Diving the Rapa Nui off Deerfield Beach

Just east of the Deerfield Pier lays the wreck of a 150 ft barge that was sunk carrying replicas of numerous Easter Island sculptures made by a local Boca Raton artist named Dennis MacDonald. Funded by the local Deerfield Beach Women’s Club, the sculptures were loaded onto the barge, which was sunk with the intention of displaying these in an Easter Island like setting under the sea.

Unfortunately, the barge flipped over when sinking, and much of the artist’s work was crushed. Local divers have managed to bring a couple of the statues onto the flipped hull putting them up for display – they are certainly impressive. Perhaps not as impressive as it may have been on paper, but all the same, lots of sea life to see here. We’ve read that there are ongoing efforts to try and restore or to add to the statues at this site through the generous efforts of local divers.

Rapa Nui dive site

Dixie Divers divemaster Taylor was clear that there was absolutely no penetration on this wreck, and while we did see some holes and some crevices, certainly not anything tempting. Perhaps being a little claustrophobic to begin with, there was never any doubt that we were going to enter the wreck any time soon anyway! Even for those that are more adventurous, more advanced, or less prudent… please don’t! It’s best to ALWAYS heed the advice of the divemaster that knows the site.

Today’s morning dive was packed with students and many vacationers. Amongst them, we couldn’t help but notice numerous ‘reef rockets’ that must have done 3 turns around the wreck, often kicking up sand and likely not seeing much. As we get more experience, we ourselves have learned from other experienced divers the benefits of ‘slowing down’. Not only do you burn less air, and save your energy, it’s amazing what hovering for a minute in one place will expose. Little shy creatures that pop out to look at you, a rock or scorpion fish with good camouflage that blinks first, or simply a beautiful coral formation!

Yellow Tube Coral

We’ve also come to appreciate and love the ‘small stuff’. Today, as we slowed down and got close to some of the rock formations, we saw half a dozen sea spiders amongst the crevices. Up close under our dive light, we noticed that some of the joints on their legs were a bright blue color. Barely noticeable to the naked eye at that depth!

Sea Spider hiding inside a sea sponge

As you get close, shine your light, and hover for a bit. A new world comes into view! Little Feather Dusters, Christmas Tree worms, beautiful creatures that many non-divers never get to see. We  finally caught some of these tiny critters on film. You have to be fast, these little guys retract in a split second if they feel threatened.

Pink Feather Duster Worm hiding among coral
Christmas Tree Worm with its lungs extended to catch nutrients

This reminds me that we can’t wait to get our new Olympus TG-5 setup with case and strobe. We saw the TG-4 in action while in the Caymans, and it was just amazing what the microscope mode on that camera can do. It should be arriving tomorrow, and we will soon post some ‘ultra close-ups’ using the microscope mode. We will be looking for small creatures to volunteer their portraits.

Today, we were also diving for our first time with our new Faber HP Steel 80 tanks. These small tanks fit amazingly well, and unlike the large aluminum tanks we’ve been accustomed to, the steel ones are almost 6 inches shorter in length and weigh 3 pounds less. One of the added advantages is the buoyancy of these tanks. We were able to cut our weight in half, so a lot less weight to carry on our sore backs. Lastly, the tanks seem to distribute the weight better on our backs with their shorter length. The small profile with our back-inflate BC works well and we’re happy to have made the investment. We’re getting better with our air consumption also and believe that these tanks will be the right size for what we want to dive here in the local area. We’re also hoping to get some shore dives in, more on this in another post.

Back to the site! One of the treats today was a Chocolate Chip sea cucumber on the hull of the overturned Rapa Nui barge. Almost a foot long and 5 inches wide, this beast of a slug was making it’s way along the side of the hull. As we were trying to identify this beauty, we read with dismay that they are a delicacy in the Orient and often overfished in our Florida waters.

Chocolat Chip Sea Cucumber

Actually, we saw him far away from the Rapa Nui. Never mind!

As we explored their world some beautiful Grey and Queen angelfish came by to say hi to us.

French Angelfish

It was nice to do a ‘fun dive’ for a change. While we’ve enjoyed helping with cleanups and reef restoration and intend to be back for both, getting a pleasure dive in between was a nice change. It won’t last though. We’re already signed up this week for another pier cleanup, a turtle-hatching outing, and a beach cleanup too.

No ocean, no life!


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