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  

Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 02:29:38

AUE Weekend Trip Report May 25-28, 2001
Oil Wreck and Baja California

The gang slowly stirred for our third and final day of diving. After partaking of breakfast we geared up and splashed for another visit to the Oil Wreck. The unidentified tanker lies hard over on her starboard side, almost turtled. Extensive damage is apparent with a large mid-ship break and distress of the portside bow hull plates, possibly from the attack that lead to her demise. The structure over the engine area is absent, scattered across the sand. Several of the massive boilers have spilled from the interior. I dropped down and proceeded to a port that I had located on an earlier visit. During the swim, I noticed a loose bulkhead mostly buried in the sediment under the hull. I stuck my hand through the sand to feel if there was a bulkhead still to be found and soon felt the glass buried in the sand. I managed to grab an edge and the port pulled up through the brittle steel bulkhead and free from its internment. I rigged it with a liftbag and continued to the port I had originally wanted to work on. I soon found the object and began to inspect it; it was totally intact but in an area that is very inconspicuous. The brass deadlight was dogged down, protecting the glass on the other side. I began to clear away the heavy encrustation to free the artifact. After a good deal of work, it was apparent that it would take more time than I had available. Heading back, I passed Joe who was swimming towards the bow. I finally made it back to the shotline in the depressingly poor 10 feet of visibility and worked the prize up the line. Around 80 feet, the soupy brown water on the bottom gave way to clear blue water with 100' of visibility with a sharp line. I could see the bubbles from the other divers approaching the upline as they rallied for our ascent, and they too exited the gloomy bottom waters. After exiting the water, I noted copious amounts of nasty oil blobs smearing my liftbag and our surface floats, hence the name of the wreck.

We soon departed the Oil Wreck and proceeded to the Baja California. A Honduran freighter, the Baja California was built in 1914 in Sutherland, England. She boasted a length of 266' and a beam of 38'. Owned by Mayan S.S. Corporation, she was en route to Key West from New Orleans carrying a general cargo when a torpedo from U-84 struck the ship. She eventually came to rest in 115' of water. The wreck is known for the massive amounts of glassware that she was carrying at the time of her demise. Bottles of all sizes and shapes, as well as china, cosmetics, toilet bowls and basins, and other cargo can be recovered amongst the twisted debris. The team all splashed as soon as the hook was set and we headed for the bottom. Again, we found murky conditions with perhaps 20 foot of vis. We dropped down on the bow, so it was a short swim over to the main cargo hold where many of the booty can be found. Three of us each picked a corner and began to work the debris for artifacts. The areas that produce a lot of the choice items are located up under hull plates with very little clearance. You generally find yourself wiggling in tight spaces, rubbing against lots of broken glass and soon with little to no visibility. However, with some diligence a diver will be rewarded. I soon found a nice cobalt blue bottle as well as many other sized glass artifacts. After combing through the area, I fanned my hands vigorously to turn over the silt, effectively reducing the vis to negative levels. I pushed my way out of the area to allow the silt to settle a tad and investigate other areas. I humorously noted tips of wiggling fins working other tight areas. After poking around some other areas and finding more glassware, I swam back to my hole. My bag was already full of nice prizes but I wanted to see if my excavating revealed any more artifacts. In the low vis, I happened upon an intact ampoule of medicine (morphine?) bobbing along the silt. Also revealed were several other bottles that I grabbed while backing out. Pleased with the work, I checked with the other guys as I headed towards the line. Near the bow, Joe and I witnessed a neat fly-by from a friendly turtle as we prepared to ascend for our deco. Back on the boat, the team slowly packed up before grabbing some sleep during the 4-hour ride back to the dock. It was a great trip and the group is looking forward to our return visit with two boats in September.