Monitor Expedition 2010
June 21-23 and Aug 2-6


Monitor Collection, NOAA

The Under Pressure will be doing two Monitor Expeditions during the summer of 2010. To learn more about the Monitor please visit the following sites:


Mission Statement:

Pterois volitans of the family Scorpaenidae is endemic to the Indo-Pacific region.  Commonly called the red lionfish, this species has become commonplace on the wrecks and reefs of the southeastern United States, including off the coast of North Carolina.  Very little is known about their potential impact on native vertebrate and invertebrate species of the western Atlantic.  The purpose of this study is to determine population sizes of P. volitans on various wrecks off the North Carolina coast.  The U.S.S. Monitor is being used as a natural control for this study as fishing and other recreational uses are either banned or highly restricted.  Endemic species diversity will also be measured on the Monitor and other wrecks and reefs to determine if there can be found any correlations between P. volitans population sizes and or recreational uses and endemic species diversity.

tMThere are eight red lionfish in the photo below taken on the shipwreck Malchase in Hatteras,NC.

Lion Fish on the Malchase

Meet the members of the Expedition:

Capt JT

Expedition Leader Capt JT Barker


Capt JT Barker has been a licensed captain for over 19 years. He is an avid Wreck Diver, Trimix Deep Diver, Cave Diver, and Adventure Seeker. He started running dive trips in 1994, has dived and led trips to many prestigious sites such as: Andrea Doria, E.M. Clark, Bow Mariner, and the famous wrecks of the Billy Mitchell Fleet, which includes the German Battleship Ostfriesland 380ft and Light Cruiser Frankfurt 420ft. Capt JT is presently exploring new virgin wrecks in VA/NC in the 300ft range while running dive charters for all levels of divers on his vessel the "Under Pressure". Capt JT holds himself to the highest standards of safety and leadership; his focus on risk management ensures that his trips are conducted safely. With all of Capt JT's diving accomplishments he is just as happy diving 100ft.

Diving: Experience is more valuable than money, the price one pays for that experience is unmeasureable.

Dr. Thomas R. Sawicki earned his Ph.D. from Old Dominion University in 2004 in Ecological Sciences.  He has described numerous new species and genera of animals within the Order Amphipoda from caves throughout the world.  His current primary research interests involve the systematics and trophic structure of the fauna of the Floridan aquifer. 

Dr. Sawicki is the lead scientist for the Monitor expedition and will be coordinating the efforts to quantify the vertebrate species diversity on the Monitor and to determine population numbers for the red lionfish (Pterois volitans).  These efforts are part of a larger research project to determine the affect P. volitans is having on endemic species diversity on the reefs of North Carolina.  The Monitor will act as a natural control for these studies as fishing and other recreational uses are restricted or greatly limited.

Dr. Sawicki has over 30 years of diving experience.  He has conducted numerous scientific cave diving expeditions including the discovery of new species in Bermuda, Cuba and Florida.  He has also taken part in expeditions to document the German battleship SMS (later USS) Ostfriesland with depths to 380 ft and unidentified shipwrecks in depths exceeding 300 ft.


Dr Tom Sawicki

Co-Expedition Leader Dr Thomas R. Sawicki

Capt Mario

Co-Captain Mario Alexander Loria

Mario Alexander Loria is from Puntarenas, Costa Rica and has been running fishing charters on various sport fishing vessels since 1989. He has ran charters from Costa Rica to Mexico, Panama (thru the Canal 10 times), Venezuela, the Caribbean, Cape Verde Islands in Africa; and from Florida to Maine. He became a diver back in 2007 when he met Capt JT and got the diving bug. Mario has dived most of the wrecks off of Hatteras and is currently working on his Master Diver certification.


The majority of Brandon's diving has been shipwrecks on the East Coastof the US, with notable dives including the ANDREA DORIA, U-869, and the SS CAROLINA.   He also has experience diving wrecks in the Great Lakes, Florida, and participated in an international expedition to document unexplored shipwrecks in the North Sea off Belgium.  He specializes in deep wreck photography and is trimix, cave, and CCR (ISC Megalodon) certified.  A sample of his work can be seen at

Brandon McWilliams

Brandon McWilliams

Chip Holcomb

Chip Holcomb


Chip Holcomb became a certified diver shortly after moving to the Outer Banks in  1981, and began working in a local dive shop as a tank monkey. He became an Instructor in 1985 when he began teaching for several shops and worked as a Divemaster on several boats until he retired from teaching in 2007. In 2000 he started cave diving and began diving some of the deeper wrecks. He dove the USS Monitor in 2009 as a member of the  NC Aquarium USS Monitor Expedition. He resides in Nags Head with his wife and two daughters.

Some of the certifications he holds are:

PADI Master Instructor
IANTD Instructor
DAN  Instructor
NCC-CDS Deep Cave
TDI Advanced Trimix

Steve Russell has been diving since 1996 and living in N.E. Pennsylvania keeps him close to the wrecks off New Jersey and New York.  In the winter when the dive boats are not running he is in the local lakes digging up to his elbows in mud looking bottles and artifacts.

Cave diving is also a passion where the Florida systems will find him 2 or 3 times a year. He has been fortunate to dive in some beautiful Mexican caves in the Yucatan which are breathtaking. In Florida he prefers to dive in the less traveled systems, and has been in some caves (almost) untouched where the effects of nature are spectacular.

Some of his most memorable wreck dives have to be the Andrea Doria and Empress of Ireland (one of his favorites). Most wrecks are special to him when considering the emotion and circumstances of their sinking, and although he enjoys looking for artifacts the element of human suffering and sacrifice is always in his mind when visiting these places. 

Submarines are also fascinating to him, even the sunken ones! And it’s been a dream of mine to visit as many as possible along the NY, NJ and NC coasts from the USS Bass to the U352.

Each dive is special, and although he has some particular favorites they change each season whether he is in a lake, cave or wreck, every time is a new experience.


Steve Russell

Steve Russell
Michael Schlink

Michael Schlink

Michael Schlink  has spent the last 25 years searching for the world’s greatest diving.  After 20 years of cave diving  Florida and Mexico, diving  tropical destinations all over the Caribbean and South Pacific he moved to North Carolina to dive the “Wreck Capitol of the World”.  As a civil war historian he has visited numerous battlefields and museums throughout the US. He was able to combine his love for wreck diving and Civil War history, and fulfill a long time dream by participating in three previous USS Monitor expeditions.
The USS Monitor will always remain his favorite dive but coming in a close second he considers N. Carolina’s EM Clark, Canada’s Jodery and Egypt’s SS Thistlegorm as “must not miss dives” for any avid wreck diver.  Michael has joined Capt. JT and Dr. Sawicki on other deep wreck expeditions including the “Unknown wreck”, an as yet unidentified wreck at a depth of 300 ft.
He continues to teach scuba diving as a PADI instructor since 1988, cave dive and travel with his wife Parker, also an active scuba diver.


While earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at the University of Michigan in the early 1990’s, Scott Powell found time to become a certified diver.  Upon relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina, he completed his Master’s (also in Political Science) while working at a local dive center.  Soon his passion for diving superseded his original career goals. 

In 2000 Mr. Powell purchased Down Under Surf & SCUBA and became a dive instructor.  The following decade proved a productive, and busy one, as Mr. Powell quickly built upon experience to become an active technical instructor and cave diver.  Meanwhile, Down Under Surf & Scuba passed the 5000 certified divers mark and was recognized as amongst the top 10% of PADI dive centers in the US. 

While overseeing retail and training operations at Down Under, Mr. Powell has focused on training technical divers, with an eye on thoroughness and safety above all else.  Recent dive expeditions have included trips to the Wilkes BarreUSS Oriskany, and Hydro-Atlantic.  This will be his first expedition to the USS Monitor
Scott Powell
Scott Powell
Kristine Rae OlmstedKristine Rae Olmsted

Kristine Rae Olmsted has been diving for 22 years.  Growing up in Florida afforded her the opportunity to explore many different types of diving, from wreck, to reef, to drift, to cavern.  Upon moving to North Carolina in 2000, she became a Divemaster and began diving the wrecks
off the east coast as frequently as possible. 

Anxious to see more of the North Carolina wrecks, and looking for a challenge, Kristine earned her Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures certification in 2005. Trimix soon followed, allowing her to dive some of the deeper, less-frequently dived wrecks, including the  Malchase and E.M. Clark- two of her favorites. 

In 2009 she received her Full Cave certification and has enjoyed exploring the underwater labyrinths of north Florida and the Bahamas.  As a self-described science geek, Kristine is looking forward to participating in this (her first) scientific expedition to the USS Monitor. 



Jeff Crowder  became a certified diver in 1985 while studying at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and later became a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer.  After working for a few years in the diving industry, including a stint with a cruise line, Jeff returned to school and his other vocation of flying, and is now a commercial airline pilot with Continental.  Jeff’s experience includes diving on numerous wrecks along the North and South Carolina coasts, in the Great Lakes, in Florida ’s caves, and in the cenotes of Mexico ’s Yucatan peninsula.  Jeff is currently an Advanced Nitrox and Decompression instructor through TDI.



Jeff Crowder

Jeff Crowder

Also going on the trip are:


Scott Grigg  
There will be daily updates posted to the site so come back and read about the expedition!
Monday June 21, 2010

Dived the wreck today, vis was only 15ft and the temp dropped to 60 at 120ft. There was a small problem with mooring line location and has been resolved. There was a current of 1.5 kt to start and dropped during the dive. - Capt JT


Chip, Kristine, Steve, Brandon and Capt JT discuss the dive.


Michael and Chip gearing up for the dive. Great sea conditions.


Dr Tom Sawicki checks out the Monitor Mooring

Tuesday June 22, 2010

Lef photo is of the Monitor, no Lion fish were seen today as the water was 63 degrees ..... current today was 1.25kts vis was 25ft the team added chain to the mooring and dived the wreck. Kristine Rae made her first dive to the Monitor today........ an awesome achievement for the lone female.


The Monitor.


Kristine Rae after her first dive on the Monitor.


Chip after his dive on the Monitor


Photo of the prop on the wreck Lancing in 150ft the team did as a second dive today.

Wednesday June 23, 2010

The vis on the Monitor improved to nearly 40ft and temp up to 65 on the bottom with no current at all, seas were a bit bumpy at 3-5ft with a steady SW 15kt wind. This was the last day for this part of the expedition and more data will be collected again in August 2-6.