It is a warm morning in mid May, and the “Paradise Below” Dive boat takes us to an exciting dive spot, the Esso Bonaire III. It is a 147 foot long harbor tanker wreck placed 3 miles off the coast of Jupiter and is one of the three wrecks collectively known as Jupiter Wreck Trek. (GPS coords: 26º 57.85200’N, 80º 0.47202’W) This steel tanker was built in Honduras in 1926 and sunk in 1989 after the Palm Beach Council seized it when they found 55,000 lbs of marijuana on board.
The captain gives the signal: “Dive! Dive! Dive!” and we all enter the water. Surprisingly there is no current, and we can descend calmly together. Before we reach the base of the ship, we cross a large school of Tomtate Grunts. As soon as we touch bottom at 90 feet, a bull shark welcomes us passing quickly through the group. The wreck is completely covered by various corals and gorgonians and is home to a multitude of large and small marine life. Even though it is not recommended to enter due to the fragile conditions of the structure, there is plenty to view for all the divers.
Due to the good visibility, we are also able to see some Pork Fish, Grey Triggerfish, turtles and other smaller tropicals surrounding the vessel. We are quickly led to the deck after seeing some very large Goliath Grouper shadows a few feet away. These colossal creatures spanned the entire deck in groups of 4 and 5 with some of them weighing in around 350 pounds. While we are observing these gentle giants, a couple more bull sharks pass by without paying much attention to our surprised faces.
Due to this being a deeper dive, we need to ascend after being down for about 35 minutes. Great conditions, visibility and sea life make the majestic Esso Bonaire III an amazing dive site to visit.
Take a look at this link if you want to learn more about wreck diving (types, safety rules, protection…etc). Also, if you are interested in the history of wrecks in Florida, you can look at these reads recommended by the website of Florida Division of Historical Resources.
By Ana Castañosa
Photos by Hannah Medd And Otto Gabriel