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Atlanta Underwater Explorers Education, Skills building, and Adventure!

National Association of Black Scuba Divers and the Atlanta Undersea Explorers Diving With a Purpose program.

Atlanta Underwater Explorers (AUE), is an independent SCUBA diving club based in the city of Atlanta, Georgia.

Mike Thierry Editor of Black Coral's HSM Magazine, and J Lynda Blake two of the founders of Black Coral Inc got the opportunity to speak with Greg Gill the President of the Atlanta Underwater Explorers (AUE) in December of 2023. This organization is a proud member of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers NABS for short. AUE supports divers of Atlanta and provides educational programming for youth interested in careers that involve diving, saving coral reefs, and Oceanic sciences etc...

Greg Gill Instructs Neophyte Diver Before Exploring The Reefs of Bonaire

Diving With A Purpose (DWP), a program the AUE developed that creates trained volunteer marine advocates to assist in the stewardship of heritage assets in National Parks and National Marine Sanctuaries, and introduces young people to maritime-linked careers, is an award winning program and was honored by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) with the Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation. The Award was given for helping Federal agencies accomplish submerged resources stewardship. These "resources" can be shipwreck sites, structures, and objects that can be associated with earlier people, cultures, human activities or events.

Diving With A Purpose Kids Gear Up!

The Submerged Resources Center supports stewardship like that made possible through the efforts of AUE, for the protection, preservation, public access and interpretation of submerged resources. One of the most famous sites members of the AUE were involved with was the July 18-23, 2016 exploration involving young divers of Youth Diving With a Purpose (YDWP) who upon joining the National Park Service (NPS), in Biscayne National Park, Florida, were part of a mission to search for and identify the slave shipwreck Guerrero. The Guerrero wrecked in the Key Largo area of the Florida reefs in 1827 with 561 enslaved Africans on board. Though remnants have been identified on earlier dives that help to place this wreck in a specific era and country of origin, no “smoking gun” positive identifier had been found to date.

Nearly 200 years ago, the slave ship Guerrero sunk, killing forty-one Africans. The wreck vanished until 2016 when a group of divers led by Ken Stewart, a Black man in his seventies, believed they had found it in the Florida Keys. But in the state that banned historical truth by claiming all Black History is critical race theory, telling this story was complicated. Kramer Wimberley, a fifty-eight-year-old retired firefighter from New Jersey, and eleven other divers are braved the chillingly cold waters that January morning. Wimberley lead the reef preservation program for the volunteer group of Black scuba divers under a youth program called Diving with a Purpose, or DWP. Their purpose was to to collect data on the sea life that denotes a healthy ecosystem. Greg Gill explains with passion for adventure and life and death seriousness that only a military man who has endured rough underwater conditions can exude.

Part of that feeling of awe came from the fact that the the Guerrero, wasn't just a slave ship but a notorious pirate ship that wrecked on a reef somewhere nearby in 1827. Working closely with local marine archaeologists, DWP had been hunting for it since the group formed in 2004. Guerrero had been engaged in a battle with a British anti-slavery patrol ship, HMS Nimble, stationed on the northern approaches to Cuba.

Ironically the HMS Nimble a Royal Navy 5-gun schooner-of-war was employed in anti-slave trade patrol from 1826 until 1834, when she herself was wrecked on a reef with the loss of 70 Africans who had been rescued from a slave ship. A little known historic fact is that as much as half the pirates of the Caribbean during the so-called golden age of piracy were actually escaped slaves usually given the choice of becoming pirates going into slavery or death. Of course most opted for a life of piracy and a chance at revenge against their enslavers! England didn't attack slave ships out of the goodness of their hearts, The empire had multiple sugar colonies in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, Barbados, Nevis, and Antigua, which provided a steady flow of sugar to Europe and North America; England primarily used slave labor to produced the sugar and pirates threatened that system.

"During the ensuing gunfight and chase, the Guerrero slammed into a reef, shearing in two and plunging forty-one terrified Africans to their watery deaths (and leaving the survivors to an uncertain fate)." As Brenda Altmeier, the maritime heritage coordinator for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, recounts in an article in Esquire Magazine, “It’s not just a wreck site; it’s a graveyard.” After nearly two centuries lost at sea, the remains of the ship, and whatever is left of the Africans who died inside it were found.

The search for the Guerrero was conducted by National Park Service archeologists who were hosting a field school associated with the Slave Wrecks Project, an international network of researchers led by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Additional partners participating in the project included George Washington University, the Iziko Museums of South Africa, the National Association of Black Scuba Divers and the Atlanta Undersea Explorers Diving With a Purpose program.


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