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AUE Weekend Dive Report August 25-26, 2007
Return to the U.S.S. Ozark

The U.S.S. Ozark was built by the Willamette Iron and Steel Corporation of Portland, Oregon, on July 12, 1941 (almost 3 years before Oriskany).  The Ozark, known as the "Mighty O," was 458-feet long with a 60-foot beam, and was powered by twin General Electric, geared turbine drives producing 11,000 horsepower and a 20.3 knot cruising speed.  During the course of her career she was a mine layer, a transport, a landing ship vehicle, and, finally, a mine countermeasure support ship.  She saw service in the Pacific in World War II, but eventually was largely kept idle.  The U.S.S. Ozark was eventually utilized as a target for U.S.A.F. fighter-bombers in 1975.

The wreck sits upright with a slight list to starboard 28 nautical miles south of Destin Pass in 330 feet of water.  Aside from damage to the very bow from where she slammed into the seafloor, the ship is remarkably intact.  Her mast and yardarms reach up to with 230 feet of the surface.  While she is easily one of the most impressive technical dives off Florida, local dive operators currently will not run to the site.  It is unfortunate, as with the wreck of the U.S.S. Oriskany only 23 nautical miles away, the duo would make for a remarkable dive trip.

My first and only previous visit to the massive wreck of the U.S.S. Ozark was in December 2000 (TRIP REPORT).  I had been yearning to get back to the Ozark, and finally got the opportunity on this late August weekend.

The wreck of the Ozark is simply spectacular.  We had good conditions over the weekend, with zero current on the wreck, and only a marginal mid-water current on ascent.  Bottom temperatures were a refreshing 68 degrees, while above the thermocline it was 87.  Visibility was good, although an overcast sky and mid-water murk layer dramatically reduced ambient light.

(l) Joe raising the shotline over the port bridge wing; (r) Joe over the #2 gun.

(l) Damage from a laser guided bomb in the deck just aft of the #2 gun turret; (r) looking up at the mast.

(l) Divers in front of the mast and yardarms; (r) the shallowest portion of the mast, around 230 feet.

(l) Safety net around the perimeter of the stern helicopter landing deck; (r) divers heading amidships heading aft.

Aside from the awesome dives on the Ozark, we also checked out some other coordinates.  One of the wrecks we dived on was the Megadan, a large tug that was also apparently used as a target ship.  She is largely intact and rests in 220 feet of water. 

(l) Brian coming around the bow; (r) the ship's horns laying on the deck.

(l) Stack and access house; (r) port side view of the Megadan on ascent.