DUKE FIELD, Fla. —
There is more to the emerald green water of Florida’s Gulf Coast than beautiful, white sand beaches. Under the surface of the water lies sprawling artificial reefs, shipwrecks, fossils and hidden treasures.
It’s the unknown of what hides beneath that draws Senior Airman Gregory Evans, 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, to dive into the deep.
“I want to be the first person to find and explore these places,” said Evans. “The call to adventure leads me out there.”
Evans began his love for diving when he was 12 years old and took it to the next level six years ago. He took classes earning dive certifications for rescue, emergency medical care, free diving and several others. He now holds certifications for both open water and advanced open water scuba, enriched air diving, and side mount diving certifications. He currently works on his diving master certification when he is not on duty.
Evans fell into the tight-knit Florida diving community when he started his YouTube channel “The Florida Spring and Fossil Hunters,” exploring the depths of local waterways with his GoPro camera. He met Tony White and other fellow divers across the state through his online presence.
“For us in the diving community, once you get into the water you just want to go back,” said White, a good friend and diving partner of Evans. “You catch the bug and start getting irritable if you don’t go every two weeks or so.”
Many of the divers Evans meets have their own YouTube channels and Facebook pages, connecting with each other throughout the state in these niche digital spaces. Evans enjoys sharing his adventures online with other divers and those who otherwise may not experience diving.
“People with disabilities, physical health problems, or lack of time or money get to join me for my adventures this way,” said Evans. “I’m taking everyone exploring with me.”
Any type of diving, including free diving, carries associated and real risks. Divers go on expeditions in pairs or groups to minimize the chance of serious injury or death in case of an accident.
“It creates a sense of camaraderie when you rely on your partner to know what they’re doing and be able to save you,” said White. “If I blacked out at 25 feet underwater, I need to know that my diving partner is going to be able to bring me back to the top.”
While Evans and his friends like testing the limits of how far they can go, their favorite spots are often the simplest. Buford Springs in south Florida is a 150 feet deep, jump fat hole that goes straight down. His favorite dive was in the wreck of the ship Ocean Wind, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. During the dive, he and his team swam past goliath groupers and schools of fish while exploring the boat’s murky remains.
Evans also has a growing collection of fossils, artifacts, and shark teeth. His collection includes a megalodon tooth he found while sweeping the bottom of a river in Alabama. The layer of sediment at the bottom of many local rivers is very thin, allowing divers to fan it downstream with their fins. This exposes relics encrusted in the limestone underneath.
“It’s like uncovering history,” said Evans. “I feel like I’m taking a look into the past when I discover something.”
While underwater adventure may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Evans encourages others to get their diving certification so they can unwind and explore what the Gulf Coast has to offer beneath the surface. His diving experiences continue to uncover hidden treasures and friendships across the waterways and online.
“It’s a great way to unwind after a long week,” said Evans. “The sense of adventure I get from diving helps me recharge.”