During our morning dive excursion, a line of dark grey rain clouds started to move out over the reef line. The rain was falling heavily in sections while thunder and lighting added to the natural soundtrack. But the winds remained light and this time of year that usually means one thing...Waterspouts!
Though I see them quite often during our wet season that lasts from mid-May to November, I was in for quite a surprise. Over a twenty minute period I was able to spot and photograph between 12 and 15 waterspouts in the same general area. That general area happened to be pretty much right on top of me. In fact, while I was busy getting video of one about a mile from my position, one quite literally developed on top of me. The mate on board happened to bring to my attention the monster that was forming about 30 yards from my stern. I was able to get great video of the business end of the spout but due to our close reference point, I obviously could not get the whole thing in the frame. Darn!
The video above shows the water swirling on the surface of the ocean. The funnel cannot be seen yet. The video below shows the same waterspout after it moved away from our position.
While the waterspout did form very close to the boat, I wasn't too worried. There are two types of waterspouts: tornadic and fair-weather waterspouts. The tornadic version is just as it sounds....a tornado that forms over water. This variety can be every bit as dangerous as their land-based counterparts and are certainly a cause for concern. The ones close to me however, non-tornadic, or fair-weather spouts, are a totally different beast. They usually form in fairly benign conditions beneath the bases of flat-bottomed cumulus clouds and start on the water and work their way up to the cloud (unlike tornadoes that form from the cloud down). They are still capable to capsizing small vessels though so I certainly would not recommend getting close to one.
Although waterspouts have been reported in many locations worldwide (even in Europe I'm told), the Florida Keys get more waterspouts than any other place. Over 400 are reported every year. I've witnessed quite a few in my days on the water, but seeing so many in such a short period of time was both unusual and exciting.
Before posting these photos, I tried to think of a clever way to link the pics to gaming. Naval waterspout rules anyone? But in the end I just gave up and let it be. Sometimes it's just nice to sit back and chat about something off topic. It could have been something much worse like politics or religion, right?
So enjoy the photos while I start working on my next "on topic" post.