Miami Wreck Exploration Project

Technical diving in Miami since 1990

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Pioneer One (215ft) finally identified

Posted by Joel Svendsen on August 9, 2018 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Last month one of the longest standing mysteries regarding the World War II landing ships sunk off of Miami was solved.

Between 1981 and 1985, a large number of derelict ships, mostly from the Miami River, were sized by Miami Dade County and sunk as artificial reefs, many of them below 130FT.

Those that were sunk below 130ft were quickly forgotten about—they were meant as fishing reefs and as they were too deep to scuba dive on, there was little interest in their history.

Ten years later, the technical diving revolution began, and these wrecks started to become accessible to divers. The Miami Wreck exploration project was born, and visited many of them, starting with those just below 130ft, such as the Lakeland (135ft), and ending with the Star Trek (210ft), all of which proved straightforward to dive.

The next deepest wreck was the Pioneer one (215ft official depth). And that is where things went wrong. The Pioneer One proved almost impossible to dive on with early 90’s technology. She sits in a spot where the current is nearly always strong; it’s rare to see less than 2 knots of current at the wreck location

Many times, we headed out to wreck site, anchored the boat, and decided there was no way we could reach the wreck in the current. Once we thought the current looked a bit less, but we barely made it ten feet down the anchor line before the current proved too strong to fight.

Finally, one day, the current was clearly a bit less than normal, and I, along with Ron DeMarco, made it down to the wreck. It took us a full 13 minutes to reach her, and we were breathing hard and close to minimum gas when we got there. We looked around for two minutes right where we anchored in. The wreck was almost completely upside down, and her props and rudders looked a lot like those of the Lakeland and the Star Trek. At that point we were at minimum gas and returned to the boat. We were intrigued to know if the Pioneer One really was a sister ship of the Lakeland and Star Trek, but we felt this dive was beyond our abilities, and we focused our attention on the wrecks shallower than the Pioneer One for the next 20 years.

Fast forward to 2012 and diving technology had moved on. DPV’s, or scooters, allowed divers to travel at about two knots—enough to hold their own against the current. We decided to return, eager to identify the Pionner One.

Our first attempt was a free descent--we dropped up current of the wreck and hoped to find her on the bottom. That attempt ended in failure—there is a combination of tide and gulf stream current at this location, so it is hard to judge where to drop the divers up current and we didn’t get it right.

We decided to return and drop an anchor attached to a large float ball on the site. The first couple times we tried the current was too strong, and the float ball was pulled almost completely under water or the anchor pulled off the wreck. On the third day we tried, the current was less and the divers were finally able to make a successful dive on the site.

We were so excited, until we discovered that the video failed just seconds after reaching the wreck. Her identity remained a mystery. 

Six years later, in 2018, we decided to make another attempt. Not wanting to make several trips to the dive site in the hopes of getting acceptable current, we decided to go for a free descent.

The first attempt ended once again in failure—the divers hit the debris field near the wreck, but never managed to reach the wreck itself. What a cursed wreck site this is!

Thankfully, the following weekend a successful attempt was made. The current on the surface was the usual 2 knots or so, but below a thermocline at around 130ft the current was minimal and the divers (Rick Thomas and Jim Veach) were able to locate and finally take a comprehensive video of the wreck.

The video proves conclusively that the Pioneer One is a “Landing Ship Medium”, making her the sister ship of the Lakeland and Star Trek, both famous and interesting dive sites in Miami which are much, much, easier to dive on.

Mystery solved, it will probably be quite a few years before we try to dive this cursed wreck again :) 

- Joel Svendsen, Project Director

Pioneer One (215FT)

Posted by Joel Svendsen on August 8, 2018 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Indeed it was a fantastic success yesterday. Jody set Jim and I up for a near-perfect hot-drop.

We were out in calm 2 to 3 foot seas, about 2-1/2 knots of surface current.

Ocean temperature was 88-degrees from about 80-feet and up, we experienced 68-degrees on the bottom. maximum depth was 236-feet.

We spent 17 minutes at depth.

Our descent put us right aft of the vessel's stern, about 30 feet away, an easy scooter to the wreck. Jim believes he saw two bull shark on our descent, I missed those fish. Once at the wreck we followed a large Goliath round to the right, down the port-side of the ship. She's turtled in the sand with the stern ot the east-end of the site running east-to-west. Off of the north side of the site is a debris field strewn with large concrete culvert pipe. We scootered the length of the wreck on the north side, did a 180-degree turn and came back down along the south side of the wreck. About 3/4 of the way i noticed a very large Atlantic Stingray in the sand, roughly 9-feet long nose to tail. Our video does a good job of showing her size in perspective to the divers. She seemed to be aware but unconcerned about our presence, eventually lifting up out of the sand and slowly swimming out into the sand-flats east of the wreck. We swam back to the stern of the ship, observed and videoed the twin props (port screw is fouled with line and debris, while the starboard screw is very visible and unobstructed. We scootered down along the length of the wreck just above the hull, noticing a lack of marine growth, a couple openings 'blown" through the bottom, and a few Lionfish hanging out. Also observed an exceptionally large Hogfish off on the north side of the structure.

We returned back to the stern of the wreck and made a short excursion out to the north of the site across the debris field. Observed just over a dozen culvert sections buried in the sand. Shortly afterwards one of the divers felt rather cold and suggested that we terminate the bottom portion of the dive and start our way up to the surface.


Dive safe.



Rex Baer (227FT) July 5th, 2014

Posted by Joel Svendsen on July 5, 2014 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (1)

Yet another great day of summertime South Florida diving: seas 1-2 feet, wind less than 5 knots and rain everywhere but where we were. Today’s dive was to be to the MV Augie Ferrigno (also known as the Rex Baer [Bear?]). She was sunk as part of the artificial reef program in 1998 and last dove, purportedly, 10 years ago by AUE. Though of average length for a freighter, she is listed as having 80 feet of relief. As Jody’s sinuses gave him fits around five feet yesterday, the dive team consisted of David Buhlinger and Alex Gilson with Jody and Matt as topside support/captain. After suiting up and doing our equipment match, Jody and Matt lined us up for our hot drop on the wreck. DIVE, DIVE, DIVE! Instantaneously, David and I splashed; a quick bubble check and we started screaming to the bottom. The current topside was over 2.5 knots; any delays in our descent would guarantee a splendid sand dive. At 130 feet the lights dimmed and particulate matter picked up. At 160 feet I could see a small school of what seemed to be jacks. On closer inspection they were Almaco jacks (Seriola rivoliana) and they were well fed. Once we hid 180 feet we could see the shadow of the wreck looming about 40 feet away – a perfect drop! We landed on her port side and she was sitting with her bow to the west. Scootering at about of depth of 228 feet we cruised aft towards the rudder. One hole was noted at about 3⁄4‘s of the way aft. I could see clear through to the other side. At the stern, the rudder was intact slightly turned to the port, but no prop was to be seen; it had been removed well beforehand. We circled the hull until we were at the bow (around 6:30 into the dive). Her mast was lying down and hanging over the rails and looked like a spar. On her deck, the work areas were still full of winches, windlasses and other deck gear. We started to film the superstructure and some of the wheelhouse. On the aft section of the superstructure there were numerous healthy examples of our newest invasive species the Red Lionfish (Pterois volitans); these fish had absolutely no fear of divers. Other species noted in abundance was the hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus). The uppermost portion of the superstructure reminded us of another South Florida dive: the Rodeo 25. The Augie Ferrigno has the same style of football goalposts on top of her. At this time we were 18 minutes into the dive an average of 200 feet and we decided to thumb the dive at this time because she’s a lot to explore on one dive and a little mystery makes for some desire to return. David shot the back and we started our ascent. The ship itself is in great condition with little signs of breakdown or collapse; very little in the way of coral growth was noted other than general encrustation. There was some evidence of fishing on the wreck but nowhere near to the extent noted on the RBJ. The ascent and deco were humdrum (as it should be) until we were almost done at our last stop. Three Live sharksuckers (Echeneis naucrates) started buzzing us. Actually, two were hanging out in the wings and one kept buzzing around David and I and tried to attach itself to his head! We shooed them off and finished our ascent laughing like school kids. A most entertaining end to a great dive.


Star Trek (210FT) June 28, 2014

Posted by Joel Svendsen on July 3, 2014 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The Star Trek had a special place in the early years of tech diving in Miami. Most of the big wrecks in over 200FT of water are located in the southern part of the county--where strong currents are pretty much the norm. In the "bad old days" of deep air, no scooters, and anchoring into the wreck, they were close to impossible to dive successfully. The Star Trek, on the other hand, is located in the Key Biscayne reef site, which suffers from much less current and is a short boat ride from Miami.


That made her the preferred wreck site for the graduation dive of tech diving courses. The Star Trek is also an interesting wreck. She is one of the many landing craft sunk off Miami, but she is the only one not mostly or completely upside down; she lies instead on her starboard side, 90 degrees to the vertical. Unlike the other landing craft which were minimally converted for the later use as cargo ships, the Star Trek had a full bridge superstructure installed in place of the tiny standard "pillbox" bridge of the other landing craft. She also had aircraft carrier like external walkways installed on both sides to allow the crew to traverse the ship without entering the cargo holds. This all makes for a particularly interesting profile.


Our previous three attempts to follow up on our 2003 survey on the Star Trek went badly; despite favorable conditions we missed the wreck entirely on our first two attempts...largely due to the captain misjudging the drop point. Our last dive had minimal current but terrible vis and a dry-suit issue resorted in an abort immediately upon reaching the wreck. This was supposed to be the easiest 200FT deep wreck in Miami!


On June 28th, 2014 we decided to have another shot at diving the Star Trek. Conditions on the surface were a mixed bag, clearly wonderful visibility and calm seas but extremely bad current, 2.7 knots showing on the GPS. Thankfully Captain Matt is running the boat today, so we are confident the drop will be perfect; it will need to be.


Down to a little over 130ft the water is super clear and warm, but below 130ft things are much less pleasant. The water is cool rather than cold, dropping from 84 degrees to 72 degrees, but it is cloudy and full of particulate matter, and there is little reduction in the current. Thankfully the drop was perfect, and we landed on the wreck right at the stern.


The years have not been kind to the Star Trek; her fancy bridge superstructure was destroyed in Hurricane Andrew. Sometime after that but before our dive in 2003 the external walkway on the port (top) side began to fall off, initially making for an interesting swim through. That has now completely collapsted into a difficult to recognize mess of twisted metal. Also at some time since 2003 her back has broken, and the hull is bent about 1/3 of the way back from the bow. About the only interesting original features left intact are the guarded props, although really they are no different than those on the Lakeland (135FT). I don't think it will be so long before she makes the final collapse into a pile of unrecognizable twisted metal now. There is still no doubt some penetration possible (she has many dark silty internal passages) but probably inadvisable in her deteriorating state. Given her age there was surprisingly little coral growing on her.


The current was a constant factor on the bottom during the dive, at some points full power on the scooter yielded only slow forward progress, so we hid behind her stern to send up the marker. I was pretty close to a rather large lion fish at the stern, and it became rather unhappy at the close presence of two divers in its hideout from the current and charged right at me, very unusual behavior! I decided to show it who was the boss.....I left its area immediately.


Early into our deep stops at around 130FT we returned to beautiful warm clear water (remind me again why were diving in that dirty cold water when it was so nice in the recreational depth range?), and the deco was easy and uneventful except for a few cute baby blue runners which stayed with us throughout most of the deco.


Joel Svendsen

Project Director

Techfills website is up

Posted by Rick Thomas on June 26, 2014 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Good news.

Techfills LLC; an active sponsor of the Miami Wreck Exploration Project has its website up and active.

Visit the site when you can.

Raychel - Dive Report

Posted by Rick Thomas on June 23, 2014 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Dive Report: Raychel

June 21, 2014: Miami Beach, Florida Miami Wreck Exploration Project dive on the Raychel.

Such anticipation! Depending upon whom you speak with, we have tried to dive the Raychel three or four times in the past year, always to have something cause us to scrub the dive, usually weather. This weekend the weather was gorgeous! Clear skies, thunderstorms in the late afternoon, flat calm seas. The planets aligned, Matt was able to come and drive the boat, we had two teams of two; Alex and Jody, David and I. Leaving the dock at 0830 we motored out of Key Biscayne and up through Government Cut, past the cargo docks, the Coast Guard station and out to sea. Turning north we made our way to the wreck site, fining it easily on the bottom-finder. The ocean ‘looked’ beautiful, but the current was running north at 2.5-knots at the surface! We had scooters so the decision was made to go for the dive, we were not to be denied! Calculating the lead needed for a hot-drop to 180-feet, Matt set us up and called "dive-dive-dive”! The four of us splashed in, and this was the moment when the curse of the Raychel again reared her ugly head. Something hit the glass cover of my Halcyon 21W HID primary light causing immediate failure. Descending through the water it was apparent the beautiful blue of the ocean was not going to offer us the spectacular visibility we were all anticipating; at best we had 60-feet of visibility. Nonetheless Matt did his job well, and we landed on a pile of steel with about 20-feet of relief.

The Raychel was a Honduran cargo vessel built in Germany in 1955 by Schiffswerft (Hugo Peters Co.). she was 198-feet long and was carrying a load of construction materials into the port of Miami when her load shifted, causing her to capsize on October 18, 1990. She was salvaged by being cut into smaller pieces, hauled off Miami Beach and sunk in 190-feet of water. Now we were swimming around one of the larger of the pieces that once was the Raychel.

Certainly very little of the structure resembled a piece of a ship. It is a good habitat for smaller juvenile fish species, with corals and sea fans also growing on pieces of the debris. The wreck site had another surprise waiting for us; 63-degrees water temperature! We experienced an unexpected twenty degree drop in temperature from the surface to the bottom, the thermocline starting at about 60-feet. We scootered south into the current, still flowing at around 2-knots. We followed Jody past a pile of marker buoys that lay in 185-feet, one larger “bell” buoy and three smaller navigation markers. About 90-feet south of the markers we came upon the barge, sitting in the sand with about 8-feet of profile. It appeared to be in good over-all condition with about 50% of its structure buried in the white sugar sand bottom. Just off the south-east corner of the barge we observed a batfish sitting in the sand. Continuing south we came across another small debris pile about 50-feet from the barge. The relief profile of this debris is only about 6 to 8 feet, with most of the debris shell-plating and frames from the deck of the ship. Again we observed large schools of juvenile fish, and a small population of Lionfish. A couple medium sized hogfish were observed. Here we turned back with the current and moved back towards the barge, about :12 minutes into our dive. The barge is a large structure and easy to navigate to. We drifted past the pile of buoys again and came across the east side of the large debris pile where we started our dive. Here we hit :18 runtime, decided to not extend our bottom time, and Alex sent our yellow SMB up to the surface. David and I did our ascent with Jody and Alex, looking forward to getting back up into warmer waters. As we moved towards our first gas switch, the curse of the Raychel (or Murphy) reared her head once again; my Tec 2G suddenly shut down! We carry back-up, so it wasn’t really an issue, just another aggravation. David and I working with each other on our trim in the water sent a second marker up from about 50-feet, and both teams finished decompression in the warmer 82-degree water under yellow and orange markers.

The Raychel has been dove and surveyed! She’s spread out over a large area; we didn’t make it to the most northern-most section of debris. There were no large fish on the site, almost exclusively the domain of small juvenile schooling fish. Corals are sporadic as are the other marine growth on and around the debris. This site is likely to continue to degrade as little structure remains to support the relief that does exist. Only the barge and buoys remain as identifiable remnants of the ship that was once the Raychel.

Rick Thomas; Miami Wreck Exploration Project



Caicos Express - Miami Wreck in Broward County

Posted by Rick Thomas on June 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Dive Report: Wreck of the Caicos Express

June 14, 2014 Miami Wreck Expedition Project team members Alex, David and I went out with Conrad Nix yesterday afternoon on the "Miss Conduct", for a visit to the Caicos Express. This ship was originally built in Holland in 1956 and named the Waalbourg. She was sunk as an artificial reef off Pompano Beach on November 12, 1985. She sits upright in the sand running north to south (bow pointing south) in 250-feet of water. At 188-feet long x 28-ft beam she's not huge, but still an impressive sight on the bottom with over 40-feet of vertical profile. Almost 30 years after her sinking she is still fairly intact; none of her structure seems to be collapsing. It is easy to see why she is rarely dived; having to hot-drop her in a typical northerly current, her profile is only her beam-width of 28-feet. Miss her by fifty feet to the east or to the west and you may drift right past her without realizing it. Being we had Conrad's boat to ourselves in a private charter yesterday we decided to drop in with our scooters. Seas were calm, almost flat. Surface current was running north at about one knot. Ideal conditions for the dive. This would be the first dive on the Caicos Express for all three of us. Dive plan was :20 bottom time, :11 ascent to our first gas switch, :25 on 50% and :25 on 100% to deco. Run time of :81

Conrad dropped us with 300-feet of lead, and we descended as a team. I started filming with my GoPro starting at about 60-feet. Typical for Conrad, we were at about 180-feet depth when we could see the wreck directly in front of us! The visibility was good, at least 80-feet. The lighting at 220-feet was eerie, gloomy, giving the wreck site a surreal ambiance. We descended the bow structure towards the sand to our maximum depth of 247-feet, escorted by a school of large Yellow-tail Jacks. With David leading and Alex the number two team member, the three of us went on-trigger and scootered the length of the wreck towards the stern down her port-side, arriving at the stern in a couple minutes and seeing her single prop and rudder intact. She is upright sitting on her keel, with perhaps a slight list to port and a bow-down attitude. Coming around her stern we scootered back towards the bow, getting a good over-all view of the entire wreck. Coming up towards her deck we experienced a profound thermocline; at least a 20-degree change in water temperature that was NOT established at a particular depth; rather it seemed to mix with the warmer water towards the port (eastern) side of the wreck. The water was about 80-degrees to the bottom mixing with some 60-degree water that was flowing in around the wreck. That sure got our attention! Our video should show some of the halocline-effect of this water mixing. Up on deck we observed the vessel's cargo boom laying across the top of the wreck along with a couple deck winches. The hatch covers are missing leaving two very large cargo holds open. We swam through the two open cargo holds, observing a stack of large cable spools still laying in the bottom of the ship. Further aft we could see ladderways and what appears to be an opening into the engineering spaces of the ship. Moving aft we swam the superstructure at the main deck, around 220-feet deep. We observed a school (8-fish) of large Hogfish swimming in a group, lots of Schoolmaster and a large population of Lionfish. The Lionfish obviously have not seen divers, they were completely unafraid of us, and in fact would not give way to us as we swam the companionways, making us move back outside the wreck to transit further aft. The last thing any of us wants is a Lionfish sting while facing over an hour of mandatory decompression obligation! We moved up to the top of the wreck at about 200-feet, where we saw the stack and wheelhouse in beautiful condition. Here we hit :18 minutes run-time, and I deployed our surface marker while David passed me his reel. We shot the marker at :20 run time as we left the wreck, with Alex running our decompression schedule. The water was warm on the ascent to the surface, and devoid of any marine life we could observe. We surfaced at :82 run-time. The Caicos Express is indeed a spectacular dive site. While we saw so much, we didn't penetrate any part of the wreck. The crew spaces and engine room still await further investigation! We will post a link to the video (we had two cameras filming the dive) as soon as it is edited.


Skye Cliffe - Miami Wreck members diving further north

Posted by Rick Thomas on November 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Dive Report: Skye Cliff

November 24, 2012 Underwater Explorers; Boynton Beach, FL - Captain Kevin at the helm

Team 1 (OC) Rick Thomas & David Buhlinger (Miami Wreck)

Team 2 (CCR) Henry Silva (Miami Wreck) & Terri Simpson

Team 3 (OC) Brian Patrick & Dave Kelly


Saturday morning was a beautiful, sunny, cool Florida autumn day, and my wind chimes were silent! This is important information, as we have had less than ideal weather here the past week, with a lot of north winds and building seas. Just two days after the capsizing of South Florida Dive Center's 'Coral Princess' in the Hillsboro Inlet, no one was being complacent with the seas this week. Silent wind chimes at my home is a good indication that the winds are calm enough to allow a dive; sorta my "go / no-go" gage.


This is not going to be a candy-coated dive report, it was not a perfect dive, some mistakes were made, and when Murphy wants you; he will pull out all the stops to get his way. Looking back on the charter, our first mistake was David and I suiting up side-by-side instead of across the boat, facing each other. The trip out was quick, and for a number of reasons both David and I decided to dive dry on this dive. It had been well over a year since I last dove dry, as last winter's dive season was warm, and I dove wet the entire season. That said, I am very comfortable diving in my drysuit, so I didn't concern myself much about this change in my equipment configuration. David and I have not previously dived the Skye Cliff, so we decided to use our scooters to circumnavigate the wreck, and minimize our time inside the wreck. This was a 200-foot dive on 18/45, with two deco gasses. David and I use Ratio Deco to get back up to the surface. David and I did our pre-dive check sitting side-by-side on the boat and then positioned ourselves on the swim platform for our hot-drop onto the wreck.


We entered the water, and my first hint that this dive would be challenging was right after squeezing the air from my suit, I still felt buoyant at the surface, even with all the steel strapped to my body. Blame the 200g Thinsulate I was wearing instead of my typical ski undergarments. I did get negative, and we made our descent towards the bottom, in a slight northerly current. The water temperature was about 78-degrees, and the visibility was easily 100-feet! As we neared the bottom we were greeted by a fleet of large Bull Sharks! Serious, as Brian says this was an "epic dive" in regards to the number of sharks we swam with! My best estimate from what David and I observed; 15+ shark over 8-feet, many in the 10-12-foot size. We reached the bottom at around 180-feet and realized we missed the wreck by a good margin to the west, having to scooter laterally in the current to reach the stern in 200-feet. Looking up from the collapsed rudder, its obvious she's a big girl! Hovering still above the bottom I begin to consider thumbing the dive, as I am still not feeling comfy with my buoyancy, the drysuit is adding too much buoyancy, and my scooter is masking this situation. Fine on the bottom, VERY sub-optimal once we get to deco depth and have to maintain buoyancy! Fortunately, this is a well-fished wreck, and there was literally tons of lead on the bottom and on the deck of the wreck, so as we explored the ship, I loaded my pockets with lead, as David watched (and laughed). David and I stopped on deck about 8-minutes into the dive and checked my buoyancy, decided I was now weighted properly, and continued the dive. The ship is amazing, truly. She shows some signs of deterioration, and divers with us who have dove her in the past tell us that Sandy did some damage to her last month. As we swam along the decks, we saw a large number of Crevale Jacks, Amberjack, Snapper, Black Grouper, Hog Fish, Lion Fish, Queen Angels, Schoolmasters, and numerous other fish; obvious signs as to why we see so much fishing line floating all over the ship. One of which managed to find its way into David's Gavin-prop. We swam into a room on the main deck superstructure to be greeted by a stunning visual; the bright yellow soft corals that carpeted the decks, bulkheads and overheads everywhere we shined our lights, moving and undulating in the currents. Swimming out of the superstructure and looking off the side of the ship, we were reminded agin who were truly the owners of this wreck, a large Bull Shark never too far from view. We never did come across any Goliath Grouper, which we have seen in great numbers on the wrecks to the south all sumer long. I guess on this wreck they are not the apex predator! As we neared our planned bottom time David and I moved up the superstructure as I deployed our yellow surface marker buoy. Shooting the bag went uneventfully, and we left the wreck and started our long ascent to the surface. Looking back down, we saw the sharks following us up from a distance.


We stopped at 120-feet for our first 'deep-stop'; did one-minute slides from there up to 70-feet for our first gas-switch. As we approached 70-feet, we pulled our deco regulators and turned on our bottles. David presented to me and to my horror I saw that he had presented me his MOD-20 bottle! Giving him a clear closed-fist "Stop" signal, he realized that something was wrong, and stowed his regulator to switch to the other bottle. 'Fuck'! His second bottle was also a MOD-20 bottle!! I stopped him again, and I could see the moment of realization cross his face. When we suited up, the crew helped us with our deco bottles, and managed to snap two MOD-20 bottles to David's harness while I got the two MOD-70 bottles. In our pre-dive check, David and I didn't catch this, nor did anyone else on the boat. Okay, no problem, we trained for this, while maintaining (sorta) depth at or around 70ish feet, we switched deco bottles. Now, we have been at our 70-foot stop already for about 3-minutes and the clock is ticking, so again we verify the bottles, and David switches. Immediately he gives me an OOG signal! Unbelievable! I have been schlepping an empty deco bottle on the dive, no wonder I felt a little buoyant! When and where we lost the gas, we still are trying to determine. The fact is that when we did our pre-dive check and I turned on and off each deco bottle, I have to own up to my own complacency as we are fairly sure we didn't lose 40-cubic feet of gas during the dive. Our pre-dive check has us checking the pressure in each bottle, but I assume with the 4-6 foot seas and the "felt-urgency" to get through the pre-dive check (we were the first team to go in, and the others were waiting on us to be ready to go), I must have looked right past the needle not moving on the SPG, or simply saw what I wanted to see. So now we have to execute our lost gas drill. We sent the empty bottle up our line to the surface, and I did the required 6-minutes on 50% at 70-feet while David was back on his BG. Once I did my obligation, David took the regulator and did his 6-minutes, then we moved up to 60-feet and repeated the procedure. We did the 50, 40 and 30-foot stops on schedule, on BG, subscribing to the deco theory that we optimized the oxygen window on our 50% mix at the deeper stops. For what its worth, the remaining gas in the MOD-70 bottle was consumed during the 40-foot stop, no accident that when planned properly, there is sufficient gas in a 40-cu/ft bottle to get two divers through the first two, most important stops on the proper deco gas in a gas-share situation. Once at 20-feet we verified and switched to our 100% oxygen, and I sent the empty bottle up the line to join the first bottle sent up. Now able to relax a little, we looked down and were able to see our escorts swimming just within our range of visibility about 80-feet below us, certainly following our progress but not coming very close. We had a small Remora swim with us during our deco at 20-feet, a reminder that his usual benefactor was probably not so far away from us. Good news was there were no Moon Jellies in the water!


Post script to this report:

What David and I experienced was unexpected, and most of which could have been prevented prior to going in the water. Here is a list of our mistakes:

- We suited up in such a way we were unable to clearly see each other. Properly situated on the boat, we could have and should have noticed the mix-up of the deco bottles.

- We rushed the pre-dive check. We allowed (either perceived or real) pressure to get ready to enter the water to get in the way of a slow, methodical pre-dive check. The empty bottle should have been discovered on the surface, and the dive aborted, or deco plan changed.

- We changed equipment configuration on a deep dive with a serious deco obligation. First dive back in a drysuit should have been done on a shallow recreational dive.

David and I were able to deal with these issues and surface safely and cleanly because of our training, because he and I dive a lot together as a team, because we have frequently discussed and planned what our procedures will be in a lost deco gas situation, because we agree with and use the same decompression strategies, because we have established clear and specific communication in the water, because we take our gas switching and bottle verification very seriously, because we trust each other in a crisis, are able to maintain a calm demeanor and ensure we both reach the surface together as a dive team. In posing this dive report on this forum I accept all well-deserved criticism, and simply hope our experience yesterday will serve as an example of what can happen to a very experienced dive team. Take from our experience what you will.


Lowrance: Miami Wreck Dives north in Pompano

Posted by Rick Thomas on September 6, 2012 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Dive Report Thursday September 6

Gotta love south Florida diving! We had a quorum of Miami Wreck Divers this morning, a team of three.  Alex, David and myself.  We went out with Conrad on the Miss conduct, and dove the Lowrance. We were at the dock at 9am, on the dive site at 10am! Back on the boat just after 11am, and having lunch together by noon. Seas today were glass smooth. Current at the Lowrance was almost non-existent. Visibility today was about 50-feet; not bad. We hot-dropped the wreck from almost directly above her as there was no current. Drifted down onto the wreck and was at mid-ship when we reached the sand. At the bottom near 200-feet of depth we had a thermocline, with the temperature dropping to 69-degrees. Up above 180-feet the water warmed to 78-degrees. We scootered west to the rudder, and then made a 450 foot run the length of her back up to the bow, where we saw a large Goliath hanging out. He stood his ground until David came up to him and tugged his caudal fin, which made him promptly bark at us and move up onto the deck above us! We moved up onto the deck, scootered aft and then dropped down into one of the cargo holds, where we were able to enter a companionway and move further aft into the ship. Soon enough we went back outside the ship and up past the midship superstructure, where the Goliath was now hanging out. We only saw a couple lion fish on the wreck, nothing like on previous dives.

At :25 BT we drifted off the wreck a couple meters and shot our bag from the wreck, spending the next 45 minutes drifting in deco, very warm and relaxing in a 3mm wetsuit. :D Water temperature was a balmy 82-degrees at 70-feet and warmed up to 86-degrees at our 20-foot drift.

Dive safe~  Rick Thomas

Lowrance: Miami Wreck Dives north in Pompano

Posted by Rick Thomas on September 6, 2012 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Dive Report Thursday September 6

Gotta love south Florida diving! We had a quorum of Miami Wreck Divers this morning, a team of three.  Alex, David and myself.  We went out with Conrad on the Miss conduct, and dove the Lowrance. We were at the dock at 9am, on the dive site at 10am! Back on the boat just after 11am, and having lunch together by noon. Seas today were glass smooth. Current at the Lowrance was almost non-existent. Visibility today was about 50-feet; not bad. We hot-dropped the wreck from almost directly above her as there was no current. Drifted down onto the wreck and was at mid-ship when we reached the sand. At the bottom near 200-feet of depth we had a thermocline, with the temperature dropping to 69-degrees. Up above 180-feet the water warmed to 78-degrees. We scootered west to the rudder, and then made a 450 foot run the length of her back up to the bow, where we saw a large Goliath hanging out. He stood his ground until David came up to him and tugged his caudal fin, which made him promptly bark at us and move up onto the deck above us! We moved up onto the deck, scootered aft and then dropped down into one of the cargo holds, where we were able to enter a companionway and move further aft into the ship. Soon enough we went back outside the ship and up past the midship superstructure, where the Goliath was now hanging out. We only saw a couple lion fish on the wreck, nothing like on previous dives.

At :25 BT we drifted off the wreck a couple meters and shot our bag from the wreck, spending the next 45 minutes drifting in deco, very warm and relaxing in a 3mm wetsuit. :D Water temperature was a balmy 82-degrees at 70-feet and warmed up to 86-degrees at our 20-foot drift.

Dive safe~  Rick Thomas