A juvenile nurse shark swims through the shallows at Blacktip Island’s Ponce de Leon Reef Thursday, near the underwater vents believed to have restored youth to scuba diving visitors. (Photo courtesy of Marina DeLow)
Scuba divers on Blacktip Island’s Ponce de Leon Reef Wednesday discovered what local authorities say may be the famed Fountain of Youth.
“There’s always been a halocline up in the shallows where fresh water vents up through the hardpan,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “No idea why divers wandered up in there. The vis is manky and the coral’s just polyps.
“All the juvenile fish on that site should’ve been a tip off,” Diesel said. “Then when all those kids wearing adult-sized scuba gear climbed back on the boat, well, we knew something was up.”
Experts say the spring leaching out underwater may have helped keep it secret.
“Legend says the Fountain of Youth is in the Caribbean,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “Explorers searched for it for centuries, but no one expected it to be underwater.
“We’re not sure what the source is, or why no one has noticed it before,” Altschul said. “It may be booby pond water, since no one’s ever tried to drink that stuff. Or the rejuvenating properties could be from booby pond muck catalyzing with seawater. We don’t even know if the effects are permanent.”
The discovery caused problems at Blacktip Island resorts.
“We had a boat full of guests at the bar demanding post-dive drinks,” Eagle Ray Cove resort manager Mickey Smarr said. “They talked like adults and all, but they were little kids. We had to turn them away. We’re not about to serve minors.”
Resort dive staffs have not been impacted by the water.
“Near as we can tell, divemasters are immune to the stuff,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess. It’d be hard to get any less mature than our dive staff.
“We’re selling kids masks and t-shirts and sun screen like crazy, too,” Latner said. “So there is a silver lining.”
Island resort owners, meanwhile, are promoting the dive site for its obvious benefits.
“We’re charging double to dive there, and folks are lining up to pay for it,” said Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt. “We’re working up a Fountain of Youth Diver specialty course to teach divers how to get close enough to take a few years off without zapping themselves back to pre-puberty.
“That first group all has to get recertified as Junior Divers,” Skerritt said. “Damn shame. We can’t let some of them dive past 40 feet. There was a bit of marital strife by the resort pool, too, when a little tyke came back from diving and tried to get frisky with his non-diving wife.”