By: Joseph Heinerth
2003-another life changing time, I was driving my girlfriend home one night when my dad called…I will never forget this…he simply said “Hey son, do you want to go to Africa?” …………….what? WHAT? Yes! YES! WHEN DO WE LEAVE?? Maybe 2 weeks later we took a 16 hour flight to Jo-Berg, South Africa. The reason for this trip was to be the first divers to reach a wreck..the Greek ocean-liner OCEANOS (forgive the spelling). This wreck sank in ’91 off the Transkei ( wild coast) of South Africa. There had been several attempts to reach her, but she sits in almost 300 Ft of strong currents, horrible conditions…but the expedition was successful and my father took the first underwater footage of the wreck.
That’s just a video that shows the boat sinking, ( I can’t find the underwater footage). It was an amazing accomplishment for their Country, my father and I were the only Americans. It was solely a South-African expedition. I was only 19 but while I was there I was transformed into a man who lived many lifetimes, at least that’s how I felt, a spiritual path opened for me in Africa. Listening to Pink Floyd while going for a run around sunset on the beaches of the Villa we stayed at, experiencing a whole other world. Seeing horrible poverty, but happy children who were fascinated by my big ear rings. My stay on that beautiful continent lasted 33 days, since I was no where near qualified to dive this wreck, while the team was training, I was learning so much more than I did from classrooms or professors. Seven of those wonderful 33 days were spent on safari in Botswana. I saw lions, elephants, a leopard, gazelles…when I finally came home, just like when I was 11 and did my first cave dive, the town I lived in seemed so insignificant and small, nobody understood me and my thought process. How could they?? After everything I experienced and saw, wild sage blowing in the wind, seeing the Southern Cross in the African night sky, I had changed, down to my very core. All of this because of one dive that I didn’t even go on. It was from that point on that I realized that all scuba divers, like you, like me, we all share a certain passion for nature and raw incredible visions. A mind set that a lot of people just don’t get. I’ve seen my friends faces underwater light up when they first hit 100 ft, or when someone looks up towards the surface and sees raindrops from underwater.
2004 was an INCREDIBLE year for me…my mother, father and stepmother were all hired to film the underwater scenes in the blockbuster Sci-fi horror/action-adventure feature film “The Cave”. Some of you may have seen it in theaters, it was by no means an award winning film but it’s entertaining. Rent it,if for no other reason than to see a glimpse of some of the beautiful caves in Mexico, where I first traveled as a boy. So while they were working for the 2 months down there, I was on the Nekton Pilot, but we had to come in early because that was the year of the hurricanes. A very bothersome entity when one is trying to have a nice vacation on a live-a-board. So, I was forced to come back to Ft. Lauderdale, but then I had a most interesting phone call. I was invited to go back to Mexico and actually help out the crew. I Couldn’t believe it!! I was cave diving, working for Hollywood?? Does this stuff even happen in real life?? Although my personal impact on the film is ZERO, I was happy just to give the divers water and food, help cooking with my mom, carry gear, etc. One night, at a bar near our hotel, my step-mother introduced me to a man named Anthony. Anthony lived in NYC and owned a production company, Air Sea Land productions. So I met him, we chatted for a bit with a couple of beautiful Italian women who just happened to be there. The next day he invites me to go up to New York and work with him. So in 3 weeks, I was diving very near Cuba, as close as we could get anyway, flying to Mexico, cave diving there and then 1 week after Anthony’s job offer I was on a plane to NYC. All of this made possible because of Scuba Diving. I lived in NY for almost 9 months. I loved my job…I was an assistant camera man. I filmed the ball drop on New Years in Times Square, filmed Donald Trump, Kelly Clarkson, Tommy Hilifiger, Cameron Diaz., and many I don’t remember. As I worked and lived in New York, I started missing trees, nature, water, diving…the toll of the weather, being alone in a city of millions, and all of this at the age of 19 and 20. I just missed everything I had come to know back in Florida, so I went home.
Since then I’ve been spear-fishing, I dove the beautiful springs of north Florida, Devils Eye, Ginnie Springs, Beuford Sink, Little River, those are just a few, and let me clear up a common misconception about Florida. Everyone thinks the beaches or a short boat ride will give you the most fulfillment for a dive, but it’s the fresh water springs that will really take your breath away. Of course, that’s just my opinion, seeing rays of sun that penetrate 80 ft of crystal clear water, its just something that you cannot ignore. The power of nature and the places you can go because of SCUBA are immeasurable. There are more springs in Florida than any other state. I’ve dove a fair share of them, but there are many, many more which I would love get to. As for me, I’m a massage therapist, a struggling musician, and a die-hard scuba lover. I enjoyed writing this, it really took me back into my memories, which is something I’ve neglected lately. So thank you for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it…any questions or comments, positive or negative, all are welcome…thank you for letting me re-live that feeling I got when was 11 and first explored the heavenly underwater caves of Mexico.