Today's Travelers are Facing Rigor, Danger and Dread--and Loving It
Kevin F. McMurray
From the Print Edition:
J.P. Morgan, Mar/Apr 00
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The unnerving feeling of suspended animation quickly gives way to the wonder of beholding these toothy and much feared denizens of the deep as they swoop by with a grace that is spellbinding. Divers invariably expend all video and film in minutes; later they kick themselves for being so impetuous and missing that one-in-a-million shot that invariably comes after the film runs out. But not to worry. Before the day is out you'll be back in the cage for another 15-minute session, and there'll be two more days of it to follow. I got some great shots.
The beauty of the shark dive is that you don't have to be an experienced diver or have deep pockets. All you need be is a certified diver willing to shell out $825 for the experience. Getting certified requires a few hours a week over a month's time at your local Y pool and generally costs no more than $150. The $825 covers the boat charter (a bunk, all meals and refreshment), the diving, the guide and an experience of a lifetime. Compare that to a visit to Disney World or a few nights at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and you should come away thinking, as I did, that it's a bargain.
Want to step up a few notches to the top of the food chain? For $220 to $300 a day and three to 10 vacation days, you can dive the notorious haunts of the great white. Two and a half hours outside of Cape Town, South Africa, Shark Diving Expeditions can arrange for you to dive off a seal rookery on Dyer Island where an estimated 200 great whites are known to dine. Accommodations are at a bed-and-breakfast or an eco-lodge in nearby Walkers Bay, and side trips to big game parks and the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, are optional. For more information on shark diving, call San Diego Shark Diving Expeditions at 1-888-SD-SHARK or check out its Web page: www.sdsharkdiving.com.
Wreck diving has always been the poor cousin of sport diving. Pretty fish and colorful reefs have been the main draw for those who like it wet. But the recent discovery of the remains of the Titanic has made diving shipwrecks hot. Long the preserve of the insular New York wreck-diving community, the wreck of the U.S.S. San Diego is getting a little more attention these days, and rightfully so.
The Navy's last armored cruiser was the only major warship lost by the United States during the First World War. She sank in 1918 after striking a mine that had been laid by a German U-boat. Six sailors lost their lives in the explosion that sent the San Diego to the Atlantic's bottom just 13.5 miles off of New York's Fire Island Inlet.
The wreck turtled as she sank and came to rest upside-down on the bottom 110 feet down. The behemoth 504-foot-by-70-foot vessel extends to 65 feet below the surface, so even novice divers can visit the last existing ship of Teddy Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet" and the former flagship of the Pacific Fleet. Plenty can be seen in visibility that generally runs between 20 and 80 feet.
Six-inch guns poke out from her turrets, and the ship's mast and smokestacks, what is left of them, rest in the sand on her starboard side. The explosion that ripped a hole in her port side and ignited her magazine is still visible. An easy penetration into the wreck can be made in the stern area, where 80 years in corrosive sea water have rotted away her iron hull, opening the engine room and stern ammunition room and exposing the propeller shafts to the open sea. The wreck site is also a favorite haunt of lobsters. Two- to twelve-pounders are routinely taken away.
Trained and experienced wreck divers can penetrate into the sick bay, supply room, crew quarters and magazine. Be forewarned: the wreck can be dangerous. Over the years divers have gotten lost inside and drowned. Of course, danger is part of the allure, along with the history, which can be touched and experienced by the lucky few who make this dive. The U.S.S. San Diego is within easy reach of the New York metropolitan area. Several dive boats make regular runs to her watery grave during the prime diving season of mid-April through the end of October. Contact the Long Island, New York, dive boats Wahoo (516-928-3849) or Sea Hawk (516-499-9107), or Staten Island, New York's John Jack (718-979-6338), or visit the Web page (www.wahoo2001.com). No-frills one-day trips run about $70 a diver.
DOG MUSHING IN ALASKA
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