JUNE 18, 2007

USCG MEMORIAL CEREMONY FOR ALBATROSS 1240

 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard placed a 8,000 pound mooring with a bronze memorial plaque adjacent to the remains of Albatross 1240 following a memorial service, rifle salute, and helicopter flyover off the coast of Carrabelle, Florida.  Below are two images of the memorial plaque taken by FWC divers. 

 

 

LOST, NOT FORGOTTEN:  A St. Petersburg Times newspaper article on the May 29 memorial dedication at Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.

 

More information on the identification of Albatross 1240 can be found HERE.

 

JUNE 15, 2007

AUE IDENTIFIES THE "PHOSPHATE CARRIER" AND THE "OIL WRECK"

 

What an awesome weekend -- and excellent adventure with good friends while diving a previously unidentified deepwater wreck in the Gulf of Mexico.  Check out the full report with images HERE.

 

JUNE 15, 2007

HEADED OFFSHORE

 

Headed offshore to explore a couple deep unidentified shipwrecks this weekend.  First stop is 155 nautical miles out, and in over 400 feet of water.  Check back Monday for results of the trip....

 

JUNE 11, 2007

TITANIC'S ACHILLES HEEL ON THE HISTORY CHANNEL

 

The two-hour documentary, "Titanic's Achilles Heel," airs on June 17 at 8:00 p.m. on The History Channel.  The program discusses new information on the sinking and breakup of the fabled ship, and utilizes information and footage gained from the September 2006 expedition to sistership HMHS Britannic in Greece.  Be sure to tune in!

 

JUNE 9, 2007

MORE ON THE STEAMER NOYA, AND THE MIXED BLESSINGS OF RECOVERING A BELL IN THE U.K.

 

With the recovery of the bell, yet another unidentified shipwreck was identified by divers.  The S.S. Noya, official number 135152, was a steel, single-screw, schooner-rigged steamer with one deco.  She displaced 4,282 gross tons, was 370 feet long, and 50 feet in breadth.  The Noya was constructed in 1912 by W. Doxford & Sons Ltd. in Sunderland.  She was powered by a triple-expansion engine offering 310 nominal horsepower.  At the time of here loss, she was owned by the English and American Shipping Company, Ltd. (C.T. Bowring and Company, Ltd., managers) and her port of registry was London.  On August 30, 1917, steaming from New Orleans to England, the Noya became a straggler from her convoy and orders had her diverted to Falmouth.  Unfortunately, before she could safely make it to port, she was torpedoed and sunk off Lizard's Point by the German U-boat U-62. One man was lost in the sinking.

 

Skipper Ian Taylor has a tradition on his boat Skin Deep.  Should you recover a bell from a wreck while diving with him, you must offer sufficient tribute to the good captain.  And he makes it very interesting...

JUNE 8, 2007

BACK TO THE CANDY STORE...

 

To finish off this awesome week of virgin wreck diving, we headed back out to the first wreck we dived, which was a sailing ship sunk in 1874 on its way to Australia and now rests in 290 feet of water.  The weather was the best we experienced all week, with clear skies and flat calm seas.  Splashing in, visibility was also phenomenal:  while still 40 feet off the bottom I could see white china on the seabed in the dim green waters beneath me. 

I quickly worked the wreck looking for flawless examples of its varied cargo.  After bagging up and sending my prizes to the surface, I slowly headed up while watching the other divers' lights paint the wreck as I ascended.

After our wonderful dive, we returned to the mystery wreck in 260 feet of water from the day before.  Fourteen minutes from splash-in, Mark Bullen and Leigh Bishop sent the brass prize to the surface.  The bell identified the wreck as the 367-foot long S.S. Noya, built in London in 1912 and sunk in 1917 by a U-boat.

What a way to close out the trip!

Some other images from the day:

This trip was a great experience with some fine divers from England, Ireland, and the United States.  I will definitely remember the awesome diving off Land's End in the Western Approaches, as well as the camaraderie amongst these wreck divers, for a long time.  I will be adding lots more photos and a trip report upon my return home (and when I get some free time).

JUNE 7, 2007

SO CLOSE...

 

Our initial target today had us traveling fairly far offshore, but very nasty seas prevented us from making much headway.  Thwarted by our first attempt, we changed plans to dive another wreck closer to port later that day, which was originally explored a year or two earlier.  The wreck sits in 260 feet of water and is fairly sanded in. 

I went in with my buddy, Mark Bullen, to set the breakaway line up on our shot line.  On the bottom, I soon began pulling out numerous porthole swing plates from the sand on this unknown steamer.  China was also evident amongst the wreckage.  Visibility was poor, and the tide was already running.  I began poking around the wreck more and eventually spotted my buddy flashing erratically.  I approached to find him hovering over the bell, which was wedged upside down in the winch gear.  I attempted to light the area while he tried to work the concretion loose.  We attempted to use parts of the wreck, but due to the tight placement of the artifact, it became obvious that without tools all efforts would be futile.  The bell would have to wait until the following day to be recovered....

 

JUNE 6, 2007

KIDS, DON'T PLAY IN THE STREET

 

Yet another awesome day!  Our target this day was another unknown virgin wreck in 270 feet of water.  The sun continued to keep us company, making for an enjoyable trip offshore.  It was quickly apparent the site was in the middle of busy shipping channels, as we had to hail numerous freighters before and during our dive.

We dropped down to the wreck to find clear water on the bottom.  The shot was located adjacent to the twin boilers of the vessel, facilitating quick orientation on the wreck.  My buddy and I probed the remains of the small freighter, quickly spotting several loose portholes amongst the debris.  Moving forward, we also observed a smashed up telegraph in the vicinity of the bridge.  After a quick check of the bow, we moved aft to explore the stern.  The triple expansion engine was largely intact, with gauges still mounted around the base, and oil boxes around the top.  More portholes were found scattered around the perimeter.  Surprisingly, the stern was found immediately aft of the engine, obscured by the remains of a large net.  Deco was uneventful, and we fortunately were not run down by any shipping traffic.   

 

JUNE 5, 2007

TOO MANY SHIPWRECKS, TOO LITTLE TIME

 

Finally, an awesome day dawned on us.  The sun actually made an appearance, and the temperature was almost pleasant!  The wind freshened up on us offshore, but we managed to dive yet another unknown virgin shipwreck in 290 feet of water.  Visibility on the bottom was spectacular; it was very dark but very clear.  Unfortunately, we spent most of our dive poking around the bow area, which was largely flattened hull plates and sanded-in machinery.  At one point I spotted a spiny lobster and grabbed the misplaced critter.  My buddy laughed as he saw me ask the lobster, "What the hell are you doing here?!"

I did not think much of this apparently small wreck until I made my way back to amidships and was poking around the growing starboard hull.  Coming up and over the wreckage, I spotted another diver filming the MASSIVE engine, and the resulting scene was spectacular.  The surreal scene will definitely stick with me.  I finned over and saw numerous oil boxes scattered around the engine base, and then looked over to see two large boilers.  Unfortunately, it was towards the end of my planned dive time, so I had to bug out back to the shot.  One diver recovered a beautiful stoneware flagon, and another raised a small porthole.  All in all, a great day on the water.

 

JUNE 4, 2007

WHEN A TORPEDO AND A MINE MEET...

 

An early departure had the boat headed further offshore to inspect a promising target.  After dropping the shot and waiting for slack water, the group filed into the water to see what waited for them 300 feet below.

 

 

 

Staying topside on this dive, the skipper and I waited for over three hours to get an answer.  The divers were pretty certain the vessel was a freighter carrying munitions, including a large cargo of underwater mines, which was torpedoed by a U-boat in WWI.  The vessel was devastated when the attack ignited a chain reaction and set off her volatile cargo.  Rescue vessels that arrived on scene found numerous mines floating in the area, including one with the lone survivor clinging to it.  No positive identification was made, but diagnostic features on the wreck give supported the leading theory on the shipwreck's true identity.

JUNE 3, 2007

JUST ANOTHER VIRGIN WRECK

 

Although the weather is still cold and overcast, with a thick blanket of fog and misting rain, the seas are cooperating thus far. We motored out to inspect a large unknown mark in 280 feet of water.

Splashing in first with my buddy to secure the shot, we were greeted with dark but clear water on the bottom. We swam towards the bow, noting a large section of mast enveloped in billowing monofilament gill nets rising 20 feet above the wreck. The portside bow was totally demolished, likely from a U-boat attack. Heading aft, the forward portion of the triple expansion engine poked out from the collapsed decking. I noticed a piece of china, but while it had a nice floral pattern on it, it lacked any shipping line identification. The bridge was largely collapsed with large tiles covering portions of the deck. The stern was damaged as well, with all the blades of the single screw blown clear from the intact hub.

Unfortunately, we were unable to identify this mystery wreck today.  Tomorrow we venture further offshore to inspect yet another deep virgin shipwreck!

JUNE 2, 2007

LIKE A DEER CAUGHT IN HEADLIGHTS

 

Incredible.  Simply incredible. That's all I can really say about my introduction to "proper" wreck diving.  We dived on a magnificent 19th century sailing vessel in 290 feet of water loaded with porcelain, silverware, china, liquor, medicine, cosmetics, and a wide variety of figurines.  For the first 10 minutes of the dive I was like a deer caught in headlights (hence the title) as I could not believe the scene before me -- the seabed was literally painted white with china!  Artifacts lay strewn throughout the wreck, as well as far out into the muddy seabed.  With such a bounty to choose from, you could be frugal with what you bagged up for recovery, making sure there were no flaws in the artifacts.  Below is but a small sampling of some of the recovered treasures.

 

 

JUNE 1, 2007

FINALLY IN THE WATER

 

We caught a break with the weather to venture out for a fun little dive. We stuck our nose out yesterday, but due to very unpleasant seas and digestive systems from the previous night's dinner, we opted to turn back. On this day, though, we had gentle rollers that continued to flatten out as the day wore on. Our target today was a large liner in almost 150 feet of water. As we headed down the shot just before slack tide, we hoped the turbid water would clear towards the bottom. Unfortunately, the chunky visibility stayed with us all the way down, and we ended up with maybe 6-8 feet of dark visibility. We stumbled down to the seabed to poke around the upper deck remains that slid off the main hull. After about 30 minutes we all decided we had enough fun for the day and headed up for deco. While the visibility was less than spectacular, it was just nice to get in the water.

After getting back to the dock, we loaded all our gear and headed for our final destination -- the week of diving I headed overseas for would commence the following day.

 

UPDATES COMING SOON...

 

We have been moving around a bit lately and have not had internet access.  However, we managed to sneak in a dive yesterday, and had a fantastic dive again today.  Explored a wreck that sunk in the 1870s in almost 300 feet of water that is nothing like I have ever seen before -- the bottom was literally covered in china, bottles, and figurines.  Everyone bagged up on some beautiful artifacts.  Now that I have found a place to pinch some wireless, I will try and upload some reports and images from the past few days.

 

MAY 29, 2007

CHILLIN'

 

Since we knew we were blown out for today and that we were locked and loaded for the next trip, we headed into town to see the sights. 

We had a fabulous time strolling around this beautiful city.  Of course, we ended up partaking in some of the wonderful beverages that are abundant here. 

On the road tomorrow -- looking to get in the water on Thursday.  So, hopefully I will get some cool diving images up in the near future.

Stay tuned....

MAY 28, 2007

PLOTTING

 

With a good night's rest, we awoke to plot our strategy for the upcoming dives. There was abundant opportunity to explore new, virgin wrecks, but we wanted to make sure we picked out the very best of the best to check out this year. Eventually, a nice menu of shipwrecks ripe for exploration and identification lay out before us. Now it was just a matter of diving these beasties to see what lay below.

The rest of the day was spent unpacking our kits and putting our rigs together, and then repacking all our gear into the truck for the impending dives. Unfortunately, we were again blown out for tomorrow's jaunt. But the good stuff still awaits...stay tuned.

MAY 27, 2007
NECTAR OF THE GODS -- BELGIAN BEER

Yesterday, I packed up my dive rig and jumped on a plane overseas for an awesome wreck diving adventure.  Now, after a long flight and many time zones away from home, we immediately set in to arranging for cylinders and gas for the upcoming dives.  After a visit to the local fill station, we settled back in at our host's house to unfortunately find the following day's dive was cancelled. 

Since we were all zapped from being awake for over 36 hours, we were not too terribly distraught.  Especially once we saw our host's stash of Belgian beer appear.  It didn't take much to knock us out for the count (especially at 9% alcohol). 

Those monks really know how to brew some beer!