Web photos by David Benz
Underwater images copyright 2000, Michael Lawrence

Michael Lawrence's life has been a twisting, turning path of wildly divergent careers. He was "a musician for more than 25 years, playing jazz guitar, doing studio and orchestral work, stage shows, arranging and conducting and doing anything else I could to turn jazz pennies into real dollars."

In 1980, Michael did a gig on a cruise ship. Soon after, he learned to dive. "I knew as soon as I stuck my face in the water that it would change my life," he says. Now the camera is his instrument and dive travelers are his audience. He started writing for Skin Diver in 1990 and to date has written more than 150 articles for the magazine.

Michael is also the author of Lonely Planet Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Dominica and is currently working on a new Dive Guide to the Bahamas.

  • February 4, 2000...Freeport - Day 4

    Pelican Bay Resort next to UNEXSO.
    Sometimes your day goes as planned, and sometimes it doesn't. Today was one of those days. Our initial plan was a two-tank morning dive, probably exploring a wall and a reef, with Xanadu Undersea Adventures. But when we arrived at the dive shop, we ran into an old friend and owner of Xanadu Undersea Adventures, Louie Chan. He asked what we were doing and when we told him he smiled and said, "Nah, Mike, you've done that many times. Come with me. I've got something cool to show you."

    Conch shells at
    David Rose's home.
    It's important to understand that when Louie says something is cool and smiles, you might as well chuck your original plan and move on. Louie has a variety of passions in life, aside from diving, that include Harleys, boats, flying and Formula V racing. (Actually, his racing days are behind him but he did just cop a new, cool, chrome draped Harley.) So, we knew we were in for something good.

    David Rose explains the boil holes to Michael and Louie Chan.
    We hopped into his Mercedes and drove out to Queen's Cove on Grand Bahama's northwest coast, where he showed off his newest invention. It looked like a plane with short and elongated wings, but also had floats along the outside edge. We thought, What is this thing? Then we noticed a gaggle of men speaking in a language sounding very much like Russian. Now we wondered, I thought the Cold War was over. Have we just stumbled on to the beginnings of a retroinvasion?

    Actually, they were Russian designers, engineers and technicians who had worked on the craft, which turned out to be both a plane and a boat. Its forward props are angled up, forcing a flow of air under the hull. When it gets up to speed, it flies between 6 and 12 inches over the water at speeds of up to 110 mph. So, did we get a chance to go water flying? Not today, but you can bet your sweet ass we will tomorrow! What exactly does this have to do with diving? You'll find out tomorrow.

    The Xtreme Xplorer.
    Afterward Louie took us to the nearby home of David Rose, brother of Grand Bahama's famous Ben Rose. On the way, he pointed out the location of three major blue holes (known as boiling holes in the Bahamas due to the extreme motion of the tidal exchange). When Louie asked David Rose if he could take us to see one of the blue holes, David said, "Sure man, I ain't doing nothing but hanging." We went behind his house (he lives right on Hawksbill Creek), hopped into his conching boat and cruised slowly over the crystal clear water, dodging submerged limestone formations along the way.

    The Russians.
    Small openings began to appear as David explained that there were more boiling holes found on this creek than anywhere else. The three Louie mentioned were just the tip of the iceberg. He took a cut to the left and suddenly the limestone floor opened up. A cleft in the rock dropped down past a series of ledges until it went black. Fish darted in and out and pairs of lobster antenna waggled at us from under the ledges. David and I looked at each other in dismay as we suddenly realized that we had foolishly set out on this trek without cameras or dive gear (Duh!). We made plans to go fetch the gear and return in an hour or so to dive the blue hole.

    Winding down the day
    with a world-class
    Bahamian sunset.
    We set up the camera equipment, geared up, got in the boat and headed out for some cautious exploration. But as we approached the hole, we realized that the tide had obviously turned, and instead of gorgeous, clear, high-tide water, the hole was now sucking-pulling in sediment and clouding the water. We decided to give it a shot anyway, suited up and rolled in only to find out that the vis had dropped from 100 foot plus to barely 10 feet. Remember what I said about plans? We headed back to the dock, made a call and changed our flight (we were supposed to head off to Nassau/New Providence in the morning).

    To find out if we succeed or blow it again, log on tomorrow! Right now, David and I are headed out in search of fish or conch, some entertainment and, of course, the perfect rum punch.

    Get more info:
    History | Geology | Dolphins
    Sharks | Conch | Blue Holes

    [Day 1 & 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5]
    [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]
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    Abaco Beach Resort Dive Center (800-838-4189)
    Brendals Dive Center International (800-780-9941)
    Dive Abaco Ltd. (800-247-5338)
    Walkers Cay Hotel (800-327-8150)

    Andros Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)
    Seascape Inn (242-369-0342)
    Small Hope Bay Lodge (800-223-6961)

    Bimini Undersea (800-348-4644)
    Scuba Bimini (800-848-4073)

    Greenwood Dive Center & Beach Resort (242-342-3053)

    Scuba Chub Cay Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)

    Exuma Dive Center & Watersports (800-874-7213)
    Peace & Plenty (800-525-2210)

    Grand Bahama Scuba (800-753-7282)
    Sunn Odyssey Divers (242-373-4014)
    UNEXSO (800-992-DIVE)
    Xanadu Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)

    Stella Maris Inn (800-426-0466)

    Bahama Divers Ltd (800-398-DIVE)
    Custom Aquatics Ltd. (242-362-1492)
    Dive Dive Dive (800-368-3483)
    Nassau Scuba Centre (888-962-7728)
    Stuart's Cove (888-STU-COVE [788-2683])

    Riding Rock Resort (800-272-1492)

    Blackbeard's Cruises (800-327-9600)
    Bottom Time Adventures (800-899-6753)
    Nekton Diving Cruises (800-899-6753)
    Sea Dragon (954-522-0161)
    Sea Fever Diving Cruises (800-443-3837)

    Undersea Adventures (800-327-8150)
    Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (800-866-DIVE)
    Bahamas Tourist Office - Miami (800-866-DIVE)

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