Thursday, October 16, 2008
Hard to Imagine I'd Never Been There
Last year I was working on a project, creating huge murals for a new Visitor Center being built in Key West for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It involves shooting specific habitats, some topside (Ft. Jefferson, as well as Pinelands and Wetlands in the Lower Keys) and specific underwater topography to include bank reefs, patch reefs, hard bottom, and a historical shipwreck (the Civil War Wreck off the Elbow). Saturday was my day to shoot the Patch Reef, and my friends at Quiescence recommended a site in behind Molasses that they dive quite often called “Brody’s”.
Now, I’ve lived in Key Largo since 1978, and it is hard to imagine a site that’s good for photography has escaped me. But, I’d never dived this one. I was diving with John Halas, manager for the Key Largo region of the Sanctuary, and one who actually predates me in the dive industry here in Key Largo. John agreed this was the best of the best for local Patch Reef habitat. So based on his stellar recommendation, Brody’s was our destination.
From the surface I could see the circular sand halo surrounding a more or less circular reef, maybe a little longer than the length of a football field. That is part of the classic definition of “patch” reef … so far so good. But, dropping beneath the surface I was amazed at how pristine the hard corals and gorgonia were. The schools of fish were impressive, especially near the south end of the reef where the prevailing current built up large filter feeding sponge and gorgonia. Here was a large congregate of Atlantic spadefish, as well as mangrove snapper, hogfish, porkfish, and of course the omnipresent grunts that so define Keys diving.
I spent 65 minutes no deeper than 28 feet, on this my first dive at Brody’s, and then only came up because my 8 GB card was spent. It is not marked by a mooring buoy, which probably explains, in a way, why it remains so nice. It is not one of the “iconic” sites that everyone knows here, like Molasses or French Reef, and the fringing reef probably shelters it from big waves. It is a place of pristine and quiet beauty, and a comfort to know there are places unexplored and special, even in my own backyard. Maybe I should spend a little less time on a 747 bound for some exotic sea, and a little more time discovering the wonders closer to home.