We had a nice, if somewhat sporty, sail past the cruise ship terminals and up to the northern coast of Aruba. We anchored at Arashi Beach, which is about as far as you can get and still be protected by the island.
We woke up early on Sunday morning, planning to dive the wreck before the tour boats arrived. Of course, early is always a bit relative, but we made it into the water before 8am. Drew and Patricia from Nautilife came along, but they would be free diving while we scuba-ed. The water was a little cloudy, so it was hard to get much of an over-arching view. Still, it’s clear that this wreck is absolutely massive. We tied to a mooring near the middle and started to travel clockwise, bringing us along the bow and past the anchor chain.
The Antilla went down in 1940, scuttled when the Germans invaded Holland. That’s plenty of time for it to accrue an ecosystem. Left, a colony of feather hydroids interspersed with several sponges. Right, a big fileclam.
This was the first place we’d seen a colony of (painted?) tunicates, so we were pretty excited about that.
The bow doesn’t have much structure, but as you swim further aft, she starts to show broken-up machinery and split-open chambers, with lots of huge caverns to swim into and through. Future divers: start with the stern.
The best part of wreck dives is the fish they attract, or maybe the framing they provide for those fish. Here’s a longsnout butterfly with an excellent shadow, and a big queen angelfish.
Then there was this big (black? yellowfin?) grouper, who helpfully provided a full set of mugshot angles.
We got a visit from an ocean triggerfish, always a treat. Also pictured, a porcupinefish, and an especially bone-homely damselfish in its awkward teenage phase.
There wasn’t much soft coral, which made this one gorgonian stand out, bravely hanging onto the hull. Right, a set of zoanthid? polyps that haven’t quite closed for the day yet.
We got occasional passes from hunting schools, like these crevalle jacks, or from Drew.
Eventually we started to run out, not of air, but of time: we wanted to be well gone before the tourist boats showed up. So we started a slow ascent, which brought us along protruding girders with huge schools of fish, like these gray snapper. As we ascend, the light gets better faster than usual, because the hazy water cuts not just visibility but also light at depth, and because at 9am the sun was starting to get bright.
We shared our safety stop with an immense school of chromis.
Our farewell gift from the wreck was this bouquet of sponges.