|Posted by Rick Thomas on June 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM|
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.