In the early 90’s my Dive Buddy Brad K-R “found” something off seacrest park. Immediately I made him show me. It was night, it was dark, it was cold, and I was a bit narc’d. We thought we’d found the fabled ferris wheel from Luna Park (little attention paid to the fact that Luna Park was actually on the point and all its equipment was sold off when it closed)
In fact, upon closer inspection, and asking around (old timers are great for maritime history) we had located ‘the I-Beams’ (or in this time of Apple grandeur should I call them the iBeams?) According to Frank Wolff, the owner of Seawolf diving, a shop that was just a bit south of Cove 2, the iBeams started their life as a light stand at the end of a log boom that corralled lumber awaiting its creosote, in place to warn traffic of the impending hazard to navigation. As the story goes, one night the light on the stand went out, and was promptly hit by a tug boat. This impact drove the beams shoreward, their base in 100’ of water, the still present light at the top of the beams now in around 70’ depending on the tide.
When we “found” the iBeams(the old timers got a good laugh out of this) they were quite impressive, all three beams suspended off the substrate, absolutely teaming with life, every inch covered in metridium and warbonnets (no, I was not THAT narc’d). The muck bottom out there was barren and void of most life, save a few tube dwelling anemones, the occasional grunt sculpin and shrimp. Anywhere in Puget Sound that you get stuff up off the bottom, be it a shipwreck, some pilings, a glacial erratic or even three old iBeams, you will see a near instant congregation of life. An oasis in a sea of grey. They were brilliant white with anemones. Well worth a weekly trip out to see what was lurking near by: Skates, Sixgill Sharks, Seals and Sealions. The swim to the beams was always a bit hit or miss, there were no ropes so the standard trick was to swim ‘out’ and run into the rock piles around 70-80’ and hang a right. In these rock piles one could find adolescent wolf eels and grunt sculpins. There would be two piles and then Voila! iBeams!
Fast forward 20 years.
This past weekend, we were diving the beams, at special request I was asked to actually “look” at them as opposed to just swim around them. Something the reader needs to understand is that I almost always take my video camera with me on dives. The dive started like any other, a quick pre-dive brief and we were on our way. We arrived at the beams and now ‘looking’ at them I realized that they had changed. I knew they’d been degrading, watching each beam settle slowly to the bottom and entrench itself in the mud. What i had not noticed, I assume because it happened so gradually, is that they were becoming devoid of invertebrate life. Given it is winter underwater, but still, they were far more barren than I remember. So barren in fact that the newish diver who was my buddy actually remarked “Something is wrong with that!”.
I tend to be a bit skeptical when faced with apparent changes, Puget Sound has seasons and i wondered perhaps this is but a seasonal change. As the iBeams have collapsed, it has put the metal structure closer and closer to the substrate, so it is not surprising to me that the life would find them less hospitable. What i did find striking is a change in the life on the upright structures. So upon arrival home, I looked back on 6 years of footage (again with the camera on every dive). I am going through archival footage (back as far as 2000) and putting together a retrospective. Until that is ready, I will let you see the difference in videos already posted. The changes are so vivid that it is a harsh reminder that the ocean reclaims.
Water quality aside, the structure is vanishing before our eyes. This is why we owe it to the future generations to document and preserve the ‘lifecycle’ of things wrecks and reefs. Not just once in a while, or a touch and go. I mean dive the site, and document it, stem to stern. Note the changes. It seems to me they accelerate. A wreck that has been underwater for 40 years remains quite intact in saltwater, but as you move towards 60 to 70, they degrade more and more rapidly. The divers of today are the old codgers, the historians of tomorrow.
iBeams in 2000 courtesy of Larry Mclean
iBeams in 06
iBeams this week