This is one of the most popular stories of 2017 in Fairfield County.
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Anyone who thinks scuba diving is a sport best done in Aruba or along the Great Barrier Reef should have a little chat with Denis Habza.
Scuba certified since 2006, the Black Rock resident has made a side career of hunting through the dark depths of Long Island Sound, creating fascinating videos for a growing audience of landlubbers who want to know just what’s lurking offshore.
“You can dive in the Sound for 100 years and not see everything that’s down there,” said Habza, who works for a wholesale seafood company by day. “And nobody knows about it.”
Well, that doesn’t include those who’ve taken the time to click on the myriad videos at squalusmarine.com , Habza’s team’s interactive repository for videos of ship and airplane wrecks and the flora and fauna of the briny deep.
Some estimate there are between 500 to a whopping 1,000 wrecks in Long Island Sound, Habza said.
“That doesn’t mean they’re all schooners with treasure chests on them,” he said with a laugh.
But there’s a wealth of maritime history under the waves. Habza’s team has documented everything from a Civil War blockade runner off Greenwich to a World War I ship just 50 feet down off Bridgeport and Fairfield.
They’ve also encountered tug boats, barges, fishing boats, steam vessels, even an airplane in the turbulent estuary, where 25-foot visibility is about as good as it gets.
Since 2012, the team has done about 20 videos a year, all augmented by a family-friendly audio to help orient viewers. In the beginning they found that their audience taught them as much as they taught their audience.
“Sometimes we’d just said, ‘hey, if you know what this is, let us know and we’ll give you a T-shirt or some stickers,’” Habza said.
Sometimes they’d hear back from a marine biologist or even family of crew members who went down with military vessels. Some are comforted seeing the final resting place of loved ones.
“We bridge that gap,” he said. “People have gotten closure by watching.”
Squalus — Latin for “shark” — has provided its videos to schools to show youngsters what lies at the bottom of the Sound.
“Kids get much more engaged when it’s in their backyard,” Habza said.
In the coming year, the Squalus squad will be branching out to other bodies of water. Habza, who has dived in many other areas, would love to explore the Maine and New Hampshire coasts, Long Island’s Hamptons and New York’s Lake George, where boats that predate the country’s formation rest.
The group, which teams with local dive shops to celebrate the sport, is hosting its second Scuba Outreach Seminar on March 4 at Bridgeport Holiday Inn. In addition to vendors and demonstrations, the day’s speakers include Evelyn Bartram Dudas, the first woman to dive the Andrea Doria, and Mark Munro, who will discuss shipwreck hunting and side scan sonar imagery.
Habza said tickets are selling fast and he expects about 200 people at the event, which will not just focus on Long Island Sound diving.
“There’s so much to cover,” he said of the sport. “You never know what you’re going to get.”
For information on Squalus, to watch videos and to register for the March event, visit www.squalusmarine.com .
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