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Diving the USS Oriskany, Day 1 April 22, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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Monday April 20, 2009 we arrived at MDT Divers at 7:30 AM to get our instructions, mostly the directions to the boat. A 10 minute drive got us there as Captain Douglas, the other Captain Douglas and Divemaster Rich from the H20 Below assisted us in getting our gear loaded and then signed the customary waivers, although this one included our dive plan which they require for technical divers. Shortly after 8:30 we were under way, heading through a shallow channel towards the open water.

Looking back at Pensacola

Looking back at Pensacola

The trip out the USS Ex-Oriskany took 2 hours – a little longer than it sometimes is because of the heavy load on the boat of large male divers and technical gear. The waves were 4′ and about 7 seconds apart, just enough to give me a slightly uneasy feeling in my stomach but no real issues. The seasickness started when the boat stopped at the wreck and we started putting on our gear. About half the divers were sick, including me when I lost it trying to get geared up. I felt a little better after that but by no means well, and it was a real effort to get the rest of the gear on and get into the water.

Getting ready to dive

Getting ready to dive

Once I was off the boat though, I felt better. The crew handed my down my deco bottle (an AL80 filled with EAN58)  and it clipped on easily with the D-ring changed from behind the pocket where I’d had it on previous dives to the front. We were diving as a group but also had paired off into buddy teams. Pete and I descended to the tower at about 80 feet and dropped down over the flag and navigation bridges to the sponson on below the flight deck level. We briefly exceeded 180 feet but only looked around for a minute or two before ascending to more reasonable depths.

Leaving sheltered waters for the open sea

Leaving sheltered waters for the open sea

At one point Pete noticed sea urchins falling from above. Mike had noticed how easily they come off the rail and sent some raining down on us. After looking around on the starboard side of the wreck we headed back to the bridges for a quick look around. The dive plan was catching up with us and we had to ascend fairly soon to 100′ which we did. I penetrated several small rooms at about that depth. Pete indicated he was going to follow me in but when I looked out an opening to the outside he was there looking in at me.

So far, so good

Pete & Dave - so far, so good

The opening wasn’t big enough for me due to an obstruction in front of the door,  so I signalled Pete that I was coming out the way I came in and he met me there. He told me later that he couldn’t fit through the opening. He has the same setup as me and isn’t a huge guy so I think it may have to do with the positioning of his lower D-ring. If it was set up the way I used to have mine, it might have hung wide instead being tucked below the body. In the underwater pictures I’ll post for dive #2 you can see how far from his body the bottom of the tank sits.

We spent a little more time at the top of the tower before ascending the line for our decompression. My computer agreed fairly well with the tables (except the computer doesn’t include deep stops – so I used the tables but made sure the computer was clear). Due to the swells we did the last stop at 20′ instead of 10′. There’s not much penalty for doing this  (around 3 minutes in this case) when using accelerated decompression on Nitrox 50 or more, but on air it can take much, much longer.

The ride back was awful. I felt sick the whole way but at least I didn’t throw up again. The best I could do was lie down on the bench. The boat was operated in a very professional manner and we were all pleased with the helpfulness and diligence of the crew. Their advice on the dive planning was invaluable and we struck a good balance between adventure and common sense. We were back at 3pm to my great relief.

Unloading - Glad to be back on Terra Firma

Unloading - Glad to be back on Terra Firma

I didn’t take any underwater pictures. I tried. My digital camera which took the surface photos has a housing which is depth rated to only 130′, so I took an old Nikonos IV but it didn’t work. Worse still, when I was unpacking my gear the back popped open and ruined the film. I give up. My retro photography experiment is officially over!

Bottom time for the dive was 48 minutes, with an additional 40 minutes of ascent and deco on EAN58. The temperature at the bottom was 19C (67F) and 21C on deco, which was reasonably comfortable in a 6.5mm wet suit with a hood. Current was moderate, waves were a decent size. I noticed urchins, sea cucumbers and plentiful barracuda.

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Comments»

1. Rob Andrew - April 24, 2009

No pics under Chris?
Got a call from Gater today, said you guys had a blast.
Cheers

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deepstop - April 24, 2009

Coming soon. I took the Nikonos down on day 1 as it’s rated to 180+ but it didn’t work. On Tuesday I took the digital camera and tied it off at 120 feet while we went down further then picked it up on the way back up. They should be posted today.

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2. deepstop - April 24, 2009

Here’s another report of this dive by Rich.

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3. Deep Dive Planning #2 « Chronicle of an older diver - April 29, 2009

[…] order as I described the plan for dive #2 yesterday, but I’ve obtained the dive plan for Oriskany Dive #1, and combined it with the plot from my computer into a chart of the dive. The excursion below […]

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