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Published: 15-Jun-12 16:57:55
Source: The Star
Related: 10-Apr-10 23:11:09
The Florida Division of Historical Resources is looking to develop the Panhandle in Northwest Florida into one of the country’s top scuba diving destinations by encouraging divers to explore the new Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. The trail will feature 12 shipwrecks between Pensacola and Port St. Joe and new passports are being developed so divers can log their dives and collect official stamps that will verify each individual dive.
Divers are being encouraged to explore Northwest Florida’s waters as the new Panhandle Shipwreck Trail is launched.
The trail has been developed with the help of a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a team of underwater archaeologists who are hoping that the trail will become one of the leading scuba diving destinations in the area.
Divers will be able to track their scuba diving adventures with the help of new passports that will log visibility, water temperature, weather conditions, pressure and dive time, as well as record their dive buddy and charter boat from each of the separate dives.
Lindsay Smith is an underwater archaeologist with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and is part of the team that developed the trail which stretches from Pensacola and Port St. Joe and feature 12 shipwrecks.
She explained that as one of Florida’s top scuba diving destinations, the Panhandle has a strong diving community and the idea for the underwater trail came from Roger Smith, a State Underwater Archaeologist.
"He thought it would be a great thing for the Panhandle because tourism kind of lagged after the oil spill," Smith commented. "We're really hoping to get some return tourism and invigorate the local dive communities."
Smith said that after the grant had been awarded the team visited local scuba diving community and dive shops to find out what people would want in the trail. Owners of dive shops nominated 22 shipwrecks and the list was narrowed down to 12, and the trail will allow divers of all levels to enjoy scuba diving trips to the sites.
"The shipwrecks are amazing, there's just a wonderful variety (in the Panhandle)," said Smith. "They're all very close together and there's just so many to choose from. There are tons of wrecks in the Panhandle, and we're only highlighting 12 of them."
The passports will be distributed to dive shops and will be used as a marketing tool, dive log and souvenir that will encourage visitors to take scuba diving holidays in the Panhandle area again and again. The passports will be available for a small fee and a registration from will need to be completed by each diver.
Divers will be able to get their passports stamped and signed by the captains on each charter boat to verify each dive. By using the passports, the team will be able to track which sites are being visited.
While scuba diving in Florida, visitors can explore wrecks along The Panhandle Shipwreck Trail including the USS Oriskany, San Pablo, Pete Tide II, YDT 14 and 15, Three Barges, Black Bart, USS Strength, USS Accokeek, USS Cheppewa, the Miss Louise and the wreck of the Vamar, one of Florida's 11 designated underwater archaeological preserves.
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