23-May-2004 -- 23-May-2004 @ 14:20 SV Bandit and crew visited the Argus Bank Confluence at 32°N 65°W. This confluence is in 2000m of water in the deep Atlantic, adjacent to the Argus seamount. The archipelago of Bermuda consists of several seamounts that have migrated westwards with continental drift since their formation between the American and European tectonic plates. The Argus Bank rises to a depth of 50m, and is frequented by both sport and commercial fishermen seeking a variety of gamefish. An interesting feature of the bank is an observation tower used by the US Navy during the cold war to watch for enemy submarines. This tower was destroyed in the early 70's, but remains marked on nautical charts as a hazard to shipping. It is a known site for SCUBA divers seeking the "deep blue" dive experience, where they come into contact with many deep water species. The 32°N 65°W confluence is also known as the apex of the Bermuda triangle. There are known magnetic anomalies within several miles of the site, and compass readings can be misleading in the area. GPS data from this visit is repeatable, and readings are accurate. The Argus bank forms part of the world's northern most coral reef formation, and is the closest lat/long confluence to the main seamounts that form the Bermudas.
Visiting this confluence is clearly an ocean adventure.
We considered taking a fishing or sport boat out to the Argus Bank simply to claim 32°N 65°W and get Bermuda on the confluence.org web page, but in the end we decided a journey under sail would be more of an adventure. Bandit is a Standfast 36', sailing out of the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. Her dock is at the western end of Hamilton harbour. The trip entailed getting around the eastern end of the island past the Royal Naval Dockyard, Mangrove Bay and Daniel's Head, out to the confluence, then returning. Overall this was a journey of about 65nm, or 120km. Sailboats of Bandit's size can be counted on for about 5 nautical miles per hour, so we faced a long journey and didn't want to be making the approach to Bermuda from the ocean after dark. In advance we decided to overnight in Elys Harbour. Saturday we provisioned, then took a leisurly motor to our planned overnight where we rafted with some friends and entertained by explaining the confluence project.
The following morning the story of the Argus Bank Confluence really begins. Around 9:30 we raised anchor and exited Elys Harbour. We missed a mark and had to pick our way through the outlying reef to the Hogfish Cut channel. That made a good reminder to mind our navigation skills and pay careful attention to the marks and reef. Once we cleared the tripod that marks the entrance we calculated our course for the confluence (about 220 degrees magnetic), hoisted sails and settled in for the passage. Our intention was to visit 32°N 65°W under sail, but typically 5-7kt winds from the SW made it necessary to motorsail for much of the day. We did one long and two short windward legs. Around 11:00 our depth sounder went off scale when we crossed the 50 fathom, 100 meter, or 300ft line on the chart.
At around 2:00pm we were in the immediate area of 32°N 65°W. We furled our jib and began precise manoeuvering to get an exact position at the confluence. By early afternoon wind had increased to 7-10kt, the earlier blue sky had become overcast. This was disappointing, we had hoped for brilliant sun and clear sky. From the confluence it should be possible to see fishing boats to the north on Challenger bank - the summit of an adjacent seamount or to the west on Argus Bank proper. Land features are visible about 10-15km closer to land.
At the site, the breeze and a gentle rolling sea of 1m (3ft) made sitting motionless impossible so we kept our mainsail up for stability and idled the engine to give us forward motion at a walking pace of 1-2kts. Our technique was to first find a precise east/west line on the 32nd latitude then proceed alternately east and west until crossing the 65w longitude line as exactly as possible. Allowing for some sloppiness due to wind and sea state variations, we made several passes beginning e/w and n/s in various combinations and ultimately were able to pinpoint 32°N 65°W - capturing the moment on camera. To mark the spot, we shut down the engine, put down our overboard ladder and dropped swimmers. The water was crystal clear and a deep inky cobalt blue. Depth marked on our nautical chart as 1000 fathoms (2000m). Bandit's instruments showed water temperature as 26.9°C or 80.4°F. Brief moments of concern ensued as the stern of the only solid object within miles began to move away, but our brave mermaids soon adapted to the isolation of the location and stayed in place for photos at the spot. Swimmers raved about the beauty, warmth and clarity of the open ocean. Our photographer was able to capture the moment, our four cardinal views and some shots for documentation and entertainment purposes. We collected our overboard team, unfurled the jib and headed for home under sail. It was a run without drama, stern to the wind, jib out on spinnaker pole. When boat speed fell below 4kts, we again motor sailed and made Hogfish Tripod by around 6:00pm, and proceeded along the cut past Daniel's Head, Royal Naval Dockyard, down Dundonald Channel through Two Rock Pass and home to RHADC.
As has been said for much of the last century, on earth the last frontier is our oceans. As accessible unvisited confluences become more rare in North America (Bermuda IS part of the North American tectonic plate), the unusual and more interesting ocean spots will be visited. We like to think the Argus Bank Confluence is more than just another spot on the ocean. It stands as a point of interest, in addition to it's proximity to Bermuda.