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9/26/2004 Tacoma (Wreck), Seattle, WA by Peter Gelbman -- [View this report only]
Bottom Team: Nick Radov, Andrew Georgitsis, Peter Gelbman
Visibility: 5' - 12' Time:2:45 PM
Temp: 54F Surge:  
Max Depth: 218FSW Avg Depth: 200FSW
Bottom Time: 0:25 Total Time: 1:28
Bottom Gases: 15/55Deco Gases:EAN50,O2
Backgas Config: Double LP104Deco Tanks:AL40,AL80
Deco Profile:
Relatively quick ;-)
 
We had several great dives in Seattle but I'll just report on our last
one.

Our dives over the previous days had all been in Lake Washington freshwater, this last
dive was our first in the saltwater sound. We were meeting the boat in
Alkai, which apparently is thier equivalent to our Breakwater. We got
there early and munched some clam chowder and fries while watching Joe T
teach a fundies class. Our boat arrived on time and some SCRET guys were
offloading from an AM dive - they had attempted to scooter another wreck
earlier in the morning but had 2' vis and couldn't find it on the
bottom, plus a few of them apparently scootered through some jellyfish
and had some nasty stings on their face. High tide was just arriving and
we were hoping for better conditions than they found. It was a just a
short boat ride from the dock to our wreck location in the middle of the
local shipping channel.

The captain sounded the bottom and I dropped the shotline when we were
over the wreck. No current, sun just starting to pop out, a fine day for
diving. Delia had to head off to NY early so today it was Nick, Josh,
Andrew and myself diving as one large team, with AG running video. The
boat is beautifully laid out but a bit small, so Nick and I gear up,
Josh helps us load up our stages and we hop in first and hang out on the
shotline buoy while he and AG gear up. They join us in a few minutes, we
do quick equipment check and down we drop. We pause at 40', get
ourselves comfortable, exchange ok's then continue the descent.

Its my turn to lead on this dive. The captain seemed to indicate that the
shotline was dead on the wreck. As such I didn't bother (ie forgot) to
note any directional information on the surface. Below about 80' there
is no ambient light and the water is B-L-A-C-K! Without lights, we can't
see our hands in front of our faces. Nick and I had some battery related
light failures already on the last two days and we learned the hard way
that backups lights with good batteries are just as important on these
type dives as in cave diving. We hit the bottom at 218' and we might as
well have arrived on the surface of the moon. The only thing I can see
is is the downline and a shot ball shaped indentation in the silty
bottom. No wreck, no nothing. We panned around 360 degrees, nothing. I
can only see about as far as my light penetrates this murky gloom, about
8-10'. Guess we're going hunting - we know the shotline was close to
the wreck, its just a matter of finding it in this low vis. Wish I had
thought a bit more about directions... Nick brought the reel so I asked
him for it, tied into the shotline and head off North. I have no clue
what direction to look and I'm pretty sure no one else does either so I
decided to just look purposeful and head off North, hoping that I might
get lucky and appear to know what I'm doing. Swam out for about 50',
nothing. I lock down the reel, and turn West, deciding to swim a
counter-clockwise circle patterns, increasing the radius until we find
the wreck. While we're swimming we pass a small cluster of Metridiums
and some simlilar shaped bright orange anenomies. Cool, nice to be be
back in saltwater, we have some life here! Suddenly something catches my
eye, a huge fish starts to take shape at the edge of vis directly in
front of me. I'm thinking hey maybe one of those famous 6-gill sharks
they have up here. As I swim to it I realize its a linkcod. The
grandaddy of all linkcods! No kidding this thing was a good 6' long! I
flashed my light on him to show the others and that spooked him away. I
could feel AG's twin 18w video lights just over me and was hoping he
caught it on video. Turns out he saw it too but didn't get it on camera
because he was using the camera lights to look for the wreck. Another
few minutes swim and we come across a piece of man-made rusting pipe
structure. I pause a minute and try to decide whether to continue my 50'
radius search or not. I figure this peice of junk might be from the
wreck so I unlock the reel and venture out in this direction to go see.
A few mintues swim and presto the vertical side of a ship appears
magically in front of us.

Cool, we found it, but darn we've been down here a while already. I look
at my watch and see we've been farting around at about 220' for 12
minutes. Including our descent we've been breathing our stage bottles
for about 15 minutes now. We were planning a depth of 200' and figured
we'd smoke our stages at 15 minutes runtime. I look down at my stage
SPG and sure enough I'm at 200 psi. Should I tie the reel into the
wreck or change to backgas first? I remember we tied into the
shotline with no current, and local protocol is to just leave
the reel parked in the sand so it can be pulled up with the shotline
from the surface rather than us burning bottom time to mess with it
when we're done. Josh is nearby and gives me the "drop" signal which
confirms what I was thinking. So I lock it down and dump it in the
sand. My stage is starting to pull hard, so I signal the team to
switch to backgas. Its fun to be at 200' in pitch black and breath a bottle dry. We get on our longhoses, turn off and stow our stage regs, and then
proceed up the side of the ship to the main deck at 200'. AG is
already there, waiting for us. Suddenly I realize we should have
ascended to this shallower point before taking time to clean up our stages bottles rather
than do it on the bottom. Oh well, lesson learned. Based on our
planned BT of 25 minutes we only have 10 more minutes to see
this darn wreck. Oh well, might as well make the best of it.

The Tacoma was apparently a passenger ferry which was later converted to
a freighter. There are lots of structures and openings to swim through
and poke around. Several huge linkcods, all in the 3-4' size range are
hanging out and there are Metridiums and other red anenomies growing
here and there. We arrived at the wreck in the middle of the port side.
We swim around the middle section of the main deck then make our way to
the starboard side and work our way up around the bow section. We swim
through some twisted i-beams that must have supported some sort of large
machinery and I take a minute to poke my head down into a huge opening
in the deck. Any contact with the wreck creates an instant rusty red
silt cloud. Man it would be fun to go inside... Josh is investigating
something on the port side and we're getting close to end of our time so
we head over to him and he leads us down the port side rail towards
where we left the reel. We're at 23 minutes BT and assuming we'll need
2 minutes to head back along our reel line to the shotline, so I give
him the "turn around" sign, motioning to our line. He says no lets stay
here. As deco clock man on this dive, he's officially running the clock
and seems to know what he's doing so I gather were not returning to the
shot line. No current, so works for me. We swim around for a few more
mintues then Josh thumbs it. I relay the signal to Nick and we start up.
The ship has a huge tower-like structure that reaches up to 150' so
we're able to meander around and through it enjoying the life growing on
it during our ascent right until we hit deep stop territory. In
hindsight we meandered a bit too long, as it took us a good 6 minutes to
get from 200' to 150'.

Jumping from fresh to salt somehow I didn't have enough weight even though I was using what I normally use around here (can salt water vary that much from place to place??) and found myself
a bit light on ascent which is the worst feeling there is. Fortunately around 100' Josh blew a bag and we sent up the empty 80's which helped, but I couldn't
achieve normal relaxed trim position due to having to contort myself to
get every last bit of air out of my suit and wing. Fortunately I finally got settled down and from 50' up deco was pretty relaxing.

This is a pretty long boring report but wanted to give some flavor of
what deep, dark spooky wreck diving is like. Its definitely a different
ballgame from our colorful, rich reef diving, as well as much different
from cave diving. Both of which are so peaceful by comparison. Basically
from my limited experience so far, deep wreck diving is an adreneline
rush from the time you jump in until you hit deco. Great fun, we need some wrecks around here!