|Posted by Joel Svendsen on July 3, 2014 at 8:20 PM|
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.