Miami Wreck Exploration Project

Technical diving in Miami since 1990

Pioneer One

Posted by Joel Svendsen on May 28, 2012 at 12:55 AM

This morning started out warm, clear cloudless skies. Leaving the dock and heading out towards Fowey Light, the seas were calm, maybe 1-2 with an occasional 3-ft swell. We got on-site and had to loiter while two other boats fishing the site drifted north, allowing us access. We took our time, searching with the bottom-finder for the wreck of the Pioneer One. We (Miami Wreck Divers) has been going out to this site for years, looking for conditions that would allow a dive. Up until today, all attempts less one several years ago have been thwarted by high currents. Today we found relatively light current at the surface; she seemed dive-able today. Today's dive team was Henry and myself. Carlos and Jody were our top-side support.

Jody and Carlos threw a shot-line in on top of the wreck, and fairly soon we all realized that the conditions at the surface were not what was waiting for us below. We watched as the float-ball initially sat high on top of the water, then soon was pulled half-submerged and spinning in the eddies caused in its mooring. Still, the conditions seemed reasonable, so we decided to dive the wreck. Henry and I dressed-out, did our pre-dive check and confirmed our dive plan; Average depth of 220-ft for a :20 BT. On Jody's mark, I splashed in off the port side as Henry followed off the starboard. I quickly oriented myself, hovered at 20-feet and watched Henry above me acquire the shot-line and start the descent. The water at the surface was turbid, visibility was only about 25-feet towards the surface. I stayed full-on the trigger and was able to maintain my position relative to the shot-line in the descent; Henry ahead of me and above me about 15-feet. Obviously the current was moving closer to 3-knots below the surface. At eighty feet the water started to become a little clearer. At 130-feet I noticed an appreciable change in the illumination of the water-column; the water became 'murky', we entered a twilight-zone, yet the visibility in the water was much improved. Three minutes into the dive we reached the bottom at 225-feet, at the anchor which had snagged a piece of debris in a small debris field off the north side of the wreck. The wreck lay south-east of us about sixty feet away; clearly visible from the anchor. Henry and I scootered over, myself right above the sand and Henry positioned above and to the left of me, approaching the stern of the Pioneer One wreck. She lay west-to-east with her stern on the eastern side. She is also perfectly upside-down in the sand. The stern lies in 236-feet and we estimate her bow is in 240+ feet. She looks to be about 200-feet long. In her profile her shallowest part, her keel is right at 200-feet depth. Here the visibility had improved to about 100-feet, as we could clearly see both ends of the wreck from amidships position. At depth the water was about 70-degrees. (Henry?) She has twin three-bladed props, in prop-tunnels separated by a keel-skeg with rudders still in place aft. Bridging each prop-tunnel is a prop-guard bar; these propellers are obviously designed to operate in shallow waters. No superstructure is visible in our transit of the wreck on the starboard side (left side in our perspective swimming forward). Shortly after we reached the props, I did a bone-headed thing and allowed line trailing from my reel to foul in my T-16's prop. I took a couple minutes to remove the prop, clear [most] of the line and reinstall the prop. Unfortunately, I needed to take an additional couple minutes to fully eliminate all the line wrapped around the prop-shaft; but due to depth and time, I elected to deal with that later in the dive, and just swim the wreck. The current on the wreck was minimal.

We swam up to the bow of the wreck, and can confirm the bow is not a ramped-bow. It is a traditional bow with a near-vertical prow. There are a couple large openings cut or blown into the side of the ship near-amidships. It is possible to enter the wreck through these openings, but the visible passages seem limited.

The interior of the wreck was teeming with thousands of juvenile fish; I was unable to identify specifically which type of fish.. From the moment we arrived at the anchor we were greeted by two large Lion Fish that had moved to our shot-line anchor. We saw many others swimming all over the wreck, and never in a hurry to move out of our way! I observed two 3-ft long barracuda swimming above the wreck, and one large (24") Black Grouper swimming near the props. Swimming above the wreck were a few large Crevele Jacks. Henry pointed out a large [6-ft-7-ft] Loggerhead turtle sitting in the sand off the south-east side of the wreck. The wreck has some soft corals and light marine growth, but not any high-profile growth such as sponges or sea fans. Thus the hull shape and running gear is clearly defined visually. These are quite a few old anchor lines laying across the wreck, some fishing line. There are a couple debris fields off the wreck, with the exception of some barrels we observed, was not possible to visually identify the material in the debris fields. My guess is we are seeing elements of the superstructure sheared off or crushed when the wreck hit the bottom upside down.

At :20 Run time we left the wreck from the aft-end of the wreck. We ascended to about 160-feet where Henry shot his surface marker. It went up and then quickly the line trailed off at a very sharp 45-degree angle! I was observing Henry's reel and it looked almost empty of line!! We found out later that our line had fouled with the shot-line on the way up, and we were dealing with the dynamics of two lines for a while. I had Henry scooter with me in tow for a couple minutes as the line seemed to want to lead away dramatically. As we ascended I noticed a reversing of the descent phenomenon... As the lighting grew brighter, the water's turbidity increased and our visibility decreased. Once we hit 80-feet the marker line issue seemed to have resolved, the line's direction reversed, and then we were back to a vertical up-line. I went to turn on my MOD-70 bottle only to be greeted with a face-full of bubbles! Shit; De-Ja-Vue!! Simple-fix; my DIN connection had come loose during the dive. A simple tighten of the knob, and I was back in business; luck to have not lost the O-ring when I first turned the bottle on. We did our first deco switch at 70-feet onto our 50% mix, and things felt normal. I took the time here to remove my prop again, and clear out the remaining line fouled on my prop-shaft. It took about two minutes in a calm relaxed drift... Henry ran the deco on his Liquivision Computer while I compared our stop times with the Ratio Deco plan; very close. We moved up to the 20-foot switch to 100%, our longest stop. Did a little picture-taking here prior to our final ascent to the surface, 74 minutes total run time. The dive felt good, hours later I am feeling good, not at all fatigued... so the deco was effective.

It was a great experience; thanks to everyone today to make the dive possible!! I did get just over one-minute of decent video down on the wreck, which I will post as soon as I have an opportunity to do-so.

Dive safe~

Rick

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