sunshine State.
For most of the club members, this was a trip of firsts, starting with their first cavern dive at Morrison Springs in Walton County. Terrence Tysall, TAMUG Diving Safety Officer, cave diving instructor, and the club’s faculty sponsor, led all the club members on a guided tour of the 100’ deep cavern. Divers got to experience first-hand what it’s like to swim through an underground chamber. A highlight for many of the divers was the view of the cavern entrance from inside the chamber. The sunrays streaming into the cavern illuminates the rocks near the entrance in a way similar to stained glass.
Morrison Springs boils up through the cavern and produces approximately 48 million gallons of crystal clear water every day. This water seeps through the sand and flows through crevices in the rocks creating current in some sections. Our divers weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the current, the caverns inhabitants, freshwater eels, can be seen enjoying the springs flow.
The cavern is not the only dive Morrison has to offer. Sunfish, bass, catfish, and red-eared sliders all call the spring home.
After leaving Morrison, the club headed Panama City to fill tanks and to set up camp at St. Andrew’s State park.
Saturday morning began by loading gear onto the Island Diver and heading out for a day of boat diving, another first for many club members. Dive one was to roughly a depth of 80’ to view the wreckage of the Black Bart, a 185-foot oil field supply ship. This ship was reefed in the early 1990’s and named for Charles Bartholomew who was the Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage in Panama City for many years. The wreck attracts life from the surrounding waters like an oasis in the desert. Schools of spadefish, amberjack and mahogany snapper were covering the wreck while we were there. Other sightings included an unknown shark species and three Goliath Grouper as large as refrigerators.
The second boat dive took place on a reefed section of the old Hathaway Bridge. The steel superstructure of the old 25’ wide and 35’ tall bridge was reefed in sections of about 110’ long. The sight is home to toadfish, octopus and schools of gray snapper.
After unloading at the dock, we headed back to the campsite to grill some hamburgers. Our divers could not get enough of the clear Florida water so after dinner we headed for the beach at St. Andrew’s for some night snorkeling behind the jetties. The highlight of the night was the juvenile devil rays that cruised into the shallows to investigate the club members.
The final morning of our trip ended with a dive from the beach at St. Andrew‘s in which most of the club members were able to use some alternative gear configurations, such as side mount and double tanks. With a trailing dive flag the club members navigated the surge to explore the offshore side of the jetties, where they discovered batfish and isolated patches of coral.
The TAMUG dive club would like to thank the Walton County Park Board, Panama City Dive Center, the captain and crew of the Island Diver, Scotty, and the Florida State Parks system for making this an unforgettable trip.