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Sunday, December 16th:
West Side of St. Croix ~ Swirling Reef Of Death (Three dives / including a night dive)
Don't let the name fool you, this was a nice shallow calm dive site with no current. Saw several small Flounders, a large adult Spotted Drum, some Trumpetfish and a large Smooth Trunkfish. There were lots of juveniles, schools of Black Bar Soldierfish and Smallmouth Grunts, as well as a variety of Parrotfish. Saw Foureyed Butterflyfish and Longsnout Butterflyfish. Blennies, Gobies, and Garden Eels down low, Black Durgons, Doctorfish and Bluehead Wrasse up high. Saw a nice Ballonfish and a Honeycombed Cowfish. At night the Spiny Lobsters, Arrow Crabs, Sea Cucumbers, Stareye Hermit Crabs and Channel Clinging Crabs were out.
Monday, December 17th
North West Corner of St. Croix ~ Butler Bay Deep Wrecks (Two morning dives)
This wreck of the Rosa Maria, a 177ft. long container ship and the tugboat, Coakley Bay, were sunk for dive sites. The Story is that the Rosa Maria was hauling cinder blocks to St. Croix but they off loaded one side first which flipped the ship over and sank it. It was towed to this site and dynamited to sink it. Only half of the dynamite went off which flipped it back to right side up before sinking. So it sits prettily upright in about 110 feet of water. The tug, also upright, sits at about 60 feet. We saw an abundance of Yellow and Spotted Goatfish, a pair of large Grey Angels, Honeycombed Cowfish, Trumpetfish, Sharpnose Puffers and Parrotfish. The usual Black Bar Soldierfish, Doctorfish, Black Durgons, Spanish Hogfish and an a variety of colorful coral, sponges and hydroids as well as a field of Garden Eels in the sand.
West Side of St. Croix ~ Alien Nation (Three dives / including a night dive)
A sloping reef with supposedly 'alien looking' sponge formation. Lots on nice nooks and crannys amongst the coral. There was a nice big Seahorse at the mooring, a small Goldentail Moray, big Green Moray and some Spotted Morays. Saw a large adult Spotted Drum, lots of Parrotfish, Surgeonfish, Durgons, Tangs, Yellowtail Snappers and Sargent Majors. My favorite fish the Smooth Trunkfish was around as well as a lot of Foureye and Longsnout Butterflyfish, a Honeycombed Cowfish and a nice Turtle. At night the Hermit Crabs and Banded Coral Shrimp were out and the fish were sleeping easily along the reef.
Tuesday, December 18th
North Side of St. Croix ~ Salt River (Two morning dives)
This site is said to be one of the oldest geological areas in the Caribbean, the cuts, ledges, overhangs and recesses suggest that it was once an above ground waterfall. A Hydro lab was here for several years. Scientist would live underwater for a week or so doing research on corals and fish life. There was a slight current, lots of surface agitation and it was quite surgy in the shallows. We saw several Spotted Moray Eels, a few Jacks and lots of various Butterflyfish. There were Grunts, Black Durgons, Black Bar Soldierfish, Yellow Goatfish, Parrotfish and Red Hinds. In the shallows there were a lot of Flamingo tongues and Pederson Cleaner Shrimp and Yellow Headed Jawfish. Saw another big Turtle on this dive.
North Side of St. Croix ~ Cane Bay (Three dives / Including a night dive)
A long sloping reef with big sand spots, coral finger reefs, a deep slope and eventually a very deep wall. I found a juvenile Smooth Trunkfish here, not quite a baby, but small. There were several Tile Fish around the sand, tiny Roughhead and Secretary Blennies, many Peacock Flounders, Black Durgons, Trumpetfish, a White Spotted Filefish in its Orange Phase and misc juveniles. John was videoing on this dive and a nice Turtle came by to be on film. At night the Banded Coral and Pederson Cleaner Shrimp were plentiful along with Arrow Crabs and whole lot of sleeping Parrotfish.
Wednesday, December 19th
North West Corner of St. Croix ~ Butler Bay Shallow Wrecks (Two morning dives)
There are three wrecks in close proximity at this site, the Suffolk Maid, an old North Sea fishing ship that sits in 60ft. of water, an oil barge, named The Virgin Islander and the North Wind, a small tug boat sitting in only 40ft. of water, which was used in the movie "Dreams of Gold, The Mel Fisher Story". There is also part of an underwater habitat, possibly part of the Hydro lab used at Salt River. We spent the first dive on the barge and the Suffolk Maid and the second dive headed over around and past the old habitat and to the smaller tug. Lots of nice coral and sponge growth on these wrecks. Saw lots of Bristle Fire Worms, Grunts, Tangs and the ever present Soldierfish. Also several Trunkfish, tiny little Roughhead Blennies and Pederson Cleaner Shrimp. A couple of Barracuda (small ones) and Moray Eels both big and Green and small and Spotted. The North Wind tug had the most growth and was home to a couple Spotted Morays, a nice Scorpionfish, Arrow Crabs galore and some Sharpnose Puffers. A nice big Turtle swam past us between the barge and the fishing boat and the sand was full of Garden Eels and some nice YellowHeaded Jawfish.
West Side of St. Croix ~ Fredricksted Pier (Three dives / Including a night dive)
The pier at Fredricksted is a shallow dive from around 20 feet to 90 out at the end of the new section. We never made it deeper than 30ft. as there is so much to see both day and night. The pillars holding up the pier are encrusted in massive amounts of sponges and house all kinds of critters. I took 250 pictures just at this dive site and had to cut way back on what to post here. We saw big Flying Gunards, Scorpionfish, Flounders, Bristle Fire Worms, schools and schools of big Sargent Majors and Arrow Crabs crawling all over everything. There were Spiny Lobsters, Spotted Lobsters, Decorator and Spongy Crabs, a couple of Seahorses, a Southern Ray and juveniles like Highhats and French Angels. That night we saw several Octopi and several Moray Eels. I looked and looked but never did find the frogfish though others did find some. On the night dive Bill and I got so engrossed in all the sights we had to swim frantically back to the ship to get back before the dive deck closing time.
Thursday, December 20th
North Side of St. Croix ~ Vertigo (Two morning dives)
Did not seem to be as much fish life on this site. Undefined finger reefs of coral led out to a steep sloping wall. The visibility wasn't as good and it was extremely surgey, so it wasn't a great site for my amateuristic photo skillz. There were some fantastic stands of Elkhorn Coral in the shallower areas and an abundance of Flamingo Tongues. Also saw several Smooth Trunkfish, some Black Durgons, Parrotfish and Blue and Brown Chromis with Isopods on their faces. Some Pederson Cleaner Shrimp and Cleaning Gobis and a nice Batwing Coral Crab were seen as well.
West Side of St. Croix ~ Kings Cross (Three dives / Including a night dive without the camera)
Fairly surgey site with milky visibility. Lots of coral rubble and quite a bit of dead coral. Saw the biggest Green Moray of the trip near the mooring. Swam out toward the wall drop off but the visibility wasn't great and didn't see much other than a big Honeycombed Cowfish and a Turtle. Back in shallower water we found lots of Trunkfish, Arrow Crabs, an adult Spotted Drum, a Spotted Moray Eel, Trumpetfish and lots of juveniles. and lots of Chromis. Opted not to take the camera on the night dive and the visibility had dramatically improved. Had a relaxing dive, spotting lots of Spiney Lobster, big Channel Clinging Crabs and had a nice long Octopus encounter. He was small but colorful and hung around for quite some time.
Friday, December 21st
North Side of St. Croix ~ Pavillions (Two morning dives)
This site is a nice sloping reef with good coral and pretty Sea Fans and Elephant Ear Sponges. The visibility was good at this site and it was a nice relaxing dive. A little bit of current but not a lot of surge. Got a great picture of a Balloonfish and several Flamingo Tongue shots. Saw a big Spotted Moray, families of little Fairy Basslets, lots of Parrotfish, Butterflyfish, Trunkfish, Blennies and Cleaner Gobies. Saw a few Smooth Trunkfish, some Grunts, Squirrelfish and a big Juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish.
Above are a couple originals and the zoomed in for detail copies together.
North Side of St. Croix ~ North Star (Three dives)
The last dive site of the trip is a sheer wall. The ship moored in shallow water its a short swim to the edge of the wall where it plunges rather dramatically to very deep water. The visibility at the wall was less than great and Bill was having serious leaking issues with his mask. We swam along the wall and through some cut throughs and then up toward the shallows. Saw lots of various Butterfly fish and Parrotfish. One smallish Parrotfish swam right into my head ! There were Scorpionfish, Bicolored Coneys, Red Hinds and Hogfish. In the shallows we saw a big Porcupinefish and several small Blennies and Yellowheaded Jawfish as well as Flounder.
Don't forget to check out the Above Water Photos page.