Southeast Florida wasn’t the first location in the world to run blackwater dives. But the dive operators here initiated, and subsequently perfected the technique of black water drift dives, following a lighted buoy and dropline. They have been doing these dives regularly for over six years, and we have both been regular participants in these dives.
The dives are done offshore on the edge of the Gulf Stream, which runs from south to north off the coast. The boat goes out the inlet and travels about 5 miles south, based on the strength of the current, then travels 3 to 5 miles east to where the water is 500 to 700 feet deep. The divers then jump in (untethered) and drift north with the current, hopefully ending up right outside the inlet. The dives last 90 minutes, and we have traveled from one to nine miles during the dive. But since everything is drifting at the same speed, we don’t feel it.
The boat deploys a large buoy attached to a 45-foot dropline with a weight at the bottom. There are lights at the top (to light up the buoy) and the bottom. Marker lights are placed at intervals along the line. The buoy provides a reference for the boat to follow. It is the divers’ responsibility to stay within sight of the line and surface near the buoy at the end of the dive. Divers usually go no deeper than 45 feet (14 meters) as the current varies with depth.
There is a wide diversity of small subjects to be seen on these dives, such as fish and mollusk larvae; a variety of shrimps and crabs; gelatinous zooplankton (jellyfish, salps, and siphonophores); and pteropods, heteropods, and gymnosomes that spend their entire life cycle in the water column. And when the ocean is calm enough, it is fun (and challenging) to try for reflection shots of flying fish at the surface.
We invite you to come to southeast Florida (Palm Beach County) and experience these dives first hand! The two operators regularly running the dives are Pura Vida Divers and Walker’s Dive Charters. It is better to come during the summer months when the ocean is calmer, and dives are less likely to be canceled due to rough seas.
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