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
August 4, 2002
AUE was sponsored to do some documentation on Warsaw grouper, a typically deep-water species. We had hoped to do some u/w tagging and also use a really cool lasermetric device, but we ran out of time to adequately prepare these toys. Instead, we simply captured some really kick-ass video of the "Fuggedaboudit Wreck" - now called the "F.U. Wreck" as it is so much easier to type - and the Pan Massachusetts.
The F.U. Wreck has only been hit a couple other times by AUE, and always under less than optimal conditions (strong currents, low vis, cold water). Well, we got lucky this weekend. We had a 3.6kt surface current, but since we could see fish high off the wreck on the bottom finder, were pretty sure there was little to no bottom current. We dropped in 0.12nm upcurrent of the wreck and about 90 seconds later the AJs appeared. We were on the wreck's deck at 285fsw within 2 minutes. The visibility was much better than usual, with a respectable 60-70 feet. The bottom was still brisk at 58 degrees, though. I had the camera clipped off and running from splash-in and during the whole descent, which captured the entire deployment. Anyway, the F.U. Wreck is incredible. She is a freighter that is very broken down with lots of damage. Due to the extent of the damage and the abundance of coral, it is quite possible that she was a WWI casualty, versus WWII. She has a large stern deck gun that has broken free of the deck with its mount and now points straight down at the sand. I noticed a few spent shell casings on another dive, so it is possible that she put up a fight during the attack that sunk her. I soon went about my task filming several snowy grouper, speckled hind, scamp, and our main quarry, Warsaw grouper. I encountered one nice 40-pound critter amidships, his mouth dressed out with a fresh hook and mono leader. Warsaws are both docile and curious, and we have found the larger specimens to follow us around like puppy dogs on other dives. I continued my drift northwards towards the bow. The wreck is massively covered in Oculina coral and is quite a spectacular sight to behold. Swarms of small red barbiers and other little buggers appeared like gnats over the wreck, only to quickly disappear into the wreck and amongst the Oculina thickets upon sweeping your light towards them.
The wreck is very intriguing; the forward and aft cargo holds are filled almost to the coaming with what appears to be molten lead (obviously now solidified). I have not seen anything like this before. Much of the superstructure has collapsed and lies like a disassembled house of cards. After doing a couple of sweeps, both teams eventually rallied at the stern at 20 minutes and ascended for decompression in the much warmer (84 degrees) waters above.
The rest of the day was spent jumping on a couple unknowns. Much lower visibility, just as cold water, but only very weird geology and no wrecks.
Today we motored about 41 miles towards the wreck of the Pan Massachusetts. The Pan Mass was a large tanker sunk in World War II and was the first WWII casualty off the Florida coast. She now rests inverted in just shy of 300fsw. However, this section, known locally as the "Copper Wreck" consists of just the bow section forward of the machinery spaces - the stern section lies approximately, very roughly of course <G>, one to two miles away <G>. Since we again had a smoking 3.6kt current, we deployed 0.13nm from the wreck; this time we had a bit more rapid descent -- I found myself at the fracture point filming a 100-pound Warsaw grouper while my bottom timer still registered one minute. The vis on the Pan Mass was incredible -- perhaps 70 feet. The last time we dove here (actually, the very first time anyone dove on the wreck) we had perhaps 10-15 feet of visibility. The temperature was a little warmer this time at around 59 degrees (we broke 50 degrees last time).
We set about exploring the wreck in the wonderful conditions. She seemed like a totally different wreck. We could now clearly see her fracture point and a transverse bulkhead that had fallen outward to the sand. Access to the interior was permitted through the fracture point and various openings in the hull and between tanks. While swarmed by AJS, I played around with the large grouper for a while, before opting to scooter the perimter of the wreck in search of more prey. The two teams gathered a lot of awesome video, though we only spotted that one large Warsaw. He liked the attention as he followed us around to the bow and back towards the fracture. After a couple laps and scootering across through the interior of the wreck, we again worked towards the bow to ascend for decompression after 20 minutes. It was a phenomenal dive.
Can't wait to go back and we are really looking forward to diving the stern section of the Pan Mass!
We got some really incredible images from the dives and hope to have them added to the AUE website in the near future, as well as some background and a potential ID for the F.U. Wreck.