By Nigel Sadler and Jackie Mulligan
5.30am: The T & C Explorer sets off from South Dock in Grand Turk, the sun rises as the liveaboard complete with expedition team see South Caicos in the far distance.
7am: The team gather for Stan’s breakfast special ‘ham and eggs’ .
Randy Davis remembers his mother and would like to wish Marilyn Davis a very happy birthday. Jackie Mulligan and Nigel Sadler also remember their close friend Helen’s birthday so send their best wishes to Helen Salter for her birthday too!
The T & C Explorer rocks and rolls across the seas and rides the swells left over from Hurricane Frances.
The team are admiring the track maps that Toni has created on the survey so far. The now functional geo-referencing system enables the team to see the area covered and the sites identified clearly. However numbering will be an issue as Donald H Keith explains “we did not expect to get so many ‘hits’ in just a few hours that first day – which means we now have to figure out a way of numbering them to account for the high amount.”
9.45am: The Turks and Caicos Explorer finally draws into shallower, calmer water. As it anchors down, Nigel Sadler and James Hunter are concerned. Nigel believes he can see a reef close by, James Hunter believes the dark patch could mean the sea is really deep. When they ask JF, he informs them that what they have seen “is a cloud.”
10am: Briefing: Don explains how it is curious that whilst many ‘targets’ have been identified, that there were few sites seen around Breezy Point. Today the team will go East and West from Breezy Point and the paths will overlap in order to maximize the observation. Teams will still need to focus on the outside of the reef and track the paths which now can be seen. Don adds “Today is when GPS becomes important – and we start using it as a tool.”
The team divide into east towboarders; James Hunter (GPS); Noah (Skipper); Jennifer and Julie (Towboarders) west towboarders Jason (GPS), Mitch (Skipper) Nigel, Anders and Levardo (Towboarders) and a site documentation team Graham (Skipper) Randy (Camera), Don (Slate). Due to the storm – visibility has reduced from the average TCI 80ft plus to about 20ft.
The lower visibility, so unusual for TCI Waters provides challenging photography conditions for Randy and Don who visit three target sites identified on Monday August 30th before the storm. They are delighted to find that the exact GPS points work “like a charm”. When skipper Graham lowers the anchor at the point, they can clearly see the site beneath.
On site 023 believed to be ballast – Don spots the stone deposits about 10-13ft below the surface and identifies these stones as natural and coral “it means the sea has figured out a way of disguising something natural to make it look man made” he explains when he returns.
The next site, (pictured) Don and Randy are perplexed by an axel, with spokes around it. The artifact is concreted so the shape is disguised. The pair believe that 8 or 10 spokes may have radiated from the center. It is too small to be a capstan – so theories will continue. Suggestions please in the comments box.
The final stop is identified as a definite shipwreck site. (See picture right). The site is an iron hulled vessel – most likely a sailing ship. One side of the ship: the gunwale is well preserved. In addition the site features preserved dead eye straps to support masts. Don believes it to be a 20th century ship. Part of the wreck is lying on top of gulleys and has created caves inside the remains. Inside these gulleys Randy sees lots of parrot fish and a 6ft nurse shark.
4pm: The east towboarders return and have identified 6 more targets, mostly what appears to be scattered clusters of ballast stones and unidentified concreted iron objects
6pm: The west towboarders return and have identified 12 more targets, mostly metal fragments most likely relating to the metal shipwreck photographed today. Jason Burns is delighted with the finds. When asked if the team had found anything interesting Mitch replies “I think we found stuff that didn’t start out in the sea…”
Healthy competition appears to have emerged in the team, as the west towboarders led by Jason Burns accuse James Hunter’s team of stopping early “for tea and scones”. Jason gets a curt retort from James who is typing up his notes “it is not our fault that we used our time more wisely…. By the way what the heck are scones anyway?!”
The team enjoy dinner, and have a toast to the trip with a glass of Middle Caicos Cave Rum.