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: Mon, 26 Jun 2000 12:51:04 PDT

AUE Tortugas Trip Report June 22-25, 2000

DAY 2 - Araby Maid and U-2513

The group awoke to a beautiful morning, though the temperature was starting to soar. Thus far during our trip, we had frequent visits by sea turtles, dolphins, and leaping sailfish while sitting topside. After breakfast, we prepared our gear and waited for the sun to climb a bit in order to provide optimal lighting on the bottom. Our first dive of the day was on the Araby Maid, a three-masted schooner built in 1868. Sunk in a collision in 1903, she now rests in approximately 220' of water near the Dry Tortugas. Mikey and I dropped in and sailed for the bottom with barely a sign of current. Slightly above Mikey, I saw him get enveloped by a large swarming mass of baitfish near the wreck. For a wooden sailing vessel that has sat immersed in seawater for almost 100 years, the condition of the Araby Maid is incredible. The upper deck is gone, though the support timbers still criss-cross on the top of the wreck. There is easy access to the bottom deck where the wood planking is still intact and visible. Swimming amongst the deck support beams, huge snapper and grouper rushed from side to side upon our approach. The wreck now resembles a skeleton of a ship, with light filtering in through holes where the hull has rotted away. Towards the stern, I found glass and pieces of bottles and china; a large copper ventilator was also amongst the wreckage. Large schools of jacks orbited overhead, curious to our intrusion. The fatal v-shaped gash in the portside bow, which extends down to the sand, was easily identifiable. The large anchor had dropped down into the sand directly in front of the bow. All three masts were snapped off at their bases and dropped off the starboard side of the wreck. As Mikey and I headed up for our deco, we watched Andrew and Mark swim along the wreck 70' below us. A large school of amberjack swam in circles around me, making a nice image when Andrew videoed from below. While we were on deco, we were entertained by Captain Jeff who attempted to raise some snapper from the wreck; most of the time swarms of barracuda swiftly followed the fish and slashed it to pieces.

After securing the gear and partaking of lunch, we motored over to the nearby wreck of the U-2513 in absolutely flat seas. The U-2513 was a Type XXI German U-boat built in 1944. Boasting a length of 252', she was the most technologically advanced U-boat built during World War II. Known as an "elektroboat," she could stay submerged for a greater period than her predecessors due to her robust battery supply. Unfortunately for the German war effort, the Type XXI U-boats were introduced too late in the war to make a difference; only 12 Type XXI boats were cruise-ready by the end of the war. Brought to the U.S. as a war prize, she was commissioned the U.S.S. -EX U-2513. Before her eventual sinking, President Harry Truman boarded the U-boat and participated in a cruise to 450' in 1946. The U-2513 was finally towed 23 miles northeast of the Dry Tortugas to be sunk as a target in 215' of water by the destroyer U.S.S. Robert A. Owens on 7 October 1951.

We had joked with Captain Jeff to drop the marker buoy and down line right in the open forward conning tower hatch before our dive, so when I descended to see the line going DIRECTLY OVER the hatch I began laughing hysterically; he overshot it by about 10' but it drifted right into the side of the tower. Again, we lucked out with no current and great visibility. There was no doubt what we were diving on when 100' off the bottom the conning tower of the sub came into view. She lies hard over on her starboard side with an approximate 60 degree list. There are LOTS of anti-submarine weapons (hedgehogs) scattered all over the bottom around the portside of the sub. I checked out the conning tower where 3 large jewfish were grouped and then headed towards the stern to see the screws. I joined up with Andrew as he documented the sub with his camera in order to give some size reference around the massive rudder, screws, and stern planes. Unfortunately, large schools of amberjack prevented us from getting any long-distance (overall) shots of the sub. I headed back forward to see the bow and the large sonar array that was just one of the technological advances of this warship. I decided to check out the interior through the damaged area directly in front of the conning tower. Moving forward, the top of the sub (which was now the side due to the starboard list) was pretty clean of obstructions and allowed penetration all the way to the forward torpedo room. There were a few objects suspended by wires that hung in the way, but no major obstacles. However, I just made it past a pile of the batteries that were spilling across the interior when I looked up to see 2 jewfish blocking my progress. The last thing I wanted was to be body-slammed by a 300 pound fish in the interior of a sub, so I attempted to drop down low and hope they would swim over me. The smaller of the two took this opportunity, though the larger jewfish stood his ground. I resigned to checking out the batteries and to try and find a neat souvenir when I noticed a very large anemone that appeared strangely out of place in the barren interior. My bottom time almost over, I headed back to the line and began my ascent while watching the other team check out the wreck, to follow up a short time later. We all climbed safely aboard again chattering about the incredible dive. Eventually, we headed back towards home to dive the Oil Wreck first thing in the morning, followed by the Baja California.

After waiting for the Ultimate Getaway to move off the wreck of the Oil Wreck, we set our anchor in time to watch the sun drop over the horizon. We all sat on the bow as the stars filled the sky, very content and thrilled with the previous dives and looking forward to returning to the Rhein Hamburg and several other undocumented wrecks.

More to follow...