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Diving the Oriskany – Day 2 April 24, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The weather was significantly improved by the second day with warm temperature and clear skies. We picked up our doubles at MBT divers and headed out to the Marina to load up the boat. Brad and Ken had decided not to dive that day. I supposed I’ll find out why later but at that point all I knew was they’d decided to give it a miss, along with Jesse who ended up not diving either day. Rich wasn’t feeling well, so only 9 passengers set out that day with the captain and crew of the H20 Below for another trip to the Mighty O.

Mike had used two Apeks Quantum computers the day before, but in the evening one of them stopped working completely, in a very similar way to one of the ones I used to have. It was the older of the two (like mine) and continues the pattern of these computers having a limited lifetime.

The trip out was much more pleasant than the day before, with waves only about half as high. We spent the first half hour watching the Blue Angels, who make their home in Pensacola, practice their aerobatic display along the coast. There were 6 airplanes flying, and while 5 of them were in formation we lost sight of the other one. Next thing we knew the 6th plane buzzed (ok he was probably at least 500 feet) our boat from bow to stern. Most of us were facing astern and the high speed of the plane ensured we didn’t hear anything until it was almost overhead. Way cool.

Blue Angels in the distance as we head out

Blue Angels in the distance as we head out

The rest of the trip was spent planning the dive and preparing the gear. Our plan was to drop down a little past the top of the tower at 100 feet, then to deck of the carrier at 150′ and proceed through the middle door of 3 situated in the tower on the port side. The tower is on the starboard side of the ship so these doors face toward the deck. Through the door is a small room, with another door on the opposite wall. Through that door is an escalator leading down toward the hangar deck going toward the stern. At the bottom, a left turn leads outside to the starboard side of the ship, while turning right goes down a few steps and into the hangar, where we planned the maximum depth at 180 feet.

The plan then called for us to swim across the hangar to a large opening where one of the aircraft elevators was situated, ascend to the flight deck level, and swim back to the tower and look around for a bit at 150. We were then to proceed up and explore the navigation and/or flag bridges at or above 135 feet, before ascending to decompression depths. Dave was to lead the dive with Pete and Andrew following, and Mike and I in the rear.

Even when the boat stopped there was no appreciable nauseating movement, so getting ready and into the water was a breeze. This time I entered with the deco tank already attached and slipped down with Dave to 100 feet shortly afterwards. Pete and Mike were waiting there and while Dave headed down to the deck quickly I stopped for a minute to take a few pictures of the other divers. Dave gave me the hurry up sign so we all dropped down to the deck at 150. On the way I tied my digital camera to a rail because it was only rated to 130 feet. I’d thought about exceeding it’s maximum depth but thought the better of it. It took us longer that we’d planned to find the room. The first problem was that there were more than 3 doors, so picking the middle one wasn’t a simple as it looked on the diagram (is it ever?). The other problem was that it was set it my mind that the door in the opposite wall would be directly opposite the entry way, while in reality it was towards the right. If you go there, look for a small room (maybe 8×10) that has a door on the opposite wall near the wall on the right.

Mike descending from the 100' meeting point

Mike descending from the 100' meeting point

We all went through the door without problems, and even though I was fourth all the divers had great buoyancy control and things hadn’t been stirred up. I’m glad to report that Mike, who was fifth, reported the same thing so I can also give credit to myself. It was a great little tour down the escalator, and we got to the bottom it was reassuring to see the light coming in from the opening on the left. We turned right and went down the stairs to the door for the hangar deck and to my surprise there were a bunch of orange cables hanging across the entrance way. This of course immediately raised caution signals in my head but I soon realized that they weren’t really in the way, and that some of the team were already through without incident. I remember thinking that noone told us about them, which I thought was strange.

Andrews descends toward the flight deck

Andrew descends toward the flight deck

Reassured by the sight of the opening on the opposite side of the ship, we swam through marveling at the view. My new UK C8 LED Plus light illuminated the inside quite well, although only a bit at a time. If I’d taken notes I might have recalled some things about what I saw on the inside but I suspect that I only have a general impression of what was there due to the effects of narcosis. That impression, however, was great – it was a lot of fun looking around inside and I wish we’d had more time. The water temperature inside was 20C (68F).

Deepstop at the back of the tower

Deepstop at the back of the tower (note the new mask)

The dive plan beckoned, and due to the delay we were late leaving our maximum depth by about 2 minutes. Our delay wasn’t catastrophic though, because it had occurred while looking for the entrance at our planned depth for the next phase of the dive, so by returning to our scheduled run time for this segment we made up for the extra time. In any case I didn’t go deeper than 172 feet, and I don’t think the others did either. We looked around the tower taking some more pictures. I noticed everyone was well above the planned depth which was too bad as I wanted to look around the navigation bridge, but I had to stay with the team. The final 10 minutes ran out quickly and we ascended for the long decompression of about 40 minutes.

Barracuda lounge on the tower

Barracuda lounge on the tower

Like the day before, I used a Jon line for the last deco stop. This trip was the first time I’d used one and it was definitely a great help on a crowded stop. About half way through the deco the direction of the current moved almost 90 degrees and the temperature dropped slightly, portending the changing conditions above.

Damsel fish makes its home in the wreck

Damsel fish makes its home in the wreck

When we got back on the boat the seas had grown, and we had to be careful not to hurt ourselves on the ladder. I climbed back on with the deco bottle still attached. Despite the rougher seas, I felt great through the whole trip and even had some of the forbidden hot dogs (I never eat hot dogs, these were probably my first in more than 20 years) on the way home.

Oriskany's Number - 34. Note size of door between the digits

Oriskany's Number - 34. Note size of door between the digits

It was bumpy though. At one point we hit a wave about twice as high as the other which slammed me on the floor. While I was getting up we hit another and one of the crew landed on my foot and came close to breaking my big toe. It swelled up later making me thankful for the cruise control on the drive home. Even that couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I helped myself to another hot dog, laughed off the pain, and kept talking about the dive. I recalled a thing I’d read on the wall of the lobby of the hotel attributed to the US Marines that said “Pain is weakness leaving the body”.

Daving just hanging out on deco

Dave just hanging out on deco

The boat’s divemaster, Rich, was surprised to hear about the dangling cables. He said they’d been attached to the ceiling and must have come loose recently. He’s dived the wreck over 200 times and knows what it’s about. We’re just beginning, and I hope before too long I can go back for longer to explore it more thoroughly, although it would take years to see the whole thing.

After one stop for food and another at the dive shop, we were quickly underway for our trip back to Canada, and less than 19 hours later, at 10:30AM on Wednesday, we were home.

Overall, I’d give the trip an A+ based mostly on this second dive, although I can’t complain about the first – it was just getting there and back which was the problem. It was definitely a great experience. Despite the expense, long drive, seasickness, sore toe, and lost gear (a hat, a dive light and a library book), it was well worth the while and a real adventure. Living the dream, man. I’d also give an A+ to the dive shop, boat operator and crew. They struck the right balance between helpful and letting us do our own thing.

I used a bunch of new equipment, including new fins, my primary light and the Scubapro Spectra mask. They all worked great and I didn’t notice the mask, which is all I could ask for- both comfortable and transparent.

Here’s the decompression schedule using Buhlmann ZHL-16B algorithm with 30/85 gradient factors, which provided a good deal of conservatism. The gas rate was purposely set high to be conservative enough for the less experienced technical divers.

Left side on Air, Right side for EAN50

Left side on Air, Right side for EAN50

Depth Time O2% Start End PPO2 Gas Rate Gas Reqd GF% MVal% CNS% OTU’s
100 3 21 2 3 0.85 0.8 13 0 16 1 1.35
180 7 21 4 11 1.36 0.8 41 0 14 5 13.84
150 10 21 12 22 1.17 0.8 49 0 35 11 27.94
135 10 21 23 33 1.07 0.8 49 0 44 15 39.67
70 1 21 35 36 0.66 0.7 2 30 68 15 41.69
60 1 50 36 38 1.42 0.7 4 46 73 16 43.44
50 2 50 38 40 1.26 0.7 4 54 77 17 46.78
40 3 50 40 43 1.11 0.7 6 61 81 19 50.73
30 4 50 44 48 0.96 0.7 5 69 84 20 54.78
20 26 50 48 74 0.81 0.7 29 77 87 26 72.17
0 74 85 93


1. rickheil - April 24, 2009

Sweet dive and great report!


2. Deep Dive Planning « Chronicle of an older diver - April 28, 2009

[…] charted both the plan and the log of the Oriskany Dive #2, which I described in this blog a few days ago. The blue line is the actual dive (painstakingly recorded from the dive profile on my Apeks […]


3. Gradient Factors « Chronicle of an older diver - May 4, 2009

[…] Outdoors, SCUBA, Scuba Diving, Shipwreck, Sport, Technical Diving, Wreck Diving trackback On my second Oriskany dive, we had a discussion prior to the dive about the profile. We thought the deco requirement was pretty […]


4. Terry Killeen - May 8, 2009

Great Trip Report! I’m curious – Did you end up buying the Shearwater Pursuit computer? If so, did you dive it on the Oriskany? I’m strongly considering buying the Pursuit SPOT, after looking at the Pursuit, X1, VRX, and NiTek X


deepstop - May 9, 2009

I haven’t bought it yet, so I used tables with my Quantum as a backup on the Oriskany. I’m looking at the SPOT as well, and am in the process of arranging it with my dive shop. My Course Director for my OWSI also wants one (he has a VR3 now, but wants to get a SPOTCE for his rebreather) so we will order at the same time as Shearwater has a minimum order quantity of two. The LDS owner keeps pushing the VRx, but it’s my 3rd choice after the Shearwater and the X1 (both Canadian companies, rather than UK for VRx). The X1 is way more expensive so I think the Shearwater is my best choice. From what I’ve read and heard about it, including studying the manuals of all 3 computers, I think it’s the way to go.

Let me know what you end up with!



5. Terry Killeen - May 9, 2009

Thanks for the feedback! I dove a VR3 for a weekend – is was difficult to setup, but on the dives it was fine. Two of my dive buddies in Charleston, SC (US), both w/ REVO rebreathers, switched from the VR3 to the Shearwater pursuit, and gave it a very strong recommendation. No local dealers here, so the best source I could find is the following:

Safe Diving!



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