A S S O C I A T I O N   OF   U N D E R W A T E R   E X P L O R E R S  

Date: Mon, 15 August 2005

AUE Weekend Trip Report, August 10-14, Gulf of Mexico
Hanging with Team Headhunter

On Wednesday afternoon, Joe and I joined Team Headhunter consisting of Dan MacMahon, Ricky Hampton, Ritchie Zacker, and Jason Stanley for a trip on the Gulf of Mexico that was blessed with five days of absolutely flat, calm seas.  After running over 150 miles into the Gulf, we arrived at the site of a shipwreck that was accidentally located during a research cruise six years earlier.  We had tried to find the wreck several years ago, and Dan joined in the search last year as well.  While we both found the debris field illustrated in the side scan sonar image, we had yet to find the actual wreck.  With supposedly more accurate data from a recent multibeam sonar survey conducted in the area, we set out confident we would be the first to dive this large mystery wreck.  Unfortunately, even with what appeared to be solid coordinates and information on the wreck, we could not locate this elusive target.  Since we were a long way from home, after several hours of searching we turned back east in frustration.  Yet, the trip would still have some surprises for us.

The shooters hit the 40-fathom break and boated some spectacular fish -- massive specimens that would be career fish for anyone else but was just another day at the office for Team Headhunter.  Later, Dan put us on a deep wreck and we had beautiful water until about 40 feet off the bottom.  Swimming through the swarms of AJs, I could just make out the very top of the wreck rising out of a murky cloud on the bottom.  We only had perhaps 5 feet of visibility and I was unable to get any good images of the entire wreck.  After a quick look, we bugged out and headed for the surface, where a large wahoo kept us company on decompression.  


(l) on the way down - here come the jacks; (r) a view on the top of the KAREN L's wheelhouse.

The next day, in between large fish hitting the deck, we dropped on another site to try and determine what it was.  Several of the shooters who dived it on an earlier trip thought it was a wreck, while yet another was positive it was a rock pile.  Again we had murky water along the bottom, but it was much better than the deeper dive.  Upon hitting the bottom, my initial reaction was that this was simply a pile of rocks until a few heavily overgrown features became clear.  What looked to be a pile of rocks was in fact numerous rows of barrels that used to hold concrete that have since solidified.  The wooden barrels and hoops were gone, and all that remained were the distinct but heavily overgrown masses of concrete.  It was easy to mistake this wreck for a natural feature as there simply is not much left.  I would guess that the site was the remains of a small schooner (barge) that was carrying a cargo of concrete; due to the amount of deterioration and encrustation at this depth, it would appear the wreck was very old, perhaps from the late 1800s or early 1900s. 


(l) the port side of the "Concrete Wreck"; (r) hawse holes on the bow.


(l) concrete molded in the shape of the disintegrated barrels; (r) rows of concrete barrels on the aptly-named "Concrete Wreck."

The last couple of days were spent on the Middle Grounds were the carnage continued.  On one drop, I splashed right behind Dan and followed him to the bottom.  While I could see him the entire drop and hit the bottom less than 10 seconds after him, he had already rolled two gags and was starting to string them up in that interval.  The Team Headhunter guys were extremely gracious hosts, and it was a privilege and treat to see these guys at work.  I definitely learned a lot from watching and talking to Dan and the crew.  It was a great trip and we want to thank Dan and the rest of Team Headhunter for the opportunity to join you all on the water.

 
(l) Jason talking smack about Dan's tiny carbo; (r) Ricky.

 
(l) Ritchie; (r) sunset over the Gulf.