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Once more to the Spiegel Grove May 13, 2016

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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The last deep dive of the week was once again on the Spiegel Grove. Did I want to dive the same wreck 3 times in a week? Hell yes. I love that dive. This time four of us, Rob, Jody, Joe and me all together exploring levels 1 and 2. Level 2 is perhaps the more interesting one as it has the mess hall and the workshop, which has a grinder, planer, drill presses, lathe, hoists, workbenches and welding equipment. No-one seemed to have much trouble getting through the doors this time and we didn’t have any bailouts.

Near the end of the dive we were in the workshop when through a doorway we saw a large (no, like, really really big) Goliath Grouper hanging out. We watched him for quite a while but he eventually swam away slowly. We followed after him, descending through an oval hole and under the deck that overhangs the dry dock area. It looks from the plans like the hole once housed some kind of smokestack, but in (not 20/20) hindsight I’m a little fuzzy on which deck some things were on. The plans don’t show the stack on the workshop deck. It looks like once through the hold we swam out from under the deck on which the 3″/50mm guns used to be mounted, just before getting to the 50 ton cranes.

To be honest even though I surface with the feeling I was really getting to know the layout of the decks, in retrospect I’m not entirely sure what was on each deck, except for the mess hall and the machine shop. When I look at the plans I can’t reconcile everything with what I remember. Maybe narcosis is factor, or maybe the ship was reconfigured after the plans were drawn.

We also came upon the “Top Dog” floor mural in one of the hallways in the approximate centre of the deck, which I’d not seen before. It’s easy to overlook, being in a nondescript hallway running across the deck, and partially covered in silt.


That was the best dive of the week, although I really like to go into the below decks again where it’s necessary to run guidelines. I’ll have to wait for my team members to get a little more time and confidence on their rebreathers before doing that again.


Shallow Waters May 8, 2016

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks.
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Wednesday turned out to be a disappointment followed by a decent shallow water dive. Once again we were to dive the Duane, and once again the current was way too strong. Like the previous time, we headed over to the Spiegel Grove only to hear of ripping currents there too, so we gave up and the boat took us to the wreck of the Norwegian merchant freighter Benwood, a wreck of a wreck lying in about 35′ feet of water. The Benwood sank after a collision, and then, according to our boat crew, the US Navy used it for target practice , so not only are there a few bombs lying around the site a lot of the metal is twisted beyond recognition. The Wikipedia article on the Benwood states that her stern section “seems to have been mostly obliterated by explosions of an unknown type”.

I dove with Rob, who’d recovered from his cold enough to dive. We took our time examining the wreck. Lots of time, actually, as my total dive time was 120 minutes. Rob logged 115 minutes but I explored for a few minutes below the boat so I could come up with 120 minutes on the computer. My reward was spotting a cluster of 4 lobsters. I’d had the best fill of the week so far so even with the length of the dive I still came up with 1000 PSI in the doubles. We saw a few Rockfish, a spotted drum, and various other more common species, and these mysterious rust coloured fish with big glassy eyes. The boat crew had some opinions on what the fish was, but we didn’t come up with anything definitive.

Any dive is a good dive but this good dive would have been a better dive if it were a dive on the Duane or the Spiegel Grove.


The mysterious red fish is identified as a Glasseye Snapper.


Decompression Period May 3, 2016

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Equipment, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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Dive #2 was supposed to be on the Duane. It’s not my favourite wreck down there, and I’ve often said I could dive the Spiegel Grove every day of the week, but I’d never turn down a dive on the Duane. This time, though, when the Conch Republic boat got there, the buoys marking the site were under water, meaning very strong currents were present. I’ve dived the Duane in conditions like that and we had been surprised no-one had been swept off the wreck, so discretion prevailed and we headed off to Dive the Spiegel Grove again, which, of course, I didn’t mind one bit.

There was a fairly strong current on the Spiegel Grove as well. I was feeling slightly queasy after the long ride, but when I got to the back of the boat I was asked to wait as Rob was still getting ready. I sat down and didn’t feel to good so I told the crew I’d wait in the water and went in. It took some hauling to pull myself through the current to the descent line so I used the waiting time catching my breath using the atmosphere instead of my tank. Even so I used 400psi (about 28 cubic feet) just getting down to the bottom of the line, although some of that might have been lost due to the change in temperature. Using water temp of 27 and air temp of 33 the change in pressure due to temperature would be equivalent to about 6 cubic feet.

I was with my trusty buddy Rob. He was on his new rebreather so we didn’t push too hard – doing the swim throughs on the first and second levels above the main deck – and after reading some of the APD Inspiration manual I’m sure he had plenty enough to think about. Even though we were to dive the Spiegel Grove no less than 3 times during the week, we never penetrated the wreck below the main deck, where we need to run lines, choosing to stay conservative. In previous years we’ve gone one level below the deck and I was hoping to go further this year but it was not to be.

Rob’s kit wasn’t as streamlined as his doubles because his bail-out tank was not as parallel to his body as we tend to have with our doubles, and at one point he had to extricate himself from apparently entangling some of the many hoses on his kit while going through one of the doorways on the wreck.

As usual I racked up a bunch of deco time. Rob had very little, so this dive goes to the rebreather for minimizing hang time, although marks were deducted for the hangup in the doorway. Mind you, we were entertained by a group of Barracudas which circled us on each stop and the water was warm, although it would be been more fun to spend that time on the wreck.

Conch Republic handled everything wonderfully. Their setup on the dock is easy to use with the nearby fill station (although Mark carried my doubles to the fill station that day), hoses, hangers and dunk tanks.

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.

Diving the Spiegel Grove December 7, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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The first dive near Key Largo on our club trip was the Spiegel Grove. This was the first and only dive I did on double tanks, which meant we had a good long dive and I felt more comfortable on the long swim throughs. Here’s a video of the most interesting one, according to our charter operator, Conch Republic. This video covers most of the swim through, although it took the first 20 feet or so to get the camera sorted out for video.

A minor source of embarrassment was forgetting to set my computer to Nitrox until 16 minutes into the dive as you can see in the log. This caused it to calculate longer decompression than was required but I didn’t mind hanging out on the line. Rich wondered what the hell I was doing as he had little or no obligation whatsoever. It was definitely less of an issue than diving a Nitrox profile on air.

Spiegel Grove 20091122