ST. PETERSBURG — David L. Mearns, a world-renowned shipwreck explorer who was scheduled to give a free lecture tonight at the Mahaffey Theater, will not be able to attend.
The 51-year-old alumnus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg is stranded in Bergen, Norway, because of the volcanic ash cloud.
The cloud, stemming from an eruption in Iceland, is causing widespread disruption in Europe. Mearns said it will likely take him four days using various forms of ground transportation to return to his home in the United Kingdom. Normally, it would be less than a two-hour flight.
Organizers hope to reschedule his presentation this fall, but no plans have been made.
Mearns holds the word record for the deepest wreck ever found, the German blockade runner SS Rio Grande, located at a depth of 3 ½ miles. His discoveries range from the famous — HMS Hood, the British battle cruiser lost fighting the German battleship Bismarck — to the emotional, such as his recent Australian World War II finds, the HMAS Sydney and the AHS Centaur.
The U.S.-born explorer and his British company, Blue Water Recoveries Ltd., have found 22 major wrecks.