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Florida Keys 2011 – Spiegel Grove April 26, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks.
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The club trip diving runs Saturday to Wednesday, but having driven down earlier Matt and I took advantage and hooked up a boat ride to the Spiegel Grove with Silent World in Key Largo. Originally we’d planned to go to the Duane, but Captain Bob thought it was a bit rough and elected not to go there. I found the ride quite comfortable – not exactly smooth but no thoughts of seasickness. It was just rough enough to make preparation difficult, so I was glad we had everything set up before heading out.

The day before we’d arranged to have our stage bottles filled with EAN50 at Silent World, which is all we really need for the Keys wreck dives.  We met the owner, Chris, and chatted to him about the new Poseidon recreational rebreather and the growing popularity and acceptance of rebreathers for recreational diving. We’re also looking at trying one out on an experience dive with one if we have time this week, although I didn’t come to Florida to spend time in a pool.

Also on our dive boat was Dave, who happened to be an Inspiration Rebreather diver. We teamed up with him and planned the dive for an hour of bottom time and 30 minutes of deco. The start of the dive was to go to the props, which is about the deepest you can go there, then work our way forward and move into shallower regions. Dave had some nice camera equipment, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of his pictures. There are several descent lines going to the wreck, and our was on the starboard crane, which is astern of the superstructure.

Dave, with his nice camera equipment

After entry, instead of pulling ourselves along the lines to the buoy, we dropped below the boat. I ended up being the deepest, meeting the line at about 25 feet. At that depth, it looks like you can almost touch the wreck. We staged our EAN50 deco bottles when we reached the bottom of the line.

There were a couple of surprises at the the beginning. The first was that you can swim under the stern to the props from the starboard side. This is always a cool thing to do on a wreck dive. It was the deepest part of the dive, where I hit the 143′ maximum depth.

Under the Stern

We then headed into the dry-dock section. The ship is a floating dry dock, which could open up a rear door and let other ships drive in (that’s probably a gross simplification of what actually happens). So this part is huge and quite deep and reasonably devoid of features and fish. We ventured quite a way into it, but as we were still quite deep we turned around before getting to the end so we could ensure a reasonably long dive. The most interesting thing we found was these articles on the bottom. These were only illuminated by dive lights.

Articles in Dry Dock Section

After this we headed for a tour of the deck and superstructure where there are numerous swim throughs. Much of the superstructure has been opened up for divers to play in, and as long as you maintain contact with the outside light those used to wreck penetration shouldn’t have trouble. There are several doors at the deck level which lead to a maze of twisty passages and should only be attempted by those trained for technical wreck penetrations using guide lines. This was apparently the place were 3 divers died in March, 2007. OK So I was misinformed. According the the Silent World Boat Captain Bob, these divers pried open a door in the dry dock section, and descended to approximately 130′ inside the wreck, diving on single AL80s. They had stage bottles (unclear whether for deco, which wouldn’t make sense, or extended dive time) but left them by the entrance. Mindful of the warnings, Matt and I ran a penetration line in the 3rd door from the left, facing aft from the bow, only to find numerous large openings to the outside and a thick guideline. The only caution I would have is that it is relatively deep at 98′, and you spend a fair amount of time in an overhead environment.

Bow of the Spiegel Grove

On the deck, I noticed how much more overgrown the wreck was.The bow section is worth a look, as it is with most ships. Going out over the either end and looking back at the ship is usually spectacular, and the Spiegel Grove is no exception.

Bow of the Spiegel Grove

Yes, we gave the wreck a good going over, especially the safe swim throughs which are really a lot of fun. It’s difficult to describe the fascination we have with swimming through the passageways of a ship we’d hardly give a second glance to on the surface, but it’s there. The feeling of safety you get with doing it with lots of air available also makes the diving much less tense than if we had to plan the route more carefully to make it back to the ascent line with plenty of air left. And there were fish – lots of them just hanging out on the wreck.

Superstructure level

On the way back to the ascent line Matt made us proud by unfurling the flag.

We arrived back at the boat pretty much on plan at 60 minutes bottom time and 30 minutes deco on EAN50. It was an outstanding dive.

Florida Bound April 21, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Shipwrecks.
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From Toronto to Tavernier Key is a mere 2,500km. A quick check on Google maps shows it’s the same distance as Paris to Athens, without the ferry ride. On day 1, we knocked off about 1,700 of those and I’m writing this from a motel somewhere in Georgia. So we expect to arrive late this afternoon.

There is so much gear in the poor 1986 Toyota Camry that the rear tyres are almost scraping the wheel wells. Normally I wouldn’t subject my own vehicle to this kind of abuse but it’s fully depreciated and will be replaced next month. We have 3 sets of steel doubles, 4 AL80s, and 3  steel stage bottles (My 45, and Brad’s two 50s).

First dive of the week will be on the Duane, while the first official dive of the club trip will be Saturday on the Vandenburg in Key West.