The seas were 2 to 3 feet that morning so the trip was a little bumpy. We made it to the dive site in just under an hour. Capt. Ron tied the boat in on the aft end of the island at 115 fsw where the large radome used to be, I guess it broke loose when the ship went down, and we were all in the water within the hour. We suited up two at time and splashed off the back then pulled ourselves to the anchor line at the bow to make our descent. Our dive plan for this first dive was 180 feet for 25 minutes on 21/35 and using 50% and O2 for deco giving us a total run time of 61 minutes. The water temp was in the 80’s on the surface but dropped into the 70’s at around 80 feet. The vis sucked this day, I’d guess it was around 30 to 40 feet so not much of the wreck was visible from the line. As we reached the end of the down line we headed forward off the helicopter landing pad sized platform that used to be home to the large radome and began our decent toward the hanger deck. We soon found the large opening on the starboard side of the ship leading to the hanger deck at around 157 feet. This door is big enough to drive a Mac truck through which makes it easy to spot once inside the gargantuan hanger deck. It’s so big inside that it’s difficult to see the ceiling when you’re near the floor or either side from the center. There are still a few cables running fore and aft that look to be some kind of wiring for the explosives used to sink the ship. Not det cord but orange wiring in a bundle of 4 or 5 wires zip tied together hanging across the entrance. They’re no trouble to pass under as they’re 5 to 6 feet off the deck. We followed the starboard wall aft checking out a few of the rooms open along this wall and within 20 to 30 feet we spotted one of the holes cut in the floor. There are several of these along the length of the hanger deck and the shaft goes down several levels below the hanger deck. They’re about 10 feet by 10 feet square and peering down into the shaft it looks as though it’s a bottomless pit, shining the light down the shaft shows nothing but black. We slowly descended into the shaft past the first level then to the second at about 175 feet. There we found several rooms off to the side of the shaft that were easily explored, the doors were wide and filled with office stuff like desks and phones and there was graffiti painted on the walls, obviously from the contractors cleaning the ship before it went down. Mempilot started looking through some of the desk drawers for some kind of booty to bring back with him but found nothing but empty space. There were several other smaller rooms that we looked into but not much was left inside these. Our time was quickly coming to an end so we turned the dive and headed out. The exits from the hanger deck are easy to spot as they are very large and ambient light shines through giving them an eerie greenish glow. We made an uneventful exit and ascent and surfaced right on time at just over an hour.
We planned for a 2 hour and 30 minute surface interval to give us enough bottom time to check out the island without serious deco. Our second dive for the day was to be a multi level dive to 130 feet for 20 minutes and then 100 feet for 10 minutes, I was breathing 29/23 using only 50% for deco and Mempilot was on 21/35 using 50% and O2 for deco. We were the second group to splash and after out descent we swam along the island on the starboard side looking into rooms along the way. Several of them were big enough to enter and some still had electrical panels inside with switches and knobs in place, most still moved when turned. We passed through the island to the port side, these door ways were a little tight for all the tech gear and I found myself having to turn sideways and pull my stage bottle in tight to keep it from banging on the door sill. There were more rooms along this side and we took a look in a few of them as well. These rooms have been well prepped for recreational divers and cleaned of all loose material, unlike the areas below the hanger deck. The most interesting area seemed to be one of the bridge areas on the forward side of the island. I’m not a Navy man so I don’t know exactly what area it was but it had windows all along the forward wall and ceiling in a semi circle. It’s narrow inside and not easy to turn around but all the windows have been removed so exiting through one of these openings, even in full tech gear, can be done. There are still some electrical panels inside again with buttons, lights, knobs and switches. The panels are unlatched so the entire thing can be swung open to look inside. Again our time was up so we made our way to the line and being the last of our group to start our ascent we pulled the line and this time did our deco while drifting with the boat. Our ascent was uneventful and I surfaced after 49 minutes and Mempilot was a few minutes behind me.
We made the trip back to the dock in just over an hour, unloaded our gear and headed to MBT to drop off our tanks to be filled for Saturdays dive.
We decided to do one long deep dive on the second day instead of doing two as we had the day before. While the boat is a 29 footer and had plenty of room to store all the equipment, having 8 sets of doubles and 12 stage bottles as well as all our gear bags it was just a little to much to mess with on a rolling deck. It can be done and if I were only planning on one day of diving I’d do it again but after doing two dives the first day it was just to much of a PITA to deal with it again on the second day. We all met at MBT at 8:00AM, picked up our tanks, loaded them into the trucks and followed Capt. Ron to the marina. The first day we launched from the Navy’s marina on the base but on Saturday we used a public boat launch. This made it a little further to the inlet so our time to the dive site was about 2 hours, we had also asked Capt. Ron to slow the boat down a little as we were in no real hurry and didn’t want to have such a rough ride that day.
The seas were 2 feet or less on this day and it was hot and sunny, a beautiful day. Mempilot and I were the first to splash with a multi level dive plan of 180 feet for 25 minutes then 130 feet for another 15 minutes. Our back gas was 21/20 as we had just topped up our tanks with air and we decoed on 50 and O2. We were tied off in the same area as the day before and but the vis was nearly 100 feet so this time we could see a lot of the wreck on our decent. What a site it is to see this thing from above even though we couldn’t see the entire wreck what we could see was very impressive.
Once reaching the redome platform we headed down and aft to the hanger deck. We entered through another smaller entrance further aft then the large door we used the previous day. Once inside we headed straight to the first shaft we spotted and descended several levels down into another area that had more open rooms to explorer. This area had more graffiti painted on the walls and more office equipment to check out. We didn’t find anything that we wanted to bring back but we did find a chalkboard hanging on the wall of one of the rooms. I didn’t realize it at the time but Mempilot had tried to write our names on the board but his pencil broke. He made a gesture to me as if he were writing something on the board and I nodded to him thinking to myself that it would be cool if we had something to write with that people would be able to see but what I didn’t realize at the time was that he was actually asking me to give him my pencil so he could. I’m kicking myself for not understanding what he wanted as it would have been great to write that we were here on this date and then see if anyone else ever found it. We spent what seemed like forever looking around in these rooms and looking down a couple of hallways before our time was up. We exited the hanger deck and made our way back to the island for the second part of our dive. We