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ASF EXP 1 A
ASF EXP 1 B
ASF EXP 1 C
Cocoa Beach
121 Scrub #1
121 Scrub #2
STS-121
ASF EXP 2 A
ASF EXP 2 B
ASF EXP 2 C
ASF EXP 2 D
ASF EXP 2 E
STS-116

ASF Expedition 1

Shipwrecks and barracudas
These photographs document ASF Expedition 2.
Photo Credits: Les, Mary, and mine
Our dive charter Scuba-Do
The charter dive boat for our expedition was the Scuba-Do
It may have been a small step for Neil Armstrong but it was a giant stride for Al Worden
It may have been a small step for Neil Armstrong but it was a giant stride for Al Worden
United States Marine John Smith follows Al Worden into the water
United States Marine John Smith follows Al Worden into the water
Lexie pops back to the surface following her giant stride as Les and Jerry look on
Lexie pops back up to the surface after her giant stride as Les and I look on
Lexie and me discuss her mask issue
Lexie and I discuss the issue with her scuba mask
Being surveyed by a menacing barracuda
Being surveyed by a menacing barracuda
Lexie, Al, and me head over to the Benwood shipwreck
Lexie, Al, and I fin towards the Benwood shipwreck
We are dazzled by a school of yellow tail
A school of yellow tail dazzle our eyes
Grunts and brain coral in front of some of the Benwood's structure
Brain coral and grunts in front of structure of the Benwood shipwreck
Sea life attaches itself to the Benwood's structure
Sea life has encrusted the structure of the Benwood
More of the Benwood's structure
Schools of fish float near the shipwreck structure
A varietyof sea life has made its home on the Benwood
A variety of sea life has made its home on the Benwood shipwreck
Our first dive of the day would be at the site of the shipwreck Benwood.  The Benwood sank on April 9, 1942.  This was during World War II.  Ships as the time were running without lights to avoid being spotted by German U-boats.  In the dark of night the Benwood collided with the ship Robert C. Tuttle.  The Tuttle survived but it sent the Benwood to the bottom.   The wreck lies in 20 feet to 50 feet of water.

Our first dive of the day would be at the site of the shipwreck Benwood.  The Benwood sank on April 9, 1942.  This was during World War II.  Ships as the time were running without lights to avoid being spotted by German U-boats.  In the dark of night the Benwood collided with the ship Robert C. Tuttle.  The Tuttle survived but it sent the Benwood to the bottom.   The wreck lies in 20 feet to 50 feet of water.

I was somewhat apprehensive as we road on Scuba-Do out to the dive site.  This would be my first dive with Lexie, where we did not have the watchful eye of a dive master on us at all times.  Sure, Les was still going to be on the dive, but he would be occupied in videotaping it.

The weather that morning looked a little threatening.  There were plenty of rain showers in the air.  I hoped we wouldn't encounter an electrical storm.  When we got within 5 minutes of the dive site, we started donning our scuba gear.  It's always a pain to slide into the wet suit.

The boat was moored to the anchor buoy.  Linn was the first person in the water.  She had quite a bit of scuba experience at this point so it was second nature for her.  Les was the second person in the water and he had his underwater video camera.

Al Worden was set to go third.  Mary got a great photo of Al doing the giant stride into the water.  Now the only divers left topside where Lexie and me.   I always find it somewhat unnerving to do that first giant stride of the day.  I got my courage up and stepped off.  My giant stride form leaves a lot to be desired by I made a successful entry.

Finally it was Lexie's turn to step off.  I watched as she plunged into the water.  She was going to be my dive buddy so I finned over to her.  We did our final checks and started to descend.  Lexie signaled me that things were not right with her mask.  We halted our descent and resurfaced.

Lexie's complaint was that the mask was too tight.  I didn't know if the issue was with Lexie or the mask.  Lexie had been a little moody on this trip and that contributed to my uncertainty.  I was afraid to work on the mask on the gentle rolling surface of the ocean for fear of dropping it to the bottom.   Our situation was complicated by a current pushing us out away from the boat. 

I decided that we would have to go back to the boat to fix the mask problem.  Just as we were about to head back, Les resurfaced.  He asked us what the problem was.  I explained that Lexie thought her mask was too tight.  Les adjusted it.  We then began our second attempt to descend to the bottom.

When I got about ten feet under the surface, I noticed a school of about 4 barracudas.  These menacing creatures were only about ten to fifteen feet away from me.  I was frightened by them as I assumed they would leave me alone if I left them alone.  I was hoping that Lexie wouldn't freak out at their sight.

On the way down to the bottom, I realized that my weight belt was way too loose.  It was so loose that I feared it would fall off.  I would have to tighten this before proceeding with the dive.   The place to have fixed this would have been as I descended.  I grew concerned that without stability; I might drop my entire weight belt and pop back up to the surface.  So I made the decision to land on the bottom and work the issue standing on the sand.

Getting into the proper position on the sand was not as easy as I thought it would be.  With my flippers I looked like an uncoordinated duck.  Much to my chagrin, Les captured this entire sequence on video.

I was relieved when I got the weight belt secured.  I floated back off of the bottom and joined up with Lexie, Al, and John.  Linn was a little bit ahead of us.

Seeing the wreck of the Benwood lying on the bottom was incredible.  It was not hard for me to imagine that this must be what the Titanic looks like.  In the 64 years that the Benwood has been on the bottom, it has become a sanctuary for marine life.  There are corals and countless fish swimming around its deteriorating structure.

We swam along the wreck towards what I assumed was the front.  As we rounded the front part of the wreckage, Lexie signaled to me that her ears were having problems.  I was really disappointed to have to leave the wreck.  I knew though that equalization problems during scuba are nothing to mess around with.

We signaled to each other that we would ascend to the surface.  Lexie was just having a difficult time equalizing.  That may have been why she thought that her mask was to tight in the first place.  At this point we were a fair distance away from the boat.  Lexie and I began to swim back to the boat.

The day before Les had told us to lie on our backs and fin back to the boat.  I didn't know if this was always the way to do it.  I wasn't sure if it was just the way to do it on the previous dive.

It proved very difficult to get back to the boat.  The surface current kept pushing us away. I expended a lot of energy just getting back to the floating line that trailed the boat.  I was exhausted and depressed.   I really hated to have cut our dive on the wreck so short.

Lexie and I pulled ourselves along the line back to the boat.  Lexie got out of the water first.  As I climbed the stairs out of the water, I realized how weak I was at this point.  This return to the boat took a lot out of me.    In retrospect, I should have swum to the boat just under the surface and right side up instead of on my back.  There is no substitute for experience.

I grabbed water and sat down.  I was pretty depressed.  I knew that Lexie was having issues where she should not be diving.  I also hated to think that she would miss out on this opportunity to dive with Apollo astronaut Worden.

Al was already back on the boat when we got there.  His dive wasn't the longest one either.  I was surprised that he beat us back to the boat. It showed just how inefficient Lexie and I were in swimming back to the boat.

As I rested on the boat, my strength returned.  My mood also improved.  Lexie decided that she would sit the next dive out.  She would give snorkeling on top a try.  I hated for her to miss out on the dive, but I was honestly relieved.    I knew after the first dive, that it would be difficult for me to relax out of concern for her ears.

It was decided on the second dive that I would be Al's dive buddy.  Our second dive would be a site at French Reef.  Linn and John were the first pair in the water.  Les our videographer followed next.   Al and I then followed.

Al and I checked with each other to see if we were both ready to descend.  We were and started letting air out of our buoyancy compensators.  This reef was a beautiful reef.  It seemed like sea life was everywhere.

The four of us began cruising along the bottom.  We followed Linn’s lead.  Les was off to the side capturing us on video.  At one point I found myself floating back up to the surface.  I've still got a lot to learn when it comes to buoyancy control.   I could see Al looking around trying to find me.  Finally he looked up.  I signaled to him that I was Okay if I could just get back down.   Fortunately I was able to get back to the bottom.

I rejoined Al.  He signaled that we should check our pressure gauges.  Using my fingers I signaled back what my pressure was.  He reciprocated.  How cool was that to be in an alien environment, checking pressure gauges with Al Worden, the first person to ever do a deep space EVA.  To me, that was what this trip was all about.  Al and I were on an EVA.  We didn't have to deal with the vacuum of space, but we were certainly in a hazardous environment.

As we swam along the bottom, I tried to keep my legs straighter.  As I said before, my scuba form needs a lot of work.  We notice a gray trigger fish around one of the corals.  It looked pretty big under the water.

Al and I check our pressure gauges again.  Al was fine on pressure, but mine was running low.  We were supposed to start returning to the boat when our pressures reached 800 PSI.  I was now at that limit.  Al indicated that we should ascend.  I agreed and we made our way back to the surface.   We scanned the horizon to locate our boat.

I was relieved to be able to spot the boat.  One of my concerns with diving without a dive master was being able to find the boat and make it back to it.  Al and I began swimming just under the surface.  As we swam along, I could see divers from other boats exploring the reef below.

This time I made it back to the boat in fine shape.  Swimming just under the surface was definitely the way to go.  Al had get back on the boar first.  I was really happy.  It was a great dive for me.  I didn't have a lot of concerns on this dive, I was starting to adapt to this new environment.

On the boat, I found that Lexie had a great time snorkeling.  Mary and I talked about it and agreed that it didn't matter if she would rather snorkel than dive.  As long as Lexie was enjoying herself, that is what it was all about.  Most importantly Lexie knew what she had to do to stay safe and not harm her ears.  That says a lot about an eleven year old.

The story continues with the second dive on Friday.  For my account of this dive follow the ASF EXP 2 C link.

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UPDATED : March 11, 2008
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