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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
provided by Lisa Carne