Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kittwake Night Dive

Jeff and Toni, staff divers from Divetech were excellent slaves (strobe slaves) for a full moon night dive tonight on the Kittiwake shipwreck in Grand Cayman.  It was a gorgeous night... calm and clear.  A barracuda, eagle ray and school of horse eye jacks shyly greeted us as we dropped in on the stern.  Click on images to see larger.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Kittiwake underwater photos, first day of diving

I made my first dive on the Kittiwake with the media group yesterday.  I was exited to shoot her fresh and will be excited every time I return to document the changes that will occur.  She is now open to the public and the fish have already begun to investigate.  This was just the day after sinking and already I saw two barracudas, some bar jacks, a big school of horse eye jacks and a stingray.  There is some prime, brand new real estate on Seven Mile Beach and it's free for the taking.  It is going to be fun to observe who moves in and when as the years progress.  This is THE perfect home for big fish such as groupers, snappers and jewfish (goliath grouper).  Each new fish on the wreck will have a very real monetary value to Cayman's dive tourism.  If we could hire them to work on the wreck we would, but we'll have to be patient and wait for nature to take it's course.  Once they do move in, we should protect them like the National Treasures that they are.  Sweetlips, the Goliath Grouper who lived on the Oro Verde for about three years, greeting divers to see if handouts had been brought was speared illegally.  Such laws need enforcement to back them up.  That single fish could have brought millions of dive tourism dollars to Cayman all by itself.  That species is not only very rare now, but also normally too shy to approach for a photo.  It was a huge thrill to hand feed that gentle giant and every professional underwater photographer who had heard about it yearned to come to Cayman to photograph it.  And so in memory of Sweetlips and the hope of another such amazing animal for the Kittiwake I include a shot of her at the end of this sequence of images.  I may find out now who doesn't read my captions if someone thinks I saw a Goliath Grouper yesterday.   ; ))

Most of the ship can safely be dived without special equipment except the lowest stern-most space, which Jay Easterbrook tells me will make a good tech dive.   Light can be seen from about every other space, but you will still need a flashlight and ample air in your tank to safely enter much of it.  There are plenty of little projections to bump into, so proceed with caution and a good sense of spacial awareness.  If you are famously klutzy it might be wise to stay outside or in the big spaces.

Click images to see larger and go back in my archives to see aerials of the Kittiwake sinking, arriving in Cayman and her interior spaces while she was still dry.

Pool's open!  This is Sweetlips, our once cherished Goliath mascot of the Oro Verde in the mid-80's

Sinking of the 250' long Kittiwake, Grand Cayman 5 January, 2011


Sunday, January 2, 2011

EX-USS Kittiwake, USN retired submarine tender

 It looks like I will indeed be going up in the helicopter for the sinking of the Kittiwake, which will definitely be very exciting!  This is a momentous occasion for the diving and tourism industry here.  I can tell you that being a resident photographer since 1983, I am pretty pumped about this new photo opportunity.  I shot over 1,200 frames from the helicopter just on the Christmas arrival aerials.  Imagine what I'll shoot on sinking day!  Here are a few frames of the interior from the air as well as clean-up day on the dock Saturday.
As interesting as the Kittiwake may be right now, the real value is in experiencing how it looked newly sunk so that we can appreciate seeing it change over the next 20 or 30 years, God willing we have long lives. It'll be fascinating to observe who moves in and when.  Of course, if the first fish is a lionfish, it won't live very long!  I've already been fortunate to watch the Carrie Lee, Oro Verde and Doc Polson mature. Of those, the Carrie Lee and Doc Polson have had the most astounding rate of growth on them and became very colorfully photogenic within 10 years, continuing to amaze even more so each year.   Sadly, we've collectively fished out the vast majority of the big groupers, snappers and barracudas that once inhabited all of our wrecks.  I expect this wreck to do at least as well on the sessile organisms and perhaps attract or raise up the biggest fish we have left.  Just a theory.  This ship is way bigger than any others before it at 250' long! It is the first shipwreck since the Balboa, in George Town Harbor, on which divers at each end will be beyond visibility of the other.   The pilothouse will only be 15'-20' under the surface... it's gonna be awesome! It's very size will make it a serious challenge to photograph well, which always makes great photos seem all the more rewarding.  Time to put the brain into gear!
Click on images to see details!