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Miss Pamela, a retired tugboat from Mango Creek, was sunk on the West Side of Laughing Bird Caye National Park March 20, 2003. She sits upright in 90-95 ft of water. The top of her mast is at 58 feet and her deck is in 70-75 feet of water.

Until Hurricane Mitch ended her career, she was a working tugboat for Banana Enterprises, Lmt. based in Mango Creek. Miss Pamela was donated to Friends of Nature (then Friends of Laughing Bird Caye) in 1998 and has been stripped of its windows, any loose wires and rust, and had its hull sealed. They also installed valves along the hull and side to ease the sinking process.

It was hoped Miss Pamela would provide a home for fish and eventually a substrate for new corals and invertebrates. Additionally she provides a new dive site for visitors at Laughing Bird Caye and an opportunity to complete the Advanced SCUBA course in just two days.

Happily a jewfish, inegu in Garifuna, has already made Miss Pamela its home! Jewfish, recently renamed 'Goliath groupers', are the largest of reef fish, reaching a maximum length of 8 feet and weighing up to 1000lbs. That record was noted in 1986, and sadly, most jewfish, Epinephelus itajara, have since been fished out. Florida has protected the jewfish since 1990 and their maximum recorded weight is 680 lbs. Fortunately they are still here in Belize, although their average sizes are smaller than what they used to be.

White Teleston
White Telesto, an octocoral, has settled on the wreck's descent

Placencia residents may recall recent catches at Long Caye and in the back lagoon, but sightings are rare. This jewfish (pictured above) was spotted coming down the descent line on the wreck, circling at 50-60 feet. It is estimated between 4 and 5 foot long and was surrounded by miniature bar jacks. If you see the big fish, please don't harass or chase the gentle giant: we hope it takes advantage of Laughing Bird Caye's "No-Take Policy" for protection, and stays here permanently!

Many other fish have made the wreck their home: barracuda, schools of small snappers and juvenile grunts, angel fish, lizard fish, and the smallest black grouper (5 inches) I have ever seen followed me around the wreck on a recent dive, hugging the hull. Even gobies and the rare "Molly Miller" blenny have been sighted hiding on Miss Pamela's mast.

Coral have begun encrusting the wreck! Two species of cup corals, "Speckled" and "Hidden", both in the Family Caryophyllidae, have settled on the ceiling and stern of Miss Pamela. The delicate White Telesto (Carijoa riisei), an octocoral, has settled on the wreck's descent line at 57ft. This snowflake-like Gorgonian cannot be found anywhere else nearby, so it's a mystery how it settled here. Other invertebrates include arrow crabs, banded cleaner shrimp, Peterson cleaner shrimp, pale and knobby anemones, sponges, hydroids, oysters, and many types of tunicates.

Miss Pamela is an Advanced dive because of its depth. If you don't have your Advanced certification, ask a local dive shop to include the wreck in your course. The Advanced SCUBA course is just five dives and no final exam! Thanks to the Miss Pamela, it can be offered in just two days.

The wreck also offers some special photographic opportunities. Not only with the jewfish and barracuda in close range, but also for Macro shots of some large arrow crabs and cleaner shrimp that aren't usually so exposed. Even if you don't have a camera, ask about renting a light so you can see the true color of the encrusting invertebrates. And be careful of the line! Just like the wreck it has become overgrown with oysters (sharp edges) and hydroids (stinging), as well as other critters, so use it as a visual reference only and don't touch!

If you want more information on the wreck's history, contact Friends of Nature in Placencia, 523-3377, located at the bottom of the sidewalk in Placencia.

Photos provided by Lisa Carne


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