Horseshoe crabs, whelks and dozens of old bottles were among the things Denis Habza found last Monday when he dove into Port Jefferson Harbor with his GoPro camera.
“Our goal is to show people that the Long Island Sound is not what they expect it to be,” said Habza, who goes by “Captain Denis” in the videos he posts to his YouTube channel, “Squalus Marine Divers.”
The Bridgeport, Conn., resident said he has made well over 500 dives across the East Coast since he took up the hobby six years ago. He’s plunged into shark-infested waters in the Bahamas and explored shipwrecks during his many dives off the coast of Connecticut, capturing it all with his camera. Since he started posting videos in May 2011, they have garnered 10,000 views.
Habza, 37, decided to steer his 18-foot Trophy Walkaround to Port Jefferson on July 29 after one of his friends asked what the Long Island side of the Sound looked like below the surface. The temperature of the water was 72 degrees when Habza jumped in around 5 p.m. near a set of pilings from an old pier and dove down 21 feet.
Habza condensed his 40-minute dive into a 10-minute, 37-second video, which he narrates. He points out the various marine life he encounters, from living plants and giant sea snails to dead blue shell crabs that were tangled in old lobster trap attached to one of the pilings. He also retrieves a total of 21 bottles including a vintage Coca-Cola glass bottle and a Rheingold "chug-a-mug,” which he estimates dates back to the 1960s.
“When you find a structure on the surface where people have been hanging out, there is always the opportunity to find things,” Habza said.
Habza’s main purpose with the videos is to promote the Long Island Sound, maybe even change some people’s perceptions of it, and encourage more people to dive.
The most interesting things he’s found in the Sound is a mantis shrimp, considered to be one of the strongest animals in the world relative to its small size, and an inkwell from a sunken ship that still had ink inside.
“The double-edged sword about the Sound is, because it’s not easy diving -- it’s normally cold, visibility is low and there’s very little ambient light below 30 feet -- there’s a whole lot of stuff to find,” he said.
Habza doesn’t earn any money from his dives. In fact, the commercial truck driver calls it a “very expensive hobby.” But that won’t stop him from plunging into the Long Island Sound all year long, he said, even when the water temperature drops to 32 degrees in the winter.
He said, “ I’m just a guy who likes to dive.”