A S S O C I A T I O N OF U N D E R W A T E R E X P L O R E R S
April 19-20, 2002
USS MULIPHEN, USS RANKIN, AMAZONE, AND HALSEY
A small group of us dove off Stuart this weekend. After several weeks of stiff east winds, we caught a break with some beautiful conditions.
First up was the USS Muliphen (AKA-61), an attack (amphibious) cargo ship sunk in 1989 as an artificial reef that now rests in 188fsw. She is a massive wreck. We found approximately 80 feet of visibility, with just over a knot of current. It was simply a great dive. Within the first seven to eight minutes I had already done two laps of the 459-foot long behemoth; the size and scale of this wreck just screams for a scooter. The wreck was particularly notable due to the abundance of large gag grouper everywhere. Passing under the bow and back up to the deck, I spooked perhaps eight large specimens as I blasted over the edge.
Also of interest is that the mass of the ship slamming into the seabed created a crater in the limestone bottom. One can see the hard edges around the perimeter of the ship, with one area on the starboard side appearing like a narrow canyon as you pass between it and the ship's hull. Aside from the abundant grouper, there were some nice sheepshead around the deck, as well as spadefish and snappers swirling about the large towers that rose to within 90 feet of the surface.
My buddy and I played follow-the-leader for a while, cruising about the wreck, through the screw space in front of the rudder, under the suspended bow, and through numerous rooms that linked to the various cargo holds. It was a blast. After a pleasant 45 minute visit, we drifted off for deco before heading to the "Mighty Mule's" sister ship, the USS Rankin.
The USS Rankin (AKA-103) was also sunk as an artificial reef, but a bit shallower in 118fsw and she rests on her starboard side. Also of noted difference was that the Rankin still had her large stern deck gun, while the Muliphen's gun was scrapped. The visibility was a bit lower here, perhaps 40-50 feet. The teeming grouper were replaced by armadas of snook here. After cruising about the wreck, I went about salvaging a unlucky fellows hook, chain, and 200 feet of nice anchor line. It was a great day with light winds and perhaps one foot seas.
On Sunday, we opted for some natural wrecks and visited the WWII casualties Amazone and Halsey. The Amazone was a freighter sunk by the U-333. She rests in approximately 100fsw. We lucked out with great water conditions on this day as well. With about 50-60 feet of visibility I cruised the perimeter of the small freighter. The hook was just forward of the row of boilers. The wreck is fairly broken up and low to the bottom. Aft of the boilers and partially buried engine, one can follow shaft alley back to the remains of the upended stern. As we scootered around, we played chase with a goofy turtle, as well as several large stingrays with their jumbo cobia companions. The guys found several more anchors on this wreck as well. After having fun with the abundant marine life and bored of the wreck, we headed to the wreck of the tanker Halsey.
The Halsey was a 433-foot long tanker also sunk by U-333. She rests in about 80fsw and is a fantastic dive. With about 50 feet of visibilty I scootered down to the hook which had caught on to a section of the stern deckhouse off the port side of the wreck. Buzzing under the fantail, I checked out a lazy turtle hiding adjacent to where the screw used to reside. Scootering forward, I quickly came to the intact aft tank hold, with ladders still dropping down into the innards. Again, abundant fish life was present. The ship was dramatically fractured forward of this hold, but the visibility was good enough to make the jump to the next section. The wreck is pretty much inline (although there is a slight bend to starboard forward of amidships), and one encounters the keel climbing out of the sand to find the midship perfectly inverted. Several holes allow penetration throughout the interior. Forward of this the bow half of the ship is found. The remaining tanks are either blasted open or contrasting intact. Again, large schools of snook flowed within the interior. Passing around the bow, I headed back aft to find our videographer. Once we all reunited, we proceeded to form a train and tow/push our videographer around the entire wreck with our scooters to grab some great footage.
Getting cold and hungry, I was just heading up when one of my buddies buzzed me and pointed out three large eagle rays doing a fly-by. It was a great weekend of diving!