The Revolutionary War defined the beginnings of an independent
United States but it was a struggle of historic proportions both on land and on
sea. Throughout the colonies, battles were fought and lives were lost. Long
Island, New York, is home to numerous sites central to the fight for
independence. The Battle of Brooklyn, the attack on Fort Slongo and the Culper
Spy Ring are all examples of how Long Island affected the war.
The fight for independence on Long Island extended to its surrounding waters.
Text and Photography by Michael Salvarezza and Christopher Weaver (Eco-Photo Explorers)
In early July 1780, a French fleet of 13 frigates and 7
“ships-of-the-line” were successfully put into the harbor at Newport, Rhode
Island. Ships that were equipped to fight in the line of battle were referred
to as “Ships-of-the-line”. This was an attempt to assist the patriot army in
their battle with the British by supplying ships, artillery and 6000 troops.
By September 1780, 14 British warships, including the HMS Culloden,
arrived on Long Island to provide reinforcements to a small fleet in Gardiner’s
Bay and by October the HMS Culloden was stationed in Gardiner’s Bay. The
Culloden, along with three other vessels, were instructed to patrol the area
between Montauk Pt. and the Nantucket Shoals, and to defend against any French
ships trying to enter this area. Essentially, they formed a blockade.
On January 20, 1781, word was received that the French were
preparing to leave Newport and were going to run through the blockade. The HMS Culloden,
and two other vessels set sail from Block Island Sound in pursuit of the French
On January 23, a strong winter storm rose up and the ships
became lost and disoriented in the severe weather and blinding snow. The HMS
Culloden eventually came to rest in 15 feet of water just off shore at a place
called Will’s Point, now named Culloden Point, in Fort Pond Bay, just west of
The remains of this historic shipwreck have been lying in
the shifting sands of Fort Pond Bay for over 200 years, often completely
buried, and sometimes with just a few timbers exposed to indicate the wreck
site. Divers who wish to dive the wreck find that, although shallow, it is a
difficult wreck to locate. Despite this, the wreck of the HMS Culloden remains
one of Long Island’s premier dive targets.
Over the years, a number of artifacts from the wreck have
been professionally recovered and are displayed at the East End Maritime
Museum. A large canon, copper sheathing and a section of the sailing ships’
rudder are all preserved and offered for view to the public. The HMS Culloden
is a genuine part of local maritime history.
Recognizing that the wreck of the HMS Culloden is of
interest to local divers, the Long Island Divers Association (LIDA) championed
a successful effort many years ago to secure diver shoreline access to the site
and also arranged for the construction of a staircase to the site along a steep
bluff. Without the staircase, a dangerous rappel was required of determined
divers wishing to dive the wreck.
Sadly, this staircase was destroyed with subsequent
hurricanes and winter storms. Diver access to the site effectively was washed
away with it.
Now, efforts by LIDA to regain diver access to the wreck of
the Culloden have culminated in an announcement that the town of East Hampton
will rebuild the staircase. In fact, LIDA has been in contact with the Town of
East Hampton in 2017 and 2018 advocating for the rebuilding of the stairway
down to the beach where the old shipwreck can be accessed. The construction of
the stairway is now out to bid for the work to be completed for the summer
season of 2019.
“Recent efforts of the Long Island Divers Association have
resulted in divers regaining the entry points for diving previously lost at the
HMS Culloden in Montauk and Secret Beach in Greenport”, says Barry Lipsky,
President of LIDA. “In addition, saving the Ponquogue Bridge from demolition
and, instead, helping to secure nearly two million dollars of improvements to
the bridge is a huge success for the entire Long Island dive community.”
Divers on Long Island continue to enjoy the underwater
wonders of the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay and Fort Pond
Bay. Shoreline access to the water for divers, however, is becoming more and
more difficult to find as a maze of permits, private property and legal
restrictions conspire to keep divers out of the water. LIDA exists to advocate
for diver rights, including access to dive sites such as the HMS Culloden, a
true example of American history that belongs to all of us.
The history of the Blue Heron Bridge is interesting,
but not nearly as fascinating as the underwater ecosystem that thrives below
Article and photography by Eco-Photo Explorers Michael Salvarezza and Christopher P. Weaver
In the 1920s, Paris Singer, part of the sewing machine family
empire, developed plans to build a $4 million resort called the Blue Heron
Hotel on an isolated island off the Atlantic Coast of Florida near West Palm
In order to connect the island, which later became known as Singer
Island, to the mainland, Palm Beach County built a 2700-foot-long timber and
steel bridge known as the “Sherman Point Bridge” in 1925. But in 1928, a
hurricane partially destroyed the bridge and it had to be rebuilt in the 1930s. In addition, a second concrete and steel
two-lane drawbridge was also built in 1949 at a cost of $850,000.
As tourism grew over the years, the original low-lying wooden
structure and the drawbridge could not handle the influx of traffic. A modern
bridge was required and in 1974, at a cost of $8.5 million, a 4-lane, high-span
bridge was built. This bridge, officially named the Jerry Thomas Memorial
Bridge but known by most as the Blue Heron Bridge, crosses from the mainland to
Singer Island and the eastern 350 feet of the 1949 bridge was left to become a
The hotel that was envisioned by Paris Singer was never built.
Instead, at the foot of the bridge is a Palm Beach County park known as Phil
Foster Memorial Park. It is here that we begin our underwater adventure.
The Blue Heron Bridge has become world renowned for its astounding
marine ecosystem. The support structures for the bridge have become home to a
wide variety of tropical marine life and divers who explore the waters beneath
the bridge can be assured of a fascinating adventure on every dive.
Entering the water directly under the bridge with a shore entry
just steps from the parking lot, we swam south to an area filled with large
boulders and coral outcroppings. Here we found large Cushion Sea Stars creeping
along the sandy bottom in 30 feet of water, along with schools of grunts,
snapper and an occasional Angelfish. Upon closer examination, though, we spied
numerous interesting blennies poking their ornately adorned heads out from tiny
holes and crevices. We began to fill our camera’s memory cards with interesting
macro subjects. Seahorses, crabs, shrimp and tiny fish were all part of the
palette of subjects.
We swam a bit further east, exploring more rocks and several small
sunken boats and other debris, but decided to venture back to the bridge itself
to see what we could find along its support structure.
As we approached the pilings supporting the old 1949 bridge, we
found ourselves in a paradise of marine life. Schools of Spadefish shimmered by
nonchalantly while Hogfish nibbled at the seaweeds growing on the cement
structures. Towards the western terminus of the old bridge, we found a large
Green Moral Eel hoping to find an easy meal. Along the way, we spotted large
French and Grey Angels loitering beneath the bridge as well.
The protected structures beneath the bridge are an ideal nursery
for breeding marine organisms. As we approached, Sergeant Major Fish defiantly
defended their egg patches while juvenile Pork Fish flitted between the structures.
We swam from piling to piling, stopping at each to observe and photograph the
myriad marine life of this special place.
For photographers, the Blue Heron Bridge offers both macro and
wide-angle imaging possibilities. With waters never reaching depths greater
than 30 feet, photographers have ample time to pursue that perfect shot!
Diving the Blue Heron Bridge safely requires strict adherence to
certain restrictions. Swift currents move through this area so its best to dive
at high slack tide for the calmest water and the best visibility. Park rules
dictate that all dives be concluded by dusk, although night dives can be
arranged through local dive shops. There is an active boat channel alongside
and beneath the bridge so divers must remain inside the areas where diving is
permitted and must never venture beyond the limits of the boat channel.
We emerged from the water with contented smiles and overworked
cameras. The Blue Heron Bridge is an ideal addition to your dive itinerary if
you are in this part of Florida. For most who drive over this bridge to or from
Palm Beach to Singer Island, the bridge is simply a means to an end. For
divers, it is the destination!
By Eco-Photo Explorers Michael Salvarezza and Christopher P. Weaver
Standing outside the Valdez Airport with our pile of dive and
photographic gear, with no visible means of transportation in sight, this offer
from a friendly stranger named Jeff, who worked at the airport, was music to
our ears. We had just arrived after a cross country flight and this was the
very start of our Alaska dive adventure. The unsolicited offer to drive us to
town was emblematic of the friendliness and willingness to help that we would
encounter throughout our time here.
Our dive expedition began in earnest the next morning after a
restful night in a waterfront hotel. We loaded our gear, boarded a transport
boat and set out from Valdez Harbor to Fidalgo Bay, some 3-4 hours away. Our
objective for the trip was to experience Alaska’s underwater world, immerse
ourselves in the Alaska wilderness and possibly find Salmon Sharks in the
waters of Prince William Sound.
However, before we even arrived at Ravencroft Lodge, our base of
operations for the week, we found ourselves in the ice choked waters near the
Columbia Glacier. Icebergs, both small and large, and of varying shapes, sizes
and colors, bobbed in the cold waters. Unlike other arctic regions where groups
of seals could be seen hauling out on the icebergs, here we were treated to the
site of dozens of Otters relaxing atop these floating bits of ice. The urge to
snorkel the icebergs became irresistible!
Our journey to the lodge continued, with sightings of Bald Eagles,
Stellar Sea Lions and False Killer Whales keeping us and our cameras busy.
Eventually, we arrived at a well-appointed wilderness lodge and our attention
turned to the dives ahead.
The waters of Fidalgo Bay are sheltered between two strips of land
and some towering mountains, but they are open to the exposed stretches of
Prince William Sound and can turn rough quickly. We were fortunate that for our
time in the area, the seas were calm. Our first dive was directly in front of
the lodge and we were immediately intrigued: A lush garden of seagrass was home
to beautifully adorned Opalescent Nudibranchs, small jellies, assorted crabs
and a variety of starfish while further out in somewhat deeper water we found
brilliantly colored starfish and foot-long sea cucumbers wandering a bed of
bull kelp. One of the divers in the group located an oxymoronic small Giant
Pacific Octopus hiding in a rocky lair. We didn’t see this individual, but we
did come across one on our last dive of the expedition.
Back in the seagrass, we located an old abandoned ore cart, a
relic from the past history of copper mineral mining in the area. Ravencroft
Lodge is built on a former mining site and, in addition to this submerged cart,
there are some artifacts scattered about the grounds of the lodge and a short
hike into the forest will take visitors to the site of the original mine.
Mining for copper occurred in the early parts of the 20th century before being
abandoned due to a market drop in copper prices.
Before setting our sights on deeper dive sites, we took advantage
of favorable tides to explore a glacier-fed river where Salmon begin their
migration from the sea upstream to their preferred spawning grounds deeper into
Here, in only 5 feet of frigid 47-degree water, we battled the
fierce rush of tumbling water to remain still and photograph hundreds of Chum
and Pink Salmon as they raced by in a desperate push to pass through fallen
trees, waterfalls and rocks to journey upstream. Some would dart past us at a
frenzied pace, while others could be found resting in the eddies and pools as
if to catch their breath before making another push upstream. By the time we
hiked back to our skiffs we were all exhausted, excited and gratified to have
witnessed one of nature’s miracles.
Dawn comes early to Alaska in the summer months, and the next day we
were awake way before breakfast eagerly anticipating our first search for the
mysterious Salmon Shark. As we fiddled with our cameras and assembled our gear,
we went over the details of what conditions we would be looking for, and how to
dive with the skittish sharks. According to the experts at Ravencroft, we need
flat calm water to spot the small dorsal fin slicing through the water. Once
spotted, we need to find a “player”. This is a shark that’s interested in
feeding and not too skittish as to be unapproachable. It can take some time, we
were told, and indeed it did. In fact, after several hours of looking, we found
none. This pattern would repeat over the next few days. We did see one
individual on the surface, but we were never able to get in the water with one.
Nature is not predictable: an unusually cold summer could be the
reason we did not find Salmon Sharks during our visit. Theories as to why
Salmon Sharks frequent these waters and linger on the surface for the summer
months focus on water temperature. A warm-blooded shark, they may be rising
from deeper, colder water to bask in the warmer surface layers of the sea. The
season for spotting them is short, only a few weeks across the months of June
and July. Our quest will continue in a future trip with the hope of finally
capturing photographs of this elusive creature!
After our search for sharks, we decided to dive some rocky
outcroppings nearby. At a site known as “The Magic Garden”, we found carpets of
huge Plumose and Metridium Anemones adorning the boulders. In addition, we
photographed Black Rockfish and other species of Alaskan bottom fish. The dives
sites here generally consist of a rocky sloping terrain until about 70 or 80
feet of depth, when they typically drop off in a vertical wall to depths of 600
feet or more.
We continued our exploration the next day to several previously
unexplored sites. It’s always exciting to dive a new location and to see what’s
below. We were not disappointed. Our first dive placed us into relatively clear
water with a beautiful bottom topography of rocks and crevices. We found
several Lined Nudibranchs, as well as pair of large Lemon Peel Nudibranchs. These
measured the size of a baseball and were strikingly beautiful.
Alaska is known for huge groups of jellyfish, sometimes called a
“smack”. Indeed, as we explored the second of our “undiscovered” dive sites, we
found ourselves in a soup of Moon Jellies, Lion’s Mane Jellies, and large and
fearsome looking Sea Nettles. Protected by a dry suit and dry hood, the only
vulnerable spot on our bodies to a sting is the area around our mouth…and of
course, that’s where we got stung! Lion’s Mane Jellies feed on Moon Jellies and
we watched, transfixed, as a slow-motion pursuit by a Lion’s Mane of a Moon
Jelly took place right before our eyes. The Moon Jelly, in this case, evaded
capture and swam safely away.
Diving Prince William Sound is very much frontier diving. It is
diving done on the timetable and to the wishes of the Alaskan wilderness.
Sometimes the Salmon Sharks are there, on occasion they are not. Sometimes,
huge smacks of Moon Jellies so thick you can lose sight of your buddy a few
feet away show up and sometimes they don’t. The visibility varies, from a few
feet to 50 feet, and divers who don’t watch their buoyancy can easily stir up
clouds of silt unwittingly. The weather in Alaska plays a big role in what
takes place on and under the water. This is the essence of adventure!
As we continued to explore the waters of Prince William Sound,
other dive sites led us to encounters with colorful decorator crabs, groups of
crinoids and rafts of scallops that danced and flitted away as we approached
with our cameras.
Our final dive of the trip brought us face to face with a Red
Irish Lord fish lurking menacingly on the bottom awaiting prey. But it was the
sight of a Giant Pacific Octopus inside a rocky crevice that made the dive
worthwhile. As it peered at us from the safety of its lair, the Octopus seemed
to be sizing us up. What were these strange bubble blowing creatures? Are they
a danger? The Octopus decided we were…and remained safely inside its rocky
home. We decided to respect its wishes, ascend the upline to the dive boat and begin
planning our return trip.
Visitors should plan to arrive into Anchorage International
Airport. From there, it is a five to six-hour drive to Valdez or a short
30-minute flight on RAVN Air, a domestic regional carrier. Note, RAVN Aircraft
have small overhead compartments, so travelers may have to check large carryon
bags at an additional cost. Divers should plan to arrive in Valdez one day
prior to the assigned pickup time. The only access to the lodge is by float
plane or by boat transport. A water taxi to the lodge can cost $700, so be sure
to be in town in time for the lodge’s arranged pickup.
Diving and Accommodation
Lodging in Valdez can be found at several hotels. We recommend the
Best Western for its friendly staff, great service and proximity to the wharf
where the boat pickups take place.
Ravencroft Lodge is a fishing and diving lodge located in Fidalgo
Bay. This is the only dive operator in the area. Dive safely, because the
nearest recompression chamber is in Seattle!
And now it can be told. An interdisciplinary team of ten US
Federal agencies, the military, scientists and academicians collaborated on a
two-year study of the wreck of USS San
Diego on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its sinking,
to determine definitely what happened that day. The study was undertaken in
memory of the six sailors killed in the sinking. New technologies were employed
in the study, including finite-element engineering modeling of the flooding and
sinking timeline based on loads aboard the ship and interior
compartmentalization, high density/definition photogrammetry mapping and side scan
sonar analysis of the wreck, and underwater unmanned probes (AUV’s and ROV’s –
autonomous underwater vehicle and remote-operated vehicle) equipped with laser
beams to measure the structure.
The initial court of inquiry finding by the US Navy brass has
been confirmed: USSSan Diego was sunk by a mine laid by German
Many of us here in the northeast have dived on the USS San Diego. Many of us have seen
photos and videos of the brooding wreck. There is quite a backstory to this
ship and its sinking! Towards the end of WWI in July 1918, USS San Diego was on its way from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to NYC
(where the sailors were looking forward to a night on the town) – but instead
it was sunk by a German naval mine. July 19th, 2018 marked the 100th
anniversary of the sinking of this 15,000-ton cruiser, technically called CA-6 (named USS San Diego). San Diego
was destroyed by a ‘bottom’ mine, laid by German Uboat U165, and she sank 10 miles southeast of Fire Island, NY. Six
sailors were killed in the flooding and blast. USS San Diego was the only major US warship sunk during World War I.
She is on her side in 110’ of water, and
is slowly, inexorably, collapsing — and at some point in the not-too-distant
future will be completely reclaimed by the ocean with a plume of rust dust …
During WWI, Germany and Britain laid extensive naval mine
fields in an attempt to sink each other’s ships, and thus have supremacy on the
high seas. Laying of mines can be defensive – to deny the enemy use of certain parts
of sea lanes, or to protect friendly shipping by quarantining areas (securing
those areas from enemy surface or submarine penetration). Mines can also be
used offensively, and can be placed in known or anticipated enemy shipping
lanes (with the intention to sink enemy ships).
For purposes of this discussion, mines can either have
positive buoyancy and be attached to an anchor on the bottom (in water deeper
than 200’), or can be placed on the bottom (in water less than 200’ deep). In the former case, when a ship strikes a
moored mine (generally suspended by a chain from a bottom anchor point
extending upwards to just below the water’s surface), the resulting explosion is
likely to blow a hole into the ship’s hull when contact is made causing
flooding. In the latter case, the displacement of water caused by the explosion
of the on-the-bottom-placed mine can split open or even collapse the hull of
the ship as it passes over the mine which detonates and causes the displacement
of water. This results in the loss of water to support the weight of the ship,
which can split the hull or break the back of the hapless vessel.
Owing to naval warfare in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870,
Germany got a big head start over the British in naval mine warfare, technology
and doctrine. Consequently, German naval mine technology was more advanced than
that of the British at the start of WWI. During WWI the German Navy also met
with considerably greater success sinking ships than the British did, due to
more aggressive, and primarily offensive naval mine tactics. During the war the
British captured a German mine and reverse-engineered it; the improved design
proved effective for the British – but by then, land-based warfare had become the
deciding strategic factor in the war.
USS San Diego was
only one of hundreds of Allied ships which were sunk by German naval mines in
WWI. Several notable losses of British Navy ships come to mind. Germany got off
to a good start in WWI with its naval mine warfare right off the bat. Just a
few months after the start of hostilities in 1914, the largest warship to be sunk
in WWI – the battleship HMS Audacious
– was sunk in October 1914 by a German mine which had just been laid just a few
days prior in a likely staging area for British warships. (The humiliation and
propaganda value of this loss to the Germans was so great that the sinking was kept
secret by the British Admiralty and the press corps until the end of the war.
But the Germans knew HMS Audacious
had been sunk and reported this). HMS
Audacious was just two-years old, having been launched in 1912 and
commissioned in 1913, and she was the pride of the British Navy – and then — with
her paint barely dry—she was sunk and on the bottom. Another grievous loss to the British in WWI to
a German naval mine was the cruiser HMS
Hampshire on June 5,1916 – a stone’s throw from Scotland’s Orkney Island. (HMSHampshire
was almost exactly the same size as USS
San Diego). She was on her way to ally Russia with British Secretary of
State Lord Kitchener of Khartoum and his entourage to meet with the Russian
Imperial War staff to coordinate their fighting strategies in a two-front war
against Germany. But shortly after leaving the British anchorage at Scapa Flow,
HMSHampshire hit a German mine. Kitchener was a British field marshal,
imperial administrator, revered ‘Conqueror of the Sudan’ (hence Kitchener of
Khartoum), commander-in-chief during the South African (Boer) War, and Secretary
of State for War at the beginning of World War I. Lord Kitchener, his entire
staff, and virtually all of ship’s company were lost in the sinking. There is a
massive monument at Orkney’s Marwick headlands, overlooking the spot where HMS Hampshire was destroyed. (I spoke
with shopkeepers in Orkney who, to this day, remember their parents and
grandparents who were farmers on the fertile Marwick moors, talking about that
terrible night of the explosion.)
Another stunning British ship loss to a German naval mine was
His Majesty’s Hospital Ship HMHS
Brittanic. She was the sister ship to RMS
Titanic, and she was newer — with increased safety measures engineered
into her resulting from the investigation into Titanic’s loss. Brittanic was
discovered by Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1975, and was the object of several dive
expeditions to explore her, and also to determine the circumstances of her
sinking. During WWI Germany steadfastly maintained, contrary to British claims
at the time, that Brittanic was not torpedoed by a German submarine
(and in fact, this was true – Brittanic
was NOT sunk by a torpedo attack). Brittanic
was a hospital ship and fully-illuminated, with a big ‘red cross’ on each side
of the ship, making it impossible to misidentify Brittanic as a man-o-war. Of course, it suited British propaganda
purposes at the time to claim that the hospital ship Brittanic was wantonly and
viciously torpedoed by “the German Hun”. The reason that the Germans did
not reveal that their mine was the
cause of the loss of Brittanic is
that the British thought that it was impossible to place a mine in over 200’ of
water. Patently, this was a false assumption because that is exactly what the
Germans did, resulting in the loss of Brittanic.
Germany did not want to reveal that it had perfected the technique to put mines
into deeper water beyond 200’.(I
greatly recommend reading Richie Koehler’s book Mystery Of The Last Olympianhttp://www.mysteryofthelastolympian.com/
which details the sinking of Brittanic,
the human side of the story, the full envelope of historical background, and of
course the spell-binding dive operations around the exploration of Brittanic. Be prepared however to not
put the book down; trust me, you will read it cover to cover!).
So, taking all this together – we see that the German
Admiralty in WWI had a hugely effective naval mine warfare campaign in
effect–so much so, that it reached across the Atlantic Ocean in 1918 to sink
the USS San Diego, the 100th
anniversary of whose sinking we observed in July, 2018!
PS: For those who wish to personally inspect a warship (intact
and topside!) which pioneered some of the naval architecture of USS San Diego, visit Independence
Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, where museum ship USS Olympia (C6) is restored to its 1898 combat configuration.
There are striking visual similarities to USS
San Diego (you will readily see the family resemblance, although Olympia is 2/3 the size). Olympia is the oldest steel-hulled ship
of the US Navy still afloat. She was forged in battle in the Spanish-American
War, and (with other ships of the US fleet,) destroyed the Spanish navy fleet in
Manila Harbor in 1898. From her bridge Commodore Dewey famously instructed Olympia‘s captain, “You may fire
when you are ready, Gridley” (and …you can actually stand in his
footprints on the bridge!).
Moments earlier, we had been quietly preparing our cameras for the next day’s dives in our respective hotel rooms when suddenly the beds began shaking dramatically, with the headboards banging against the walls and the curtains on the windows swaying eerily in dark. Either we were reliving a scene from the movie “The Exorcist”…or we were having an earthquake!
Now, as we stood on the hotel balcony at the Marco Vincent Dive Resort in Puerto Galera, Philippines looking out over the pool and watching the water sloshing back and forth, we understood what life is like here on this part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.
The Philippines, often referred to as being part of the “Coral Triangle”, the center of marine biodiversity for the world’s oceans, also are part of a major area of seismic activity. In a 25,000-mile arc stretching from New Zealand north through Indonesia and the Philippines and up to Russia, and Alaska and back down along the California coast to the southern tip of South America, a series of the Earth’s tectonic plates interact, creating a region populated with 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes, and home to nearly 90% of the world’s earthquakes.
A 5.4 magnitude earthquake like the one we experienced this night is a common occurrence here! Welcome to the Philippines.
Undeterred by the evening temblors, we began our dive safari the next morning. Our objective was to circumnavigate the large island of Mindoro, the 7th largest island in the Philippines, and explore its many diverse diving opportunities. Our first dives would take place right off the shores of Puerto Galera, home to some of the best muck diving sites in the world.
All underwater photographers have “bucket lists” of marine creatures they seek to capture in images and we are no different. On our first dive at a location known simply as Secret Bay, we checked two items off our list: there, in the otherwise drab sandy bottom of the bay was a gorgeous but highly venomous Blue-Ringed Octopus, our first bucket list species and we spotted it half-way through our first dive! This little creature, about the size of a golf ball, can inflict a deadly dose of venom if it bites you. Beautiful, diminutive….and quite lethal is our little lady of the muck!
A short while later, we came across the second of our bucket list species: A type of Rhinopias known as a Weedy Scorpionfish. With frilly appendages and a mottled coloration pattern, this odd-shaped bottom dweller is easy to miss as you swim along the bottom.
As macro photographers, we have fallen in love with Nudibranches. These vibrantly colored sea-slugs creep and crawl along the bottom in full sight of predators, displaying their gaudy color schemes and waving their rhinophores in the current with nary a care in the world. They often stand out from the plain muck of the bottom with their brilliant colors, sometimes reminding us of the striking garment at the center of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical, “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat”!
And they abound in the waters off Puerto Galera. Underwater photographers can spend their entire dives here capturing these dazzling creatures in their memory cards.
As captivated as we were with these dives, it was time to board the Big Beth, an 82-foot custom equipped dive safari boat that would be our home for the rest of our journey around Mindoro. Our first destination was 16 hours away: the Blue Hole of Tablas.
The islands of Romblon and Tablas lie on the southeast side of Mindoro along the Tablas straight. We arrived early in the morning after an overnight cruise and began gearing up for a dive into one of the more unique formations in the reef at Tablas. After a briefing from a local dive expert, we hit the 80-degree water, cameras in hand, and began a short traverse of the reef searching for the nearly circular opening of the Blue Hole. In a few minutes, we were there.
We descended slowly into the tube-like formation, all the while savoring the otherworldly view of the rock walls as we dropped deeper into the vertical cavern. At about 100fsw, the Blue Hole bottoms out. Along the sides of the hole are cutouts that form caverns and caves begging to be explored. Along the way, we spotted schools of timid Cardinalfish seeking shelter in the rocks. Before exiting to the outer reef, we stopped to enjoy an upward looking view of a diver descending into the gloom from above. The Blue Hole at Tablas is not to be missed.
Nearby to Tablas is the wreck of the Mactan Ferry. Sunk in July 1973 during a typhoon as she was en route to Manila from Nasipit, the ship now lies on her side between 60 and 145 fsw and can fairly be considered one of the most beautiful wreck dives in all of the Philippines. Covered in marine life and home to vibrant populations of fish and marine invertebrates, divers can marvel at the stunning resplendence of the wreck without ever penetrating the interior. Her forward holds and open superstructure do make for fascinating recreational dives, however, and tech divers who wish to penetrate the entire length of the ship can get their fill of adventure here as well.
The Mactan Ferry lies near the island of Maestro de Campo, and located in the harbor here are two Japanese wrecks sunk by aerial bombs during the second World War. These two ships, one a cargo vessel and the second a smaller wooden vessel, lie perpendicular to each other in 90 fsw and make for excellent night dives.
On the southwest side of Mindoro off the coast of the island of Palawan is Coron bay, home to a collection of dramatic World War II era shipwrecks. In between the battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the US Navy launched a strike force of fighters and bombers to attack a Japanese supply fleet of up to 24 ships that were at anchor in Coron Bay and around the nearby Busuanga Island on September 24, 1944. In a devastating aerial assault, the US Navy sent most of these ships to the bottom of Coron Bay. Today, many of these shipwrecks are accessible to SCUBA divers who wish to explore history and witness the tragedy of war first-hand.
Some of the prominent wreck dives of Coron Bay include the Olympia Maru, a Japanese Freighter that is now sitting upright in 98fsw, the Kogyo Maru in 112fsw, the Okikawa Maru lying in 85fsw and the Akitsushima Maru, a Japanese seaplane tender resting on her side in 118fsw.
Coron Bay holds great fascination for shipwreck historians and wreck divers. It can be a multi-day dive safari destination by itself for both recreational and technical divers. Marine life abounds but the real allure is the plethora of enticing penetration dives that can expose divers to the inner secrets of these once proud vessels.
Our dive safari continued to the north to the fabled Apo Reef.
Here, surrounding a tiny sand-spit island that is home to a ranger station, a mangrove swamp and a towering lighthouse, is a marine reserve where divers can find some of the most dramatic wall dives in the Philippines. Washed with amazingly clear water, healthy stands of soft corals bloom in the underwater breeze while fields of dense hard corals beckon divers to explore and search for marine life.
At South Corner, we descended quickly to 100FSW and drifted along a captivating vertical wall, photographing giant sea fans, gorgonia and soft corals all the while looking into the blue water for sharks, passing tuna and patrolling jacks.
We stretched the limits of our nitrox mix at 105fsw at a site known as Apo 29, named because of its depth, and photographed schools of Barracuda and Trevally Jacks.
The Shark Airport is famous for its resting Whitetip Reef Sharks. Named because of the stretches of white sand that line the various sections of the tumbling wall, the resting sharks resemble airplanes waiting to take off into the blue…which they do if you don’t approach them slowly and carefully!
A complete circumnavigation dive safari of Mindoro Island would not be complete without a visit to Verde Island. Located about an hour by boat from the home base of Puerto Galera, Verde Island has been found to be a hotbed of marine biodiversity by marine biologists studying the region. Unbelievable varieties and quantities of marine organisms thrive in the swirling currents here. For example, divers can marvel at the clouds of anthias that obscure the views of the corals while searching for large pelagic fish or tiny macro subjects. The currents can be strong and swift here, so dives should be timed appropriately with tidal movements, but the rewards of diving Verde Island are plenty.
As we returned to Puerto Galera, we reflected on the wonderful experiences of our dive safari around Mindoro and we contemplated the changes that are taking place around the world. Everywhere on the planet, the climate is changing. The oceans, too, are warming. Rainfall is more acidic. Coral reefs are under siege and bleaching events are becoming more widespread and dramatic. Entire ecosystems are transforming as some species are dying off, some are relocating to cooler waters and other species are adapting to changing conditions and thriving.
Some of what we’ve come to cherish in our oceans will likely disappear and some of it will transform. Perhaps new and beautiful things will emerge from these changes. As the earthquakes of our first night on the safari remind us, things often move at a geological pace on the Earth. For now, the wonders of the underwater world surrounding the Philippines’ Mindoro Island remind us of what is precious about our marine world…and what we stand to lose if we don’t protect it.
Spotlight on Marco Vincent Dive Resort
Located on White Beach in Puerto Galera is the Marco Vincent Dive Resort. This Mediterranean inspired property boasts 38 tastefully furnished rooms that are the most spacious in the Puerto Galera Area. All rooms are equipped with cable television, LED TV, refrigerator, A/C system, hot/cold showers and WIFI Internet connection. The resort features 3 restaurants (2 on-site and 1 beach front), an indoor pool and Jacuzzi as well as a full service dive shop located adjacent to the property.
Guests of Macro Vincent Dive Resort are taken care of the moment they arrive into the country. Representatives will personally meet guests at the airport, take them to the port at Batangas and arrange for ferry transport to Puerto Galera, which takes about 1-1/2 hours. Throughout their stay, a very cheerful, capable and helpful staff tends to the needs of resort guests.
Marco Vincent Divers currently features two dive boats: Lady Merci is a 40-foot single hull dive boat fully equipped to comfortably support the needs of divers. Big Beth is an impressive 82-foot custom equipped dive boat that can accommodate up to 28 divers on dives to Verde Island, Puerto Galera and remote locations such as Anilao. The dive center has a full complement of rental gear and offers a variety of PADI training options. It is complete with a swimming pool, classroom facilities, gear washing area, lockers and Nitrox capabilities.
Visitors to any area, including Puerto Galera, should take some time to experience more than just the sites under the water. The staff at Marco Vincent can arrange for zip line tours, treks to nearby volcanoes and waterfalls, and visits to World War II sites, including Corrigedor Island, home to a fascinating war memorial and museum.
The gateway city into the Philippines is Manila. Flights arrive from numerous locations around the world, with many convenient connections available through Hong Kong. From Manila, various travel options, including domestic flights and ferry services, are available to other provinces in the country.
For US visitors, a VISA is not required. If you are a citizen of another country, check the VISA requirements before planning your trip.
A valid passport is required for entry, and must be valid for 6 months after arrival.
Immunizations and Medicine
As with any travel to tropical regions, make sure all your vaccinations are up to date! All travelers should visit their personal physician or a travel health clinic to discuss what vaccinations (e.g., Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Typhoid, or Tetanus-diphtheria) and travel medicine are recommended. All medicine should be packed in their original, clearly labeled containers. Having a signed and dated letter from a physician describing your medical conditions and medications is suggested.
Note: Travel health clinics usually provide more detailed health protection measures since they specialize in travel medicine. Beware of travelers’ diarrhea, which is the most common travel-related ailment. Insect protection is a must and essential!
Baggage allowances vary for each international carrier so check before you leave.
The Philippines has a tropical climate. There are basically two seasons: the wet season (May-October) and the dry season (November-April). April and May are the two warmest months, marked by high temperatures and humidity. During these months, temperatures can reach 90 degrees F or higher. In the cooler months of December and January, temperatures moderate with less humidity.
The Philippines is in the tropical cyclone belt, and typhoons threaten the region between July and October. Typhoon Yolanda struck the southern regions on November 8, 2013, with devastating results. The damage and affects were limited to the south, however, and Puerto Galera and Verde Island were not affected in any way.
The local currency is the Philipino Peso but US Dollars are often accepted at all resorts.
Power voltage used in the Philippines is 220 Volts (50 Hz). Be sure to double-check your appliance’s compatibility before plugging them in. Converters / adaptors are usually available upon request at your hotel front desk. Travel Adapter: Round Pin Universal Plug
A major metropolis straddling the southwestern edge of Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota is regarded as one of the Midwest’s premiere destinations for scuba exploration and outdoor adventure
The crisp, still environment shared with other Great Lakes ports, combined with adventures down below, give pause to those who explore its reaches; and beyond the greater Duluth area, further sub surface expeditions await. As we will find, the chilly waters from Duluth to Isle Royale National Park offer an array of scuba diving sites suitable for diving aficionados of all skill levels: from shallow shores off historically important landmarks to deep wrecks that share their own unique history.
According to Joe Cheetham, experienced local diver and master dive instructor for Lake Superior Divers Supply and School in Duluth, the area from his headquarters to Isle Royale National Park offers a fair challenge for scuba explorers, especially those who are unaccustomed to exploring colder waters, and helps prep them for more colorful environments:
“There’s a sense of adventure, and the skills you need aren’t simple, but once practiced and the diver becomes comfortable and safe, Lake Superior itself is an interesting body of water to dive in: and from there you can go into underwater photography or diving shipwrecks. It’s rather cool so there are special [considerations] like more intensive equipment, though nothing too extreme. It adapts you to diving in different situations in many types of water.”
Two Harbors and Medeira
For training and shallow recreational pursuits, Cheetham and Lake Superior Divers Supply and School frequently take divers to Two Harbors: a city nearly 30 miles northeast along the coast. Heading off the historic Split Rock Lighthouse State Park provides a scenic and safe environment.
“It’s nice because they’ve got a parking lot,” Cheetham laughs. “DNR has put in a nice launching area for boats and harbor access for sport fisherman. It’s a safe harbor with a nice breakwall structure, which you can walk off and jump into 60 to 80 feet of water. The easy access offers multiple possibilities for training new divers in an open water situation for certifying and advanced classes.”
Prepping for a wreck diving lifestyle can be a challenging ordeal, especially when deeper shipwrecks prove daunting. Another reason for Two Harbors’ popularity is in the wreck of the Medeira: a 436-foot steel hull ship, which sunk north of Split Rock Lighthouse in November of 1905. Resting in 20 to 110 feet of water, the Madeirais considered one of Minnesota’s best shipwrecks for its multi-tiered position and easy access.
“It has its range of depths, and it’s not a difficult dive other than to swim out there,” Cheetham explains. “Within the range, you can get from 25 to 100 feet just diving on a rather nice shipwreck. It’s not one that you can get inside because it’s not that big, but it represents an interesting aspect of diving on a shipwreck: historical fact.”
Past Two Harbors and the wreck of the Medeira, divers launching from Duluth will more often than not find their way to greater Lake Superior and its bounty of shipwrecks, particularly in Isle Royale National Park: a 45-mile-long island, which hugs the border between Minnesota and Michigan.
Isle Royale National Park
“When people think of Lake Superior – especially people around this area – they think of cold,” says Cheetham. “It’s not the most interesting environment for seeing colorful fish or reefs all the time, but it has its own charms underwater: like seeing structures and how they change.”
The journey from Duluth to Isle Royale is fairly lengthy, but the stillness of the crisp northern air, coupled with the anticipation of exploring wrecks from yesteryear merits a character of its own. Currently, the park is in close proximity to 10 shipwrecks, which range from 19thcentury wooden steamers to 20thcentury steel freighters: each one carrying its unique history including visual evidence of its sinking. All wrecks near the island park are listed on the National Register, and as federal law dictates, removing artifacts or pieces of the forlorn vessels carries stringent penalties.
“Because of the depth and coldness of the water, the ships haven’t deteriorated quite to the extent of wrecks in warm or salt water; they look like they just sank,” Cheetham explains. “There are so many wrecks in the area that are easy to dive because there’s so many to choose from, and you need to do a charter: spending five days or a weekend trip.”
Lake Superior’s Isle Royale National Park is well maintained and regulated by the National Park Service who have placed a series of mooring buoys throughout the area to help scuba explorers easily find their choice destinations, and prevent or reduce damage to aqua environments and vessels below. Because of its remoteness, the park is a naturalist’s dream, offering sightseeing, wildlife observation and photography, camping, hiking, and many other natural wonders; on the other hand, its isolated status also means there are few amenities nearby, with divers often stopping at the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino for overnight accommodations and phone services. Camping on the island is a popular alternative, and with 36 camping sites, there are plenty of options to choose from; though park services are closed from November until mid-April. Cheetham strongly recommends scuba explorers pick a liveaboard operation to get the most out of underwater exploration, and he and his company choose Michigan business Isle Royale Charters as their go-to operator.
For more information on Isle Royale National Park, including regulations and permits needed to explore the island, and events and happenings throughout the year, visit the National Park Services’ webpage at www.nps.gov/isro.
Out of all 10 wrecks off the island park, Cheetham prefers the remnants of the Emperor: a large, multi-tiered steel freighter locale on Isle Royale’s northeastern most side, which starts at easier depths hovering 25 feet, and slopes to about 175 feet at the stern.
Cheetham’s praise for the mighty Emperor expands beyond the island proper, and he considers it one of his absolute favorites within Lake Superior’s entirety. He describes a particular encounter, which solidified his love for it:
“It sank mostly intact, sitting inclined on the reef. We worked our way down the rails on the side of the ship, and on one section the vessel was standing agape on the reef so we could swim under it – at about 75 feet – which I had never done before. We descended to about 140 or so into the engine room, seeing emergency plaques for the crewmates. We moseyed around the engine room, and came up through the hatch. It was probably the coolest wreck dive I’ve had in Lake Superior.”
Measuring in at 525 feet, the Emperor was built in 1910 and was owned by the Canadian Steamships Line. Emperor met her end in June of 1947 after running aground on a shoal off Isle Royale and sank. Because of her dual range of depth, novice and advanced divers can get a lot out of this site. Divers generally explore her deck and stern, which still hold machinery and equipment; shallower portions of the wreck have been damaged by ice, and her pilothouse has completely deteriorated. Underwater photographers will want to keep a close eye on intact anchors, propellers and blades, and other Progressive Era instruments.
As mentioned earlier, scuba explorers who want to get the most out of Isle Royale National Park should plan a long excursion to get the most out of their diving vacation. Other wrecks off the island, though no less important than the Emperor, include the Algoma, America, Chisholm, Congdon, Cox, Cumberland, Glenlyon, Kamloops, and Monarch.
Whether for training or recreational diving, or sojourning to sites beyond the immediate area, scuba diving near Duluth provides unique opportunities for a variety of divers. From the acclaimed port city to Two Harbors to beloved Isle Royale, this pocket of Lake Superior is an area not to be missed.
Nineteen fifty seven gave rise to the original Japanese Kaiju, Godzilla: the creature who rose from the depths of the ocean. When the Japanese freighter Eiko-maru is destroyed near Odo Island, another ship, the Bingo-maruis sent to investigate and meets the same fate as the first. Fishing boats are destroyed, fishing catches mysteriously drop, and suddenly folklore concerning a giant sea monster emerges. Japanese scientists speculate this deep-sea monster may have awoken from his deep sleep from the hydrogen bomb testing. The research team determined a weapon called the Oxygen Destroyer, capable of disintegrating oxygen atoms and killing organisms by asphyxiation, would destroy the monster. Although the plan to destroy Godzilla was successful, the researchers left us with a dire warning: further nuclear weapons testing may give rise to another Godzilla in the future.
The Bikini Atoll, birthplace of Godzilla, is a place where hazmat suits were once donned, and bikinis cast aside. While the name evokes tropical scenery, endless sandy beaches, and beautiful women dressed in tiny swimsuits, this is not the case.
Bikini Atoll is one of the 29 atolls and five islands that comprise the Marshall Islands. These atolls of the Marshalls are scattered over 357,000 square miles located north of the equator in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. This lonely part of the world is defined as Micronesia, first discovered by the Spanish in the 1600s and then later by the Germans. The Bikini Islanders maintained little to no contact with the outsiders because of the Bikini Atoll’s remote location in the northern Marshalls. The southern atolls were more attractive to the early visitors because of the fertile, lush topography. In the early 1900s, the Japanese began to administer the Marshall Islands and after a bloody and gruesome war in 1944, the Bikini Islanders’ life of harmony drew to a close as the American forces crushed the Japanese forces, taking control of the islands.
After the war ended in December of 1945, President Harry S. Truman issued a directive to Army and Navy officials to begin testing atomic weapons to determine the effects of airborne and underwater nuclear explosions on ships, equipment, and materials. A fleet of 95 surplus and captured ships were used as targets, including the Saratoga, the Arkansas, and the Japanese battleship Nagato. In March of 1946, the residents of Bikini Atoll were forcibly relocated in preparation for Operation Crossroads, and over the next 12 years, the United States delivered and detonated a total of 23 atomic and hydrogen bombs on this tiny slice of paradise, rendering it uninhabitable to this date.
The Bikini Atoll, a chain of 23 islands with inviting sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, and a turquoise lagoon, present an idyllic beach paradise and a startling paradox for the nuclear age. It is an incredible feat of nature that this natural wonder in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, once rocked violently by nuclear bomb blasts, appears so beautiful and abundant almost 70 years later. From the air, Bikini is an inviting paradise with lush green grasses and unchecked vegetation, the coral reef has regrown, and the lagoon is crystalline. Few homes remain in standing condition, providing the unsuspecting traveler a glimpse of what was once civilization on this now deserted island. From the air, her secrets are intact.
Much like radiation, the impacts of World War II, the Cold War, and the continued nuclear arms race linger. When the United States government persuaded the residents to leave their homes they were promised they would be able to return as soon as the testing ended. It has been more than half a centurysince Commodore Ben H. Wyatt, the military governor of the Marshalls asked the Bikinians to leave their atoll for the “good of mankind and to end all world wars”.
From the time of their exile in 1946 to present, the Bikinians struggled to cope with their new existence. They were transported from atoll to atoll, likened to the Biblical exodus of the Israelites struggling for survival. While they hoped for relief from their struggles, their once beautiful paradise was in the process of being destroyed. Operation Castle began in January of 1954: a series of tests that would include the first air-deliverable and the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever detonated by the United States – its code name was Bravo. As the sun rose across the horizon on March 1, 1954, Bravo was detonated on the surface of the reef in the northwestern corner of Bikini Atoll. Coral, sand, plant, and marine life were obliterated. A fireball of intense heat shot toward the sky at 300 miles per hour. Within minutes a grotesque plume of ash filled with nuclear debris, shot upwards toward the sky generating winds hundreds of miles an hour. The gusts stripped the island of life – peeling each branch and vegetation from the soil. Shortly thereafter, a white snow-like ash fell on everything including the Rongelap and Ailinginae Atolls, located 125 miles east of Bikini. A total of 84 people living on the islands, including children who played in the fallout, became the casualties for this massive explosion. That night the children fell ill to radiation poisoning and were moved to Kwajalein Atoll.
Bravo was a thousand times more powerful than the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the end of World War II. One and a half hours after the 15-megaton blast, 23 members of a Japanese fishing boat, the Fukuryu-maru (Lucky Dragon), were also contaminated as they watched in awe the white ash fall on them. These men had no idea they would become part of a scandal that rocked their nation. This explosion eventually became the inspiration for the original movie Godzilla.
After 23 detonations, the nuclear testing on Bikini ended in 1958, although it wasn’t until the early 1970s the residents would be able to return to their once fertile home. This homecoming celebration was cut short, however, after the Trust Territory officials discovered the radioactive element most prevalent on Bikini, cesium 137, had travelled through the food chain and into the bodies of the islanders. Evidence of radiation persists, though neighboring atolls present less risk. Today the people of Bikini remain scattered throughout the Marshall Islands as they await to return to their homeland once again. Bikini remains uninhabited yet it is not abandoned. In the early 1990s, divers and tourism agencies began to show a keen interest in Bikini’s alluring scenery, and after much consideration the government opened the atoll to visitors in June of 1996. The hope is to expand the economic base for possible future resettlement of the Bikinians.
Today the Bikini Atoll presents an exciting adventure for enthusiastic underwater explorers who want to experience her lush green topography topside and dive into the mysterious remains of the ships who were also casualties of the nuclear testing. As divers descend upon these shipwrecks, now laying in their watery graves, they can gain an incredible appreciation for their incredible and violent history.
Under the turquoise lagoon, the bones of Navy vessels, a Japanese cruiser, and a Japanese battleship. The main drivers for the nuclear testing was the United States Navy who were concerned with nuclear weapons obliterating their fleets. Brushing aside any opposition to the testing, the military loaded up an estimated $450 million dollars’ worth of target ships with livestock, including cows, goats, and guinea pigs. Operation Crossroads left behind a sunken fleet of some of the most historic war vessels once in commission. The testing resulted in serious radioactivity and environmental damage and yet despite a low-level of persisting radioactivity, the 13 wrecks that quietly sit on the bottom of the lagoon have proved to be a draw for recreational diving and tourism.
Bikini’s “nuclear fleet” mainstay is the USS Saratoga(CV-3), built for the United States Navy in the 1920s and measuring 900ft in length is the world’s only diveable aircraft carrier. Originally designed as a battlecruiser, she was converted into one of the Navy’s first aircraft carriers in 1928. USS Saratogawas one of the three prewar US fleet aircraft carriers to serve throughout World War II. She served in the Guadalcanal Campaign, Battle of the eastern Solomons, New Georgia Campaign, invasion of Bougainville, and provided air support during the Gilbert and Marshall Islands Campaign. After a short career as a training vessel she was thrust into service in 1945 into the Battle of Iwo Jima as a dedicated night fighter carrier. In 1946 her illustrious career culminated in being designated as a target ship for nuclear testing during Operation Crossroads. She survived the first test with little damage then sunk during the next test.
Alongside the USS Saratoga lays the USS Arkansas(BB-33), designated as a dreadnought battleship. Dreadnought’s design had two revolutionary features: an “all-big-gun” armament scheme, with heavy caliber guns, and steam turbine propulsion. These vessels became the symbol of national power of the early 20th century. Commissioned in September 1912, USS Arkansasserved in both World Wars. During World War I she served as part of Battleship Division Nine, attached to the British Grand fleet, but saw no action. Following the beginning of World War II she was assigned to conduct neutrality patrols in the Atlantic. Upon America’s entry into the war she supported the invasion of Normandy and then provided gunfire support to the invasion of southern France. In 1945, she transferred to the Pacific Ocean and bombarded Japanese fleets during both invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In 1946 her service ended as an expended target during Operation Crossroads.
Another interesting ship with its own unique history is the YO-160, built in 1943 by the Concrete Ship Constructors of National City, California for the Maritime Commission. This concrete ship was in active service as a fuel barge in the Pacific Ocean before she was expended as part of the nuclear testing program with Operation Crossroads. She survived the first test performed on July 1, 1946 although upon inspection was deemed radioactive limiting personnel access of up to five hours at a time. On July 24, she was then used for a secondary test and sank immediately after the blast, primarily due to damage caused prior to the secondary blast.
The USS Gilliam(APA-57), launched in March of 1944 and named after Gilliam County in Oregon, was the lead ship her class as an attack transport during World War II. Gilliam served in the United States Navy for a short two years before she was prepared to participate in in the atomic bomb testing in 1946. USS Gilliamwas expended as a target ship on July 1, 1946 and the first ship struck by the blast. She sunk to the bottom of the lagoon.
USS Anderson(DD-411) was the first of the Sims class destroyers to be delivered to the United States Navy in 1939. She served in the Joint Task Force 1 in Pearl harbor after which she was slated to be utilized in Operation Crossroads. USS Andersonsank on July 1, 1946.
Also gracing the bottom of Bikini’s lagoon is Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s 708-foot flagship, the battleship Nagato. She was a super-dreadnought battleship built for the Imperial Japanese Navy during 1910. She was designated the lead ship of her class serving as a supply carrier for the survivors of the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923. Between 1934 and 1936 she was provided improvements in her armor and machinery. Nagato briefly participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War on 1937 then later served as the flagship of Admiral Yamamoto during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The USS Apogon (SS-308) was a Balao-class submarine named after the apogon saltwater fish found in tropical and subtropical waters. She was sunk at Bikini during the atomic bomb test “Baker” on July 25, 1946.
The USS Carlisle (APA-69), acquired by the Navy in 1944, was a Gilliam-class attack transport vessel serving in World War II. She never served in active combat and after working as a transport vessel she was reassigned as a target vessel for Operation Crossroads. She was sunk on July 1, 1946.
Launched in July of 1944, USS LSM-60 was a World War II landing ship, medium (LSM) amphibious assault ship of the United States Navy. She was most notable for being the first naval vessel to deploy a nuclear weapon. Her cargo deck and hull were modified to lower and suspend a fission bomb used in underwater testing. The bomb was suspended 90 feet below the vessel in the lagoon and on July 25, 1946 sank along with eight other target ships as the bomb detonated. She was sunk along with the USS Saratoga. Seamen onsite claimed that “there were no identifiable pieces” of her remaining after the detonation.
The USS Lamson (DD-367) was a Mahan-class destroyer in the United States Navy. She served in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, participated in the Battle of Tassafaronga, and remained undamaged until being hit by a kamikaze during the recapture of the Philippines. USS Lamsonwas reassigned to serve s a test vessel for Operation Crossroads in 1946, where she sank.
The ARDC-13, built in December of 1945, was a 2800-ton dry dock built and used during the Able and Baker nuclear weapons testing of Operations Crossroads. She was specifically commissioned to determine the effects of a nuclear explosion on land-based concrete structures. The ARDC-13’s design was important for better understanding in determining the need to build structures that could withstand severe waves and flooding especially for ports considered as targets for bombs. She structurally survived the first test although she did have some repairs made in preparation for the second. She was repositioned from her initial location in preparation for test B and sank in 1946.
The USS Pilotfish (SS-386) was a Balao-class submarine named after the pilot fish often found in the company of sharks. There is some controversy surrounding her final disposal during the Bikini testing. In July of 1946 she was selected for disposal in Operation Crossroads. Moored 363 yards (332 meters) from “surface zero” and sunk by the test Baker underwater explosion. The explosion’s pressure waves compressed her hull, forcing her hatches open, and flooding her entirely. Some sources claim; however, that the wreck was resurfaced and used again during Operation Sandstone in 1948. This general narrative has been disclaimed as a false narrative by the US National Park Service.
The Japanese cruiser, Sakawa, an Agano-class cruiser which served with the Imperial Japanese Navy and served during World War II, was best known for her role in the atomic testing during Operation Crossroads on July 2, 1946. Sakawa, along with Nagatowere the primary target ships in the atomic bomb air burst test Able. She was moored off the portside of the Nevada where the bomb was to be dropped, she was carrying various cages with live animals used as test subjects for radiation effects. The intense blast caused her to burn, crushing her superstructure, damaging her hull and breaching her stern. After failed attempts to tow her from the detonation site in hopes to salvage her, she sank.
These 13 vessels, now resting on the bottom of the lagoon in the Bikini Atoll, bear witness to the beginning of the Cold War – the race to develop weapons capable of mass destruction to balance the political and geographic structure of world powers. The United States resumed their nuclear testing program in the Pacific Ocean after deploying and successfully detonating atomic bombs during the final stage of World War II on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively. As a result of the massive destruction, the realization that these weapons could be used in further assaults became apparent to not only the United States but other countries who were also developing their own weapons programs.
The Bikini Atoll has conserved the tangible evidence of the power of nuclear testing. The violence witnessed on the landscape and living elements on the islands demonstrate the consequences on the environment and health of those who have been exposed to the blasts and radiation. These tests gave rise to images and symbols of the developing nuclear age, and led to the development of national and international movements advocating disarmament. The Cold War and its events have left a significant legacy. Bikini Atoll, now an image of idyllic peace and tranquility, symbolizes the dawn of a nuclear age that helped shape the foundation of the United States, Russia, China, and the British Empire.
While Godzilla is fictional, the circumstances that led to his creation were very real and more than anyone, the Japanese fully understood the impacts of a nuclear war.
The mention of Hawaii evokes images of beautiful resorts, pristine waters, sandy white beaches, luau festivities, volcanoes, lava tubes, tropical foods, and lots of sunshine. All the Hawaiian islands are beautiful and unique, home to 1,200 miles of coral reef, lush underwater gardens, legendary volcanoes, and unapparelled adventure. Hawaii is viewed as the dream vacation by almost anyone in the world, a meeting point between the east and west, its appeal sustained through economic upheaval, cultural evolutions, and political changes.
Hawaii is often seen as a resort destination; parents with children frolicking on the beaches, couples enjoying quiet dinners on the lanai, and thrill seekers diving into lava tubes. Hawaii has an appeal for everyone including scuba divers who discover the allure of the underwater world surrounding this paradise; no wonder the Polynesians risked a 2,000 mile journey from the Marquesas islands.
With 96 dive operators, all small business owners, to choose from across all the islands, there is no shortage of scuba adventures. Divers don their wetsuits as they travel through the ancient lava caverns of Lanai Cathedrals, snorkel in the tide pools near Hulopoe Bay, explore the coral reefs fringing the Hawaiian Islands off the south shore of Molokai, investigate lush underwater gardens teeming with green sea turtles, rays, and spotted fish, and explore Shark’s Cove on the North Shore of Oahu.
While it may seem scuba diving and snorkeling would be at the top of tourism pamphlets; with so much water surrounding the islands, often it goes unnoticed by agencies like the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Visitors Bureaus. To the local dive shops and charters it would seem Hawaii was a sure sell for scuba diving, and while dive shops like Lahaina Divers located in Maui take on average 96 people a day to dive, snorkel, or engage in other water activities, the tourism agencies neglect to include scuba diving in the annual budgets or as part of the marketing draw to the islands.
To mitigate this neglect, Hawaiian Islands Recreational Scuba Association (HIRSA) actively sought to transform themselves into a marketing platform for their members by showing the industry that through collaborative efforts they could become a powerful force in Hawaii. The small businesses could represent themselves as a group rather than the individual business owners matching up against the other larger sports and activities like surf and fishing vying for the tourism dollars. With the support of William Cline from the Cline Group Inc., who released their findings in the 2017 Hawaiian Islands Scuba Diving Economic Impact Study, HIRSA finally had real valuable statistics and data to present their case to the tourism agencies.
The Cline Group Inc. agreed to take on this challenging task to determine the viability of scuba diving as a tourism draw to the islands. Upon agreeing to a collaborative effort to work on the survey, HIRSA president, Lauren Smith actively sought out the 96 active scuba operations on the islands to glean the information necessary for completing the economic survey. Much like most industries in today’s economic market the challenge was gaining the individual business’s attention since most everyone tends to fend for themselves especially in a competitive market like Hawaii where the competition includes mostly land based activities.
According to Smith, “The goal of the study is to have the Hawaiian Islands as a top contender in the international market of scuba diving destinations. The individual dive operations that are promoting Hawaii are competing with countries and tourism bureaus that spend a lot of their tourism budgets on promoting themselves as a scuba diving destination. Hawaii is underrepresented in this market place. We compete with some highly visible diving destinations in the Pacific such as Thailand, Philippines, and Fiji.”
She continues, ”HTA (Hawaii Tourism Association) and the state could really create an amazing opportunity for the tourism of Hawaii. Supporting Hawaii’s presence at national and international trade shows, advertising focused on the Hawaii as a Scuba Diving Destination, and even including scuba diving in their tourism studies.”
The study conducted by the Cline Group, Inc. took place over four months and included a unique algorithm developed by William Cline of Cline Group to create the total economic impact. The comprehensive study included comparing the dive operator’s feedback to the data presented by the local tourism authority. Ultimately after having to identify and separate the different scuba elements present both on the island and inbound tourism, concluded that in 2017 there were 356,148 divers that participated in scuba activities in Hawaii’s waters. The total estimated economic impact of these scuba divers is a staggering $519,887,657.47 per year, including an estimated 1,079,460 in room nights specifically generated as a result of scuba diving activities.
Smith elaborates on the findings, “We concentrated solely on the Scuba Industry. Future studies can include snorkeling operations, which would make the total estimated impact of scuba diving and snorkeling together staggering. This study concentrated on the State as a whole. We find that. The scuba industry has problem with growth on the islands; however, what could be seen as a hinderance for Hawaiian islands scuba industry competing on an international level, is that the marketing of the industry has relied on about sixteen dive operations in Hawaii united and actively promoting Hawaii as a diving destination both nationally and internationally for years at their own expense.”
Tim Means, general manager of Lahaina Divers a scuba tour agency, agrees with the study results emphasizing the need to gain the HTA’s attention. Means has served in numerous roles with HIRSA over the past 10 years and believes strongly in the work they do and the cooperative success of the local operators working together.
Lahaina Divers, established in 1978, has been providing divers access to some of Hawaii’s best diving destinations like Molokini Crater, the Cathedrals of Lanai, and sites along the shoreline of Maui where divers and snorkelers can see incredible flora and fauna. They know all too well the marketing efforts and dollars it takes to promote scuba diving on the islands. They have seen millions of dollars supporting the surf industry while their calls for support have gone unnoticed.
Means states, “The study made a significant impact on scuba diving as a tourism attraction to the islands. Hawaii is seen more as a resort destination with good diving – we can clearly demonstrate scuba has an economic affect. Due to the study we have the first opportunity in DEMA history of showcasing the Hawaiian Islands as a destination with a Pavilion. The pavilion is subsidized by the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEBT). This subsidy will allow 12 operators, many of whom financially could not attend DEMA in the past, to showcase their operations as well as encourage scuba divers to see the islands as more than a resort destination. In the past we had maybe three or four operators who could attend and unfortunately did not have a cooperative presence but rather scattered around the show floor.“
It is hoped that the local and state governments and agencies realize the potential of scuba to generate room nights and revenues for the local economy.
There’s certainly no denying that Hawaii has a special charm. Top side Hawaii offers amazing weather year round with a stunning landscape, filled with waterfalls, rainforests, volcanoes, and endless beaches. Hawaiian flora is also well-known for its colorful and unique beauty. Visitors can also come close to many animals, including, hundreds of different fish species, spinner & bottlenose dolphins, sharks, whales, dozens of tropical bird species, and sea turtles. Under the waves Hawaii is no less majestic as it offers scuba divers an incredible underwater paradise.
Paradise awaits you!
To learn more:
The Hawaiian Islands Recreational Scuba Association is the official state of Hawaii dive association and represents members across all the islands to local, county, state and federal government. H.I.R.S.A.: www.HawaiianScuba.org.
William Cline is president of Cline Group, a Dallas-Based Advertising, Research and Consulting firm with 30- plus years of Scuba Diving specific marketing experience with clients from around the globe. www.williamcline.com.
Article by Rick Stratton: Photos Courtesy Bandito Charters and Underwater Sports
Tacoma, the city of Destiny, is a hub of business and adventure. Located south of Seattle, it is home to over one hundred thousand, and full of fun places to visit. Tacoma has a rich history; it was founded in 1875 and named after the nearby Mount Rainer, originally called Takhoma or Tahoma. Tacoma, being situated on the waterfront of the Puget Sound, served as an end of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and is still a mecca for transporting goods, with the Port of Tacoma being Washington’s biggest port. However, not everything in Tacoma has to do with business and ports; folks, especially divers looking for adventure have a plethora of dive sites and watersports to explore.
The Tacoma Waterfront is the ideal location to explore and discover Tacoma’s colorful history, from early days of boatyards, warehouses, and mills, to today’s booming water- front. Its scenic views and walks, fine dining, and historical sites of local importance. Other activities on the waterfront include fishing at Les Davis Fishing Pier, and parasailing where you can get stunning views of the Port of Tacoma and Mount Rainer in the distance. Visitors young and old enjoy the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, which features animals on land and underwater.
Another locale of interest is Rustin Point: a development north of the waterfront where visitors can find artisanal retail stores and theaters as well as restaurants and cafes.
Arly Buchanan, store manager for Lighthouse Diving in Tacoma is a retired US Navy oceanography officer who has been leading dives in the area since 1974. Buchanan loves the diving here because of its quality – and it’s why he lives in the Pacific Northwest.
“This is the best day in and day out diving in the world,” explains Buchan- an. “All of the Pacific Northwest is great but because of the economics of the area, it is cheaper to live in Tacoma and we have lots of great dive sites here in Tacoma.”
Mike Adams, store manager for Underwater Sports in Lakewood attended college at the University of Puget Sound during which he logged several hundred dives in the Tacoma area.
“The Sound used to be very polluted along the Tacoma waterfront – it was questionable if you wanted to dive there,” he says. “Now, that has changed dramatically. The Tacoma waterfront is so much cleaner and has better access than ever. It’s a night and day difference.”
Rick Myers, owner of Bandito Charters loves the diving in Puget Sound. “I love the diving here in Tacoma, its why we have been here for more than 20 years,” exclaims Myers. “When out of town guests come here, they ask – where do we dive – I always recommend Tacoma!”
Specific Dive Sites in the Tacoma area:
Browns Point is located on the north point of Commencement Bay in Tacoma, and is home to the Browns Point Lighthouse, located on four acres. This site is not well known and is rarely listed in many dive guides because of the lack of bottom structure. The dive consists of a relatively easy shore walk in entry in the intertidal area. The bottom consists of sandy silted gravel bottom sparsely covered by patches of eelgrass. Red rock crabs, sanddabs, burrowing anemones, and sole are usually found here.
“I dove this site a lot when I was in college and have done a couple of dives there since. It has a gently sloping sandy-silty bottom that doesn’t have a lot of life on it,” he says. “But it does make a nice site for a night dive. You can do a nice drift dive from Brown’s Point to nearby Dash Point, if you catch the current right.” – Mike Adams.
Depth ranges from the surface to more than 60 feet. This area is current- swept and the and lack of structure has kept sea life from making their home here. This site has current and boat traffic and should be dove only a gentile flooding current or high slack for best visibility. The site attracts salmon fishermen and anglers – fly a large dive flag when visiting here. Dash Point State Park
Beyond scuba diving, Dash Point State Park, located between Seattle and Tacoma, offers miles of adventure. Key features here include hiking, biking, beachcombing, fishing, boarding, and other activities. These activities are suitable for travelers of all ages.
“There are several seapen fields on the site with beautiful ones jutting from the floor,” says Buchanan who sometimes leads training dives at this location. “The combination of seapens and bioluminescence in the fall makes for incredible night dives.”
“I recommend diving there in the spring months – March through June
Adams recommends to look for nesting cabezon in the debris fields that lay on the bottom down to 70 feet,” says Adams. “Most divers go to the right of the pier be- cause it’s closer to the parking lot. There’s also a wreck at this site, located about 200 feet – the is “way beyond recreational limits.”
This site is a relatively easy beginner site with plenty of parking, nearby amenities, restrooms, showers and access that make this site worth a try. While there is not much large life to see, the relative ease of the dive makes it stand out. This site has a very gentle slope in the intertidal zone making it very shallow. Divers beware this site attracts fishermen with large hooks.
Foss Waterway Seaport Maritime Museum
While not a dive site, the seaport is worth mentioning. Located at Tacoma’s original deep-water dock and moorage site, at 705 Dock Street in Tacoma, the Seaport provides an “activities-focused” public waterfront space to help connect people to Tacoma’s rich waterfront history.
According to Wes Wenhardt, Executive Director Foss Water- way Seaport Maritime Museum: “The Foss Waterway Seaport Mari- time Museum celebrates Tacoma’s rich maritime heritage, past, present, and future. [It is] located on the historic Thea Foss waterway, in a century old wooden wheat warehouse, listed on the national register of historic places.
“The museum has a dive connection called Pier to Peer, which hosts dives with a diver in full face mask through a video camera and live link. People can converse with the diver as he/she collects items for later explanation on shore. The items are temporarily captured and then later released. Local diver and Washington Scuba Alliance (WSA) Vice-President Randy Williams often leads these dives and has been working with the Museum for a number of years.”
The Seaport Museum is also home to the Flashback Scuba Museum, founded in 2000 by local diver and historian Ryan Spence. The Flashback exhibits offer a brief glimpse at the large historic impact that the sport and world of commercial diving has had in Tacoma. Beginning as a small scuba project with a private collection of working vintage dive equipment, the project has expanded over the years to include the Nick Icorn collection, one of the largest private collections of historic dive gear in North America.
According to Spence: “The project was conceived of as a way of connecting with the past and finding adventure in the present. It has grown over the past 15 years into something bigger. We now have a much larger selection of working equipment, a large photo, film and document archives and one of the largest collections of original Cousteau equipment in the world. “ explained Spence.
“It is not just the equipment that captivates our attention, however, it is the stories and the people behind its development. It is the people and their stories that make the history come alive. The Flashback Scuba project has taken many people and partnerships to get to where we are today and we believe partnerships are the key to the future.” – Ryan Spence
Les Davis Marine Park
Located on the southwest shore of Commencement Bay on the water- front on Ruston Way, near the mouth of the Puyallup River lies the Les Davis Marine Park. This is one of the most popular dive sites in Washington due to its easy access, nearby parking, and upkeep from the Washing- ton Scuba Alliance. Les Davis easily accessible dive site that is protected from current and open around the clock. The highlight of this dive is the artificial reef created by old concrete bridge decking. It provides structure for fish, crab and other marine organ- isms. The reef is located between 40 and 70 feet deep.
Says Buchanan: “Les Davis is by far the most popular training dive site in the Tacoma area. Shops from all over the Northwest, especially nearby Oregon divers often travel to Tacoma to dive there. The reason for this popularity is predictable dive conditions and lots of life to see. The site usually has very minimal current, which does create a somewhat silty bottom, so good buoyancy control is necessary to keep it from ‘silting out’.
“It has lots of life to see. The artificial reef has tremendous life on it with plumose anemones, nudibranchs, pectin scallops, sea stars, surf perch, kelp greenling, lingcod, lots of different species of sculpins, giant Pacific octopus, and even occasionally, stubby squid.”
“Les Davis is the site that seems to have made the most massive improvement in quality over the years,” says Adams. “It is very popular site and gets quite crowded on the weekends with divers from all over the sound traveling to dive there. We tend to dive it during the week when there is less traffic, allowing us to park closer to the site and enjoy the dive better.”
WSA is working on a plan to significantly expand the footprint of the artificial reef. WSA has a plan to work with the state of Washington and the City of Tacoma to create a larger fish and invertebrate habitat at the site. Stay tuned for further developments – see www.wascuba.org for details.
Located just south of Point Defiance park on the western shore of the Tacoma Narrows, this dive site features an opportunity to see a variety of rubble and other junk while drifting along the sea floor. The reef and assorted junk pile offers refuge to a variety of sea life making this dive both interesting and challenging for local divers to visit by boat. There is no viable shore access at this site.
This site is recommended for a drift dive on a flood current. During the flood, the current near the shore will run north along the shoreline while the midchannel currents run south. Be sure to confirm the current direction and intensity prior the dive. Dive this site only from a live boat and make sure and fly a diver down flag.
There is a variety of sea life that make their homes in the myriad of junk you might find at this site. Beautiful white plumose anemones might be found on an old washing machine, a large lingcod could be found perched on an old wood stove. You never know what lies just out of view as you drift along the bottom” explains Buchannon.
Located in the west section of Point Defiance Park, Owen Beach is a great dive site for scuba explorers who want to go a bit deeper. Owen Beach offers divers a deep-water experience, starting with a drop off that goes down past 95 feet. The bottom is covered in wood and stone debris that is home to a variety of marine life. During the summer months it is even possible to spot some six- gill sharks amongst the debris. At 95 feet down there is a large barge wreck that offers the view of a variety of fish. “This site is recommended to those divers who can handle strong currents” explained Adams who leads trips there often.
The sand and gravel bottom contains a motley of wood and stone debris: within these small cracks and recesses live more types of life, which include blood stars, anemones, and red Irish lords. It’s also not uncommon to encounter iconic six gill sharks during summer months. According to Adams “Divers should exercise caution when you are learning to dive the site. The bottom drops away quickly, so you should get into the water and then swim on the surface to the wall before descending. If you descend first, even if it is only a few feet, you can end up on the wall much deeper than you intended.” – Mike Adams
“Owen Beach is a great site for a drift dive,” says Adams. “I take groups down to the beach and there is a long promenade along the beach there. You can walk nearly to the point of Point Defiance if you want to. I show new divers how establish neutral buoyance, plane out, and just drift with the current at about 35 to 50 feet. This site is perfect for that.”
Point Defiance North Wall
Located about two miles northeast of Point Defiance rests a large, extensive wall system perfect for divers that like a layered approach. The clay wall gradually descends with a series of sandy ledges and shelves of varying heights down to about 105 feet. Divers can find sculpin, octopus, greenlings, warbonnets, red Irish lords, wolf-eels, and smaller critters like stars. Because of the wall’s multitude of ledges, over- hangs, rocks, and other distinct geo- logical features, there’s plenty to see and explore” explained Rick Myers, owner of Bandito Charters who lists Point Defiance North Wall as one of his favorite sites.
Says Myers: “We love the diving the north wall. It is large site, capable of handling a lot of divers at one time without feeling crowded. We dive the north wall always on the ebb tide. It is always changing” explained Myers.
“The current comes out of the Tacoma Narrows and bends around Point Defiance. As it starts to run faster, the currents create a lee on the North Wall allowing a safe dive. Known for its structure, the site has lots of life on it but the main draw is the constantly changing look of the topography, dramatic holes, ridges, and valleys cut into a series of shelves by the current.”
Adams says: “Point Defiance doesn’t need to be a ‘boat dive’. If you are in really good shape and up to a bit of a trek you can walk from the Owen Beach parking lot down to Point Defiance and do a drift dive back.
Point Defiance West Wall
“The West Wall is spectacular. It is a pretty dramatic wall and drops straight down from 30 to 95. The site is best dove on a flood tide. You have to watch the current set up and see it developing properly. When the cur- rent gets going, it straightens out and creates a lee on the west side.”
The West Wall is a smaller site and we don’t usually go there often, explained Myers. Because it is a shorter wall, we can’t put a dozen divers on the site, but it is pretty” said Myers.
Tacoma Narrows Drift Dive
Divers can drift along the rocky shore- line north of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge for some of the best diving in the sound. Drift diving is challenging and interested persons should get training from a professional before attempting it. Sandstone shelves down deep and big anchor blocks from 55 to 90 feet scattered around from when they built the original bridge are very popular. The wall descends into a series of ledges 25 to 85-feet deep with large lingcod, greenling, giant Pacific octopus, in a kaleidoscope of colorful anemones of all kinds.
“It’s certainly an advanced dive because of the strong currents, and divers should dive the narrows drift with a local diver or professional dive charter,”says Myers.“ This is one of my customers’ favorite dives.”
“The drift from Salmon Beach down to the bridge, or back the other way – an awesome drift dive. Once I show my students how to establish neutral buoyancy, plane and drift, staying between 30 to 60, it is a relatively easy site to dive. The downward current that develops near the bridge. Because of the clay banks on the Tacoma side of the narrows bridge, a downward current develops starting between 45 to 70 feet. That can be really scary for newbies because suddenly you can be pulled into a down well, and the rock and even their bubbles are heading downward. I will always tell local divers, if you are drifting this dive to the north, start north of the bridge. To the south, be sure to exit before the bridge.”
Although the ledges continue both directions, the most dynamic and colorful portion of this area is south of the power lines and north of the bridge. Sandstone ledges to the north give way to clay ledges south of the bridge.
Mile Post 8
Located north of the bridge on the Tacoma side, noted by the “mile post 8” on the railroad tracks. This site along the eastern shore of the Narrows is noted for several sets of anchor blocks and large rocks which make excellent habitat for rockfish and lingcod.
“The site is popular during hunting season,” explains Adams, who sometimes teaches the spearfishing specialty class. “This is a more vertical dive compared to the other dives in the area which tend to be more spread out.”
“At a certain level of current, the current sets up and creates an eddy on the site,” says Myers who leads dives to this site on an ebb tide. “The main body of the current will be coming from the south, and when it sets up, it creates an eddy going to the north above about 60 feet. There is a really nice boulder field in there. It has lots of lingcod, wolf-eels, giant Pacific octopus, in there.”
Remains of the Galloping Gertie
Galloping Gertie is the original Tacoma Narrows bridge, which opened on July 1, 1940. It was called Galloping Gertie because of the vertical movements of the deck observed by construction workers during windy conditions. Later, the bridge col- lapsed into the Puget Sound on November 7. The replacement bridge wasn’t completed until October 14, 1950.
This was a relatively common dive site prior to 9/11/2001. According to Myers, he doesn’t lead dives there because of the security requirements and the lack of clear directions from the authorities who control the area. “If you ask DOT, they refer you to State Patrol. If you ask State Patrol, they refer you to the Coast Guard, who will refer you back to either State Patrol or DOT,” laughs Myers. “Nobody will give you permission to dive the site. When there’s three entities out there pointing fingers at each other, we stay away from it.”
Wreck of the Hildur Foss
Opinions are mixed on the wreck of the Hildur Foss, located in North Commencement Bay. According to self-described “obsessive wreck geeks” Scott Boyd and Jeff Carr, authors of Northwest Wreck Divers, this wreck, located in 60 to 70 feet of water, may not be the true Hildur Foss. According to the authors, the Hildur Foss was built in 1907 as a cannery tender and worked in Puget Sound for many years. She was scuttled in Commencement Bay on April 1, 1949. Due to the runoff from the nearby Puyallup River, the visibility at the site is rarely more than 10 to 15 feet. The remaining hull sits just above the silty bottom with some large steel tanks marking the wreck.
As with any wreck dive, divers should consider this an advanced dive due to the limited visibility and boat traffic from the nearby harbor. Consider river run off and avoid times with recent rains. Fly a dive flag.
“Tacoma is synonymous with three things: glass art, classic cars and outdoor adventure. As the hometown of the biggest name in studio glass art, Dale Chihuly, you’ll find his glass not only in our Museum of Glass and Tacoma Art Museum, but throughout the city in public places. Tacoma is also home to both America’s Car Museum, which is the largest car museum in North America, and the LeMay Collections at Marymount, which is the largest private automobile collection in the world. And being situated in the middle of the Pacific Northwest, we’re naturally close to nature. From all the hiking and climbing opportunities at iconic Mount Rainier just outside the city, to our waterfront which is full of public access for kayaking, SUP and SCUBA, people come here to find the true Northwest experiences they’ve heard and read about.” Says Matt Wakefield, Senior Communications Manager of Tacoma tourism agency Travel Style
Winter, spring, summer, or fall; no matter the season there is a place to dive in the Southern Puget Sound. From the walls and caverns to the detailed wrecks, there is a large variety of dive sites to explore amongst the emerald green waters. The culture is vibrant, creative, and relative to the water. There are foods that tend to every taste bud that visits the area. The tree-covered mountains are filled with paths that have seen the soles of millions of boots. It doesn’t get better than the Puget Sound, and the southern part of the sound is just the kind of emerald green paradise that attract divers from around the nation.
Article by Selene Muldowney Photos by Underwater Connection – Ben Anderson & Diver Scott Harrison
There is something magical about diving a shipwreck and knowing its history.
There is a rich maritime history that lies beneath the surface of Ohio’s Lake Erie. The history associated with these shipwrecks reveals the role marine commerce played in the development of Ohio, the Great Lakes region, and our nation. The Great Lakes were once bustling with ships of all types and sizes. Lake Erie in particular was heavily traveled, as it connected the east with the mid-west at a time when railroad lines were short and roads were nonexistent. For cities like Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit, Lake Erie was its lifeblood.
The mid to late 1800’s was a treacherous period of maritime disasters. There was little in the way of navigational equipment, and no early warning of unexpected storms. Due largely to the shallowness of Lake Erie, many a ship met her fate in unexpected gales and heavy seas.
The glory days of lake commerce are a gone, with the exception of the occasional lake freighter or fishing trawler. Between a combination of storms, fires, congestion of traffic, and alcohol, perhaps Lake Eerie hold the highest concentration of shipwrecks compared to anywhere in the world
Authors and historians, Mike and Georgann Wachter have written extensively about the waters in Lake Erie in their books, Erie Wrecks, West, Erie Wreck & Lights. They tell fascinating historical accounts of how these wrecks came to be lost and what happened to the vessels.
“Other ships were lost in collision or run aground in the fog. In our research we even found references to the ‘Lake Erie Monster’ a sea serpent of giant proportions. Regardless of the cause of the loss, the lure of a shipwreck is like no other for a diver. As you descend, you leave the present behind and enter a moment in the past. While you explore this unique time capsule, many questions go through your mind. What happened on that fateful day the ship went down? What was she carrying? Did the passengers and crew survive?
The glory days of lake commerce are a gone, with the exception of the occasional lake freighter or fishing trawler. Today, we pay respect to the maritime history in a special way; by visiting many of the ships lost. Some are well-preserved museum pieces, some show evidence of the mighty lakes wrath, but all tell a story. We’ve been telling the stories for years, come and experience them for yourself,” Wachter states.
Hundreds of shipwreck sites located in the depths of Lake Erie offering us a glimpse into our maritime history. The wrecks themselves are underwater museums, some ravaged by the storms and others simply weary with age, they all tell a story.
The lake is divided into three basins: eastern, central, and western. Some of the more popular shipwrecks reside in the eastern basin. In the central basin the shallower water and warmer temperatures tend to decay the wrecks. Beaten by the wind and waves, these wrecks are usually in much worse shape than the eastern wrecks.
While Lake Erie is the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes, she is estimated to have some 1,400 shipwrecks within her waters. The average depth is only 62 feet, with a 210 foot maximum depth on the eastern end. This contributes to diver interest as Lake Erie offers shipwreck diving within recreational and technical ranges. There are still many undiscovered vessels, hard to find and often the accounts in newspapers and books are not always available, resulting in piecing together the vessel’s history and sometimes approximating the location.
Lake Erie actively participated in Great Lakes maritime trade, and her shipwrecks represent a cross-section of the vessel types used during the 1800’s (schooners, schooner barges, tugs, sidewheel steamers, and more). These historical vessels, now laying in watery graves, were often casualties of poor navigation (resulting in collisions), storm damage, groundings and fires.
Ben Anderson, owner and instructor of Underwater Connection in Central Ohio, has been in business since 1988 and considered one of the oldest and most experienced PADI 5 Star. Underwater Connection, veteran owned and operated, offers a variety of services from scuba and free dive instruction, gear, products, and trips. They are also very involved as sponsors with MAST – many of the shop’s instructors are active members. Anderson actually grew up in Washington State but has since acclimated to the Ohio waters and shares his favorites.
Ohio’s waters are shallow by comparison to the eastern end (off New York.) This can result in her shipwrecks being less intact due to currents, weather and seasonal damage (although several penetrable shipwrecks still exist.) In addition, portions of the lake bottom are soft and silty, while others are hard sediment or stone. This can result in the vessel sinking, separating and becoming covered. Debris fields often exist around the main area of vessel wreckage.
Scott Harrison, diving enthusiast and MAST member, shares his favorite shipwrecks to visit around the Cleveland area. He has been diving for almost 19 years in the area and encourages new and seasoned divers to go on dive adventures aboard his boat that can accommodate four divers with two tank dives. He is also a member and runs the facebook pages for the Bay Area Divers and Lake Eerie Wreck Divers clubs.
Harrison states, “We have this incredible resource in our back yard where the history lays within recreational limits – no need to be wreck certified to dive the western basin of lake Erie. Unfortunately, there are not too many dive charters in the area. The water vis may not be the greatest but we do have good days and honestly we can always find a kick ass wooden ship to explore. The wrecks we find are beaten up a bit – not as preserved but they are easy to access – less technical and more recreational. For the most part the wrecks near Cleveland and are more accessible for newer divers. Divers must always have lights and reels.”
We picked a number of wrecks to explore from the many that found their way to this watery grave along the coastal waters from Vermillion to Ashtabula and within a short distance to Cleveland.
City of Concord
The City of Concord lies in approximately 40-45 feet of water sitting upright in mud. The wreck site features a rudder, engine, boiler, windlass, chain, decking, and a relatively intact hull. Her last day of service was on September 27, 1906, near Point Pelee were she was struck by a gale and sprang a leak. Unfortunately, two lives lost. Her fires were drowned and the vessel sank with no steam to run her pumps. The crew made it to shore in a tiny yawlboat, even though they had only one oar.
Approximately 8 miles due north of Lorain Harbor, Ohio and located in approximately 59-68 feet, she rests on a mud/silt bottom. The Morning Star was reported to have been carrying 44 first class passengers, 38 crew members, and +/- 33 others, some possibly immigrants and non- reported 2nd class passengers. The cargo she carried was diverse, including pig iron, kegs of nails, mowing machinery, boxes of glass, stone, cheese, barrels of oil and other assorted lots of packaged freight. In June of 1868, while enroute from Cleveland to Detroit, she collided with the bark Cortland (captain G.W. Lawton). This wreck features engine and boilers a diver can swim through although much of the wreck and debris sunk to the soft bottom. Aquatic life at this depth include a variety of bottom-dwelling fish, such as sculpins, darters, and burbot.
Harrison says, “Morning Star is easy to get to – great wreck to access. Mast has 11 or 12 moorings on wrecks in the area, this is one of them.” Harrison is responsible for placing the moorings on the vessels as part of his volunteer work with MAST.
Anthony B Wayne
Built in 1837, the Anthony Wayne, also known as General Wayne, was a Sidewheel Steamer. She typically carried passengers, miscellaneous freight and livestock. Her wreck is located approximately 8 miles offshore and is separated into two sections. She sank in 1850 due to a mysterious explosion resulting in complete destruction of the vessel. At the time of her sinking she was carrying over 40 passenger and 300 barrels of high quality wine and whiskey.
Built in 1944, this dredge barge was roughly 110 feet long and used as a crane. She sank in a gale being battered by 15 foot waves and 75 mile an hour winds. The wreck lies 1.75 miles, 23 degrees from the tank at Avon Point in 42 feet of water.”
This wreck is a great wreck for novice divers and snorkelers to explore. Depending on water levels in the lake, she rests between no deeper than 20 feet deep. She was carrying coal from Cleveland to Sarina, Ontario when she was grounded by a storm in 1905 ultimately resulting in her sinking. Waves and ice have scattered much of the wreck although visible are burned timbers, planking, frame, centerboard trunk, amidships winch, propeller, some machinery (pipes, flywheel, crankshaft, etc.). The wreck site provides habitat for numerous fish species, including smallmouth bass, rock bass, sunfish, and the aquatic invading species the round goby. The wreck is encrusted by sharp edged zebra and quagga mussels.
Built in 1890 as a tug steam made of wooded construction, this 73 foot vessel foundered in 1917 of. Avon Point, Avon Lake, Ohio. Waves and ice scour have taken their toll over the years. The Alva B wreck provides habitat for a number of Lake Erie fish species, including smallmouth bass, rock bass, sheepshead, sunfish, the non-indigenous round goby, and others. Scattered remains, including some timbers, planking, the steam boiler and other various engine parts in 10-12 FOW on a bottom of mostly sand, rock and gravel.
This 110 foot wooden schooner was built in 1848 and sank in 1855, approximately 3.5 miles north of Avon Lake, Ohio, in a collision with the schooner ARAB. All eleven crew members were saved. The bow is collapsed and buried beneath the bottom. Deck beams are at 50 ft. The planking is mostly missing. Port and starboard railings are intact. Coal is abundant everywhere.
John Pridgeon Jr
221 foot long propeller, bulk freighter built in 1875. The wreck lies on its port side, with the stern almost upside-down. Features include the huge propeller and engine, plus much of the ship’s lumber cargo. Vessel sank in 1909 due to leak in heavy seas.
Cortland: Duke Luedtke
Rebuilt in 1974, this tug boat sank when she sprang a leak for an unknown reason. The Coast Guard responded to her distress call and two of them were below trying to find the leak when she turned turtle and sank in 70 feet of water. Only one of the two was able to survive.
Built in 1946 then later rebuilt in 1946 as a work and repair barge. This wreck sits approximately one mile north of Avon Point at Avon Lake, Ohio, in 42 feet of water. The barges lies upright with winches, steel cable coils and deck hatches visible. A popular wreck site for divers, sitting on a gravel bottom. This wreck is also a fish attractor for species like smallmouth bass and schools of yellow perch, resulting in the area frequented by anglers as well as divers. Visibility can be good at times 20-30 feet, although often can be less than 5 feet. Wreck penetration is not recommended. Wreck surface very silty and takes little to stir up.
Steven F Gale
Built in 1847, the Stephen F. Gale was a 2 mast wooden schooner with a typical cargo of stone. The schooner foundered in a storm in 1876. All hands were lost. The vessel currently lies upright, silted to the deck, on a mud bottom at a depth of 70 feet, approximately 18 miles north of Cleveland. The bow is split open, spread flat on the bottom. The cabin area, less the cabin structure, holds a stove. The stern is collapsed. The rudder remains exposed and upright.
Built in 1893, this 211 foot wooden two deck, three mast, schooner barge is one of lake Eerie’s complete shipwrecks in the central basin. The wreck is located in 68-75 feet of water approximately 13.9 miles North of Cleveland. When it was first discovered in the 1970’s the bow area was complete, but since that time, the heavy windlass and donkey boiler have fallen to the port side, collapsing most of the upper deck. Much of the main deck is intact with decking missing at the edges. Along the railings are three sets of bit posts, as well as turnbuckles opposite from each of the three masts. Several of the hatch openings have monkey ladders leading into the hold. On the starboard side, there is a small brass pipe hidden among the many fallen timbers. Underneath the transom, you can shine your light and see the remnants of the rudder.
Harrison states, “Dundee and Admiral are both safe penetration wrecks – swim through is visible. Love those two. Anywhere from 5 to 45 feet. Depends on the time of year and conditions of weather and other variables. Divers can find catfish, perch, carp and other fish making these wrecks their habitats.”
The Cleveco had a variety of names during her lifetime including Under the original owner, Standard Oil, she was first named the S.O. & Co. in 1916, followed by Scocony 85 in 1918, then the Gotham 85 in 1930, and finally the Cleveco in 1940. Originally#85, then renamed S.T. & Co. built as a sail barge. Built in 1913, she was intended to operate as a steel tanker towed by a tugboat. She sank in 1942 during a violent winter storm. All 18 hands onboard were lost. TheCleveco lies upside down in Lake Erie’s mud and silt bottom, in 78 feet of water, approximately 14 miles north of Euclid, Ohio. The Cleveco’s hull rises up and out of the bottom to a height of approximately 13-15 feet. Sealed valves along her keel are visible from efforts to salvage the oil from her tanks.
Built as W.H. Meyer in 1907 and then renamed to Admiral in 1942 during the time of her rebuild, which incidentally was only 89 days before her sinking, was a 93 foot steel propeller tugboat. Occasionally she was also used as an icebreaker. In December on 1942 she foundered, capsized, and sank approximately 10 miles north of Avon Point, Ohio, and 18 miles west/northwest from Cleveland Harbor. She capsized during a fierce winter gale while towing the tanker barge Cleveco, which was loaded with a wartime cargo of fuel oil with the loss of all 14 hands aboard and 18 lost on the Cleveco.
“The Admiral sits in approximately 70-80 feet of water, there is lots to see but buoyancy is a must otherwise all the movement does stir up the silty bottom which reduces visibility. We offer classes to help folks learn to maintain buoyancy,” states Anderson.
This 252 foot long steam engine propelled steel bulk-freight was built in 1927 and designed specifically as a sand sucker. The Sand Merchant did not have hatch covers over the open cargo hoppers, this made possible by her unusual supplementary buoyancy features, four particularly large tanks fitted on either side of the cargo hoppers. The ship was designed to be a stable, seaworthy vessel, despite the temporary fluidity of her cargo, which quickly settled down into a dense, inert mass. She lies upside down on a mud bottom in approximately 60 feet of water with her bow facing southeast. She foundered in 1936 approximately 17 miles NW of Cleveland.
“We recently visited this wreck. It is a great wreck to take newer students and recreational divers. The wreck is fairly easy to navigate, visibility can range but we have seen up to 40 feet. She is just shy of 250 feet long so there is plenty of room for all the divers to explore her without running
into each other. Her lowest depth is reportedly 65 feet but we measure around the 50 foot range, so she is a shallower dive. Plenty of machinery can be found, she was an active ship. What is super crazy about her is that she lies upside down. The first thing to greet a diver is the huge propeller. As you travel along her side you can see doorways and ports. It is not recommended to penetrate her but you can take a peek inside,” states Anderson.
“One caution is to be very careful – not with boat hazards or what one would typically consider but the zebra mussels. They are razor sharp and can cut a hand easily. Buoyancy is a must!” continues Anderson.
Two Fannies was a three-masted bark built in 1862 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin and measured 152 feet on deck. She was specifically designed for use as a lumber and iron ore carrier. She currently sits in 60 feet of water just five miles north of Bay Village, Ohio. She sank in 1890 as she was being towed bound for Cleveland. She was fully laden with a cargo of iron ore. Due to the heavy chop she sprung a leak in her hold. The crew used pumps to draw the incoming water out, however, the water began to rise faster as the leak worsened and the Captain determined she would likely sink. The crew abandoned ship and luckily were able to move far and fast enough from the sinking vessels as not to be sucked into the water as the vessel sank.
Fairport-Ashtabula: Queen of the West
Located off east side of Cleveland, the “Queen” was built in 1881 as a bulk freighter hauling iron ore, coal, and grain. She sank approximately 8 miles north of Fairport Harbor, Ohio. She sank in 1903 heading to Erie Pennsylvania from Escanaba, Michigan and after stopping in Cleveland with a load of iron ore. The hull was found to have sprung a leak, the pumps could not keep the water pouring in and she began to sink. She sank in 71 feet of water causing the rescue operation of her crew to be rather precarious. Due to her depth, it is considered an advanced wreck dive. The wooden hull and timbers are gone, with the bow being the most intact structure. The stern area is either gone or fallen to the bottom. Of note, are the remains of the engine, boiler, winches, chain and the bow windlass. The midsection decking of the wreck is gone, leaving the hull open.
Harrison adds, “The Queen is a neat wreck – has a mast mooring on it.
Built in 1908 she sank on December 9, 1968, 1.5 miles off the harbor at Mentor, Ohio, in 30 feet of water. There was no loss of life was reported. She was converted from a steamer to a diesel in 1951. Cause of her sinking unknown, although she is a more popular diver destination.
Marquette & Bessemer #2
She is a mysterious and elusive ship luring many divers to search for her over the years. Some experts believe she is lying in deep water buried in a muddy bottom, covered partially or totally with silt. She is often referred to as the “holy grail” of Lake Erie shipwrecks and is considered to be one of the most sought-after shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.
John B Lyon
Built in 1888, this 255 foot wooden Bulk Freight steamer sank in 1900 as she encountered the tail end of the west Indian Hurricane, which proved to be disastrous. She took with her nine of the fifteen crew and was reportedly valued at $60,000.
Built in 1903, this 448 foot steel propeller steamer was used to transport iron ore. Sunk in a collision with the Canadian propeller Ashcroft in the fog in 1944 just 20 miles north of Conneaut, Ohio, Lake Erie. 12 lives were lost as she sank in 66 feet of water. The namesake of this bulk freighter was Mr. James Hay Reed, who was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, on September 10, 1853. He served as president of the Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad Company, which is the reason for the namesake. He also served from February 20, 1891, until January 15, 1892, as United States District Judge for western Pennsylvania.
North Carolina (Queen of the West – North Carolina)
Built as L.C. Sabin in 1908 and later renamed in 1941, North Carolina was a propeller diesel tug. She sank in December of 1968 1.5 miles off the harbor at Mentor, Ohio. No crew members were lost, all rescued by the US Coast Guard. Cause of the sinking is not known. The engine room began flooding about noon causing a wave of problems including electrical malfunctions affecting the pumps and the radio. Onlookers reported watching her sink in place.
Eerie Island shipwrecks
The lake averages approximately 62 feet, yet contains hundreds of historical shipwrecks. For divers, the underwater preserve around Kelly’s Island is the resting place of three vessels. The steam ship Adventure rests in 5-15ft of water in North Bay. It was a schooner from 1875 until 1897 then it was converted to a steam barge in 1897 and sank in 1903. It rests 200ft off shore. The Hanna, a scow schooner sank in 1886 in 3-8ft of water, and the F.H. Prince, a propeller steamer sank in 5-18ft in 1911. Built in 1890, she was converted into a sand dredge vessel in 1910 and sunk a year later. It seems that ships converted for other duties did not last long after the conversion process in these waters.
Isabella J Boyce (Middle Bass Island)
Built in 1889 was launched as a bulk freighter then in 1915 converted to a sandsucker. She grounded on Middle Bass Island in Lake Erie in 1917, catching fire and sinking into 10 feet of water. The wreckage is scattered.
Lake Erie contains approximately 1700 shipwrecks and 50 of them are in the waters surrounding Kelleys Island. Scuba divers are able to explore them while snorkeling and diving from the shoreline. The cool fresh lake water has preserved shipwrecks that would have disappeared long ago in a salt water environment.
Hanna (Kelleys island)
W.R. Hanna is a single deck scow schooner built in 1857 and includes two masts and a square bow and stern. She sank in 1886 from gale force winds that drove the vessel ashore and broke her to pieces.
Adventure (Kelleys island)
Built in 1875, she was originally built as a schooner then later converted to propeller steamer. Depending upon Lake Erie’s changing water levels, the wreck lies in approximately 5-7 feet of water, with the major portion of the (108 feet) wreck parallel to shore. Remains include burned timbers, planking, frame, centerboard trunk, amidships winch, propeller,
some machinery (pipes, flywheel, crankshaft, etc.) The wreck site provides habitat for numerous fish species, including smallmouth bass, rock bass, sunfish, and the aquatic invading species the round goby. The wreck is also encrusted with sharp edged zebra and quagga mussels. In October of 1903, loaded with a cargo of burned limestone in wooden barrels, she caught fire almost taking the lives of the captain, his wife, and their daughter. Over the years artifacts have been removed, some on display.
FH Prince (Kelleys island)
This 240 foot wooden propeller steamer, built in 1890, served as a package freighter then later converted to a sand and gravel cargo freighter. She lies approximately half a mile offshore, east of the Kelleys Island Airport in 16-18 feet of water. Unfortunately nature was hard on her as the waves and ice scattered some of her wreckage. This popular site for scuba divers and snorkelers also attracts anglers who seek out a variety of fish including smallmouth bass and rock bass. The wreck contains the keel and keelsons, many of the ribs, planking, and engine works. In 1911 she caught fire and ran aground at the East end of Kelleys Island by Captain H.H. Parsons.
Success (Marblehead Peninsula)
This wooden, all teak, 3-mast ship was built in Burma in 1840. There is some debate as to the original date she was built, a flyer had been circulated stating she was built in 170, yet there is no record of her existence prior to 1840. She was converted to a prison ship in 1857 then abandoned and scuttled in Sidney, Australia, then resurrected in 1885 as a convict ship museum. She retired in Ohio in 1939 where she was burned by vandals.
Charles B Hill SS
Built in 1878 and ran aground 1906. Located One half mile off Madison, Ohio, this wreck lies in 18 feet of water and measures a modest 77 feet long. Considered a novice dive,
the wreck is in poor shape, although she has a boiler, single shaft, and steeple compound engine visible. The wooden steamer sprung a leak in a storm and run aground.
CSS Queen of the West
US Ram Queen of the West, a sidewheel steamer built at Cincinnati, Ohio, was built in 1854. She was purchased by the United States Department of War in 1862 and fitted out as a ram for Colonel Charles Ellet, Jr.’s Ram Fleet which operated on the Mississippi River in the U.S. Civil War in conjunction with the Western Flotilla. Launched in 1854 and later Captured by Confederate States Army, 14February 1863. In April of 1863 she was attacked and destroyed.
Other wrecks we found interesting included:
Algeria, Charles H Davis, Fannie L Jones, Mable Wilson ,“117 Street” Wreck HG Cleveland. John B Griffin Bay Coal Schooner, Ivanhoe ,St Lawrence & Quito
We cannot talk about diving in lake Eerie scuba diving without mentioning the MAST. Since their beginning in 2000, the Maritime Archaeological Survey Team ( M A S T ) h a s had quite a positive impact regarding the knowledge about and preservation of Lake Erie shipwrecks. The MAST is a nonprofit avocational group dedicated to documentation, scientific study and education pertaining to underwater archaeological resources.
With over 1,400 wrecks estimated to be in Lake Erie, only five have been surveyed and registered as an official archaeological site with the State of Ohio. Each vessel was surveyed by MAST members. Educating the public was a prime reason the surveys were conducted. As a result of this venture and in conjunction with The Great Lakes Historical Society and Ohio Sea Grant three underwater dive slates were created. They contain a map of the site which will help divers understand what they are seeing during the dive along with a vessel history on the reverse side.
From training divers the skills necessary to conduct shipwreck research, to conducting numerous underwater shipwreck surveys, MAST has become an important part in the preservation of Ohio’s Lake Erie maritime heritage. One of the most important efforts MAST has undertaken is the seasonal placement of mooring buoys on popular Lake Erie shipwrecks. For more information about the MAST Ohio Shipwreck Mooring Project, how you can be a part of MAST, and how you can contribute to their efforts, please visit: www.ohiomast.org
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