Expedition Team: Dave Miller, Nick Kelly, Jacque Kelly
Date: November 4, 2021
Named after the Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon, who sought the Fountain of Youth in the 1500’s, we snorkeled a spring pool blocked off from the large stream (which runs ten miles & later connets to the St. John’s River) by a concrete dam to create a pool-like swimming area. This freshwater spring was one of 700 in Florida, the largest collection anywhere on Earth. The spring depth ranged from 3 to 30 feet and produces 19 million gallons of water per day. At the 30 foot level there is a cave entrance about four feet wide that divers can swim vertically down 30 more feet then swim horizonal for 170 feet of cave. In the cool spring water, I saw two fish and countless white & gray snail shells, signs of Native Americans and the adjacent Mayaca Indian mounds who gathered food here long ago.
We camped at Turtle Beach Campground, just south of Siesta Key. It was one small, tight campground next to the beach ran by Florida State Parks. I did a 45 minute and 30 minute dives and Rosie snorkeled once. Once past the waves the underwater bottom was smooth, clear sand that progressed out into the Gulf of Mexico with no drop offs nor reefs. I had 25 foot visibility and eventually snorkeled down to about 12 feet depth. I saw many black sea urchins, hundreds of shells and many small fish. Rosie found a great restaurant up the road in Siesta Key called the Toasted Mango Café. We actually ate there (only the second time we ate out on the 2 ½ week trip due to the pandemic) as she got coffee, breakfast and a souvenir mug. The beach was beautiful and very secluded.
I’m back in the Bermuda Triangle again, the northern edge. I am immune-compromised recovering from my cancer bone marrow transplant so my doctor said no to a crowded dive boat. Instead, we booked this eco-tour snorkeling/kayaking expedition. Only Rosie and me and three other people on the boat “King Fisher” plus Captain Harold. On the boat, I got to help as a crew member, raising the anchor and tying us off on buoys. With water temperature 72 degrees and air temperature 75 degrees it was a comfortable outing. Anniversary Reef was located nine miles out in the Atlantic Ocean from Biscayne National Park Visitor Center, three miles out from the barrier islands and mangrove forests. The day before was our 39th Anniversary so what a coincidence that the reef was named Anniversary Reef. At a depth of 20 feet, visibility was okay considering the swells were occasionally rough.
During the 55 minute snorkel we saw elkhorn coral, brain coral and sea fans plus yellowtail snappers, grunts, blue tang, Sgt. Majors, hamlets, wrasses, blue chromis and much more. Rosie did great!
Only accessible by seaplane or boat, Dry Tortugas National Park lies 70 miles west of Key West, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico and is the home of Fort Jefferson, a Civil War fort/prison. We took the National Park service ferry, the Yankee Freedom III, which took about 2 hours 15 minutes to go one way. To kill time, Shane and I sat in the bow of the boat watching the turquoise water and seeing lots of flying fish and several sharks.
The park’s main island had just enough land to hold the old fort, a small dock and a small beach. Opened in 1860, the fort was considered a strategic point by the Union to control the Straits of Florida and the Gulf during the Civil War. It was used as a military prison and was abandoned by the Army in 1874.
After the tour of the fort and before I went back inside for a ghost hunting investigation, Shane and I went to the small beach and snorkeled. The depth was about 20 feet and the water was crystal clear. We took some nice photos of barracuda, angelfish and an old chain. We plan to return some day with scuba gear.
We took a taxi from our Norwegian Cruise Ship south on the island to the Club. It was a beautiful beach setting for swimming and sunbathing. We rented snorkel gear and submerged in the warm, crystal clear water. I held my breath, descended 15 to 25 feet and saw hundreds of fish including parrotfish and damselfish. I even saw a small tug boat (Photo#4) resting peacefully on the sandy bottom. Wish I had my scuba gear but it was a great site to snorkel. Afterwards, we found a comfortable beach chair and a brewski before heading back to the cruise ship.
When our cruise ship the Carnival Holiday docked at Havensight Point Dock we grabbed a taxi and headed to Coki Beach on the northeast coast. This was me and Rosie’s first scuba dive although this was a cruise ship excursion dive through Virgin Islands Diving Schools with only 30 minutes of training and nor a real PADI dive certification. Still it was exciting. The blue, warm water was clear and conditions calm. We performed a shore entry and dove to a depth of 30 feet. During the thirty minute dive we saw colorful fish such as Sgt major, yellow striped grunts, butterfly fish, trumpetfish and parrotfish. A great first diving experience that convinced me to get PADI certified.
Dive Team: Dave Miller, Rosie Miller, Matt Miller, Jacque Miller, Holly Miller, Shane Miller
Date: December 28, 2003
The Miller children’s first attempt at Snuba -a form of surface-supplied diving that uses an underwater breathing system for shallow scuba diving. No certification was needed. We were late due to a raised drawbridge but they held the dive boat for us. We headed for Davis Reef. The sun turned overcast, the wind picked up creating waves and rough water. The clouds limited our underwater visibility but we were determined to dive. A raft was placed into the water with air tanks on it. Underwater hoses ran from the tanks to supply us with air. We wore wetsuits, harness (to hold the air hose), mask, snorkel and fins. We slowly dove to the 25 foot reef. We didn’t get much training as some of the kids ears hurt due to compression or their masks were a little loose and collected some salt water. Matt and I made it to the bottom and saw the colorful reef, some grunts, butterfly fish and many other fish. It was not the most perfect conditions but it gave the family exposure to diving. Eventually, five out of six family members became certified divers.
We celebrated our 25th anniversary at Bermuda. At our private bay the clear blue water was magnificent. At a depth of 5 to 12 feet we saw lots of small fish like snapper, damselfish, Sergeant Major and butterfly fish. Sergeant Majors nipped at Rosie’s fingers and legs expecting a snack. In the distance (Photo#3)to the left of Daniel Island where I am snorkeling is the wreck of the HMS Vixen with its bow sticking out of the water. The Vixen was sunk intentionally in 1897 to block and prevent attacks on the royal dockyards. One day we rented kayaks and paddled around Daniel Island but failed to reach the Vixen.
Expedition Team: Holly Miller, Shane Miller, Rosie Miller, Jacque Miller, Matt Miller, Cory Evans, Dave Miller
Date: April, 2009, June 2011
We stopped by Dolphins Plus two times and several of the family enjoyed a 45 minute close up encounter with several dolphins. They got to snorkel in their natural environment, swim and observe them up close while they swam, circled around them and performed jumps. We camped at Key Largo Campground one of our favorite places.
My 53rd dive was my first deep dive. The USCG Cutter William I. Duane was launched in 1936 and intentionally sunk as an artificial reef in November 1987. The boat is 327 feet long. In WWII it helped sink German U-Boat U-77 rescueing 22 Nazi crew from the water.
Due to a strong current we held on to the mooring line and descended. Visibility was only 40 feet so I did not even see the huge ship until I was 45 feet down the line. Was advised to stay behind the superstructure and off the stern or the current would blow you away. The mooring line came down amidship behind a stack at 80 foot depth. We eventually worked our way down to a 105 foot depth which was the main deck. We swam through many semi-darked rooms but had enough light to see many large spadefish, barracuda and a goliath grouper. Only one photo survived as the camera I was using did not work at that depth.