by Shayne Benowitz
As snorkelers jumped into the water at Sand Key today, I floated on my buoy below and reminded them one by one to, “Hold onto your mask and take a big step off the boat.” The water was a surprisingly clear 60 feet of visibility in spite of the gentle wind swells that rolled through. Whenever we approach the reef, I like to look into the water to check the clarity. Today the water was a beautiful turquoise exposing the sandy bottom and a distinct inky blue where the canyons of the barrier reef jutted forth.
About ten minutes into the allotted snorkeling time, a man swimming near me picked his head out of the water to ask, “Hypothetically, what would someone do if his wedding band slipped off in the water?” It turned out that the question was not hypothetical, after all.
The bottom of the ocean floor can be a treasure trove of sundry items that people have lost. Passengers have jumped into the water with wallets and cell phones in their pockets. People have lost track of their waterproof cameras which float off with the ocean’s current. Often times we can recover these items, but not always. This was not the first time I had heard of someone losing his wedding band at the reef, and unless it’s a calm, clear day and he knows exactly where it slipped off, the chances of recovering it are slim.
He told me that it was a dark titanium band and I looked down from the water’s surface to the sandy sea floor where he indicated. Quickly, I spotted a large loop resting in the sand. It looked too big to be a ring (at least too big to be a ring that I could wear). I dove down towards the loop, about twenty feet to the bottom and snatched it. I kicked my fins vigorously towards the surface for air and came up with a titanium band in my hand. I returned the ring to its owner and asked him if he was honeymooning. People who lose rings at the reef are usually not used to wearing them. It turned out that he was celebrating his two year anniversary with his wife, and this was not the first time that he had nearly lost his ring! He thanked me and swam off for more snorkeling.
Key West actually has a vast history of wreckage recovery, which involved boats wrecking onto the reef and not snorkelers converging on it. In fact, in the 1830s Key West was the richest city per capita in the United States due to the lucrative business of salvaging goods from boats crashing on the reef. The lighthouse at Sand Key was built in 1853 to indicate the shallow waters of the reef and thereby largely preventing such wreckage.
Shayne Benowitz is a Fury crewmember and freelance writer who is working on her debut novel. Shayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.