Location:Christmas Island, Kiribati
Day 16 - Scuba Dive
by Wayne Brown
I wish we had more than a day to explore Christmas Island. Since we don't we are trying to be two places at once. When you are married you can do that. Karen is exploring Christmas Island on land and I will be exploring Christmas Island underwater.
After the Zodiacs took everyone to the island, Captain Frank, Chief Engineer Peter, Hotel Manager Craig and I took a Zodiac to do some exploratory scuba diving. None of us have ever been here before. I am the dive leader and will pick what I hope will be a good diving location.
We go north along the northwest point of the island. We stop the Zodiac various locations and check what it looks like underwater. With our dive masks on we stick our heads in the water and look around. All we can see is blue water and sand...no coral reefs. After several stops we still have not found anything, except sand. We are running out of time because we have to be back to the ship before Karen and her group returns from the island.
I stop a float I find on top of the water. It could be marking a fish trap, or...a dive site! We don't have time to look around any more dive sites if we want to get back to the ship in time, so, I decide we should dive here. We all put on our AQUA LUNG scuba diving equipment and sit on the side of the Zodiac. At the same time we all do a backwards somersault off the boat and into the water.
Underwater all I can see is blue water all around us. We follow the rope from the float down toward the bottom. The rope is tied to a big cement block on the white sand bottom, 60 feet (18 meters) underwater. There is no coral reef here! As I look around In blue haze I can see a large dark shape in the distance. It could be a reef...or...something else!
We swim quickly towards the dark form. It is a sunken ship! The ship sitting upright on the sandy bottom and tilted onto its left (port) side. It looks like a small research ship. It is probably about 100 feet (30 m) long. It does not look like it has been underwater for a long time because the surface of the wreck is not covered with corals or marine growth like I saw on the wreck we explored on last year's expedition (Reefs, Wrecks & Pirates) in the Virgin Islands.
As we swim around the wreck we can not see any holes in the sides of the ship that may have caused it to sink. Under the ship we don't find any holes there either, but we do see two big propellers. These propellers are about 4 feet (1.2 m) across and are covered with algae (underwater plants).
After examining the propellers, we slowly swim up and over the stern Hangning out over the stern are big steel posts. These were parts of the winch that lowered and raised scientific equipment into and out of the water. We can see that this ship has been underwater long enough for fish to start using it as their home. When ships sink underwater it does not take long for fish to start living in them. Ships become artificial reefs, functioning as shelter for fish just as real coral reefs do. Sunken ships like this can become an important part of the underwater environment providing both food and shelter for a variety of sea creatures.
As we swim across the back deck we can see hundreds of colorful fish that swirl and part in front of us as we swim towards them. We swim through a large school of fish that are like guards in front of an open cabin door. We swim through the open door and into the cabin. It looks like the dining room and kitchen. Not much is left inside. It looks like before the ship sunk people took out everything they could. The stove and refrigerator are gone. So are the table and chairs. As we swim through main cabin into the wheelhouse we can see that everything that could have been removed from this ship has been. All the instruments are gone as well as the radios and depth finder. Because of the way this ship is stripped of everything it seems like this ship may have sunk slowly and everyone got off the ship safely before it sank.
Hotel Manager Craig points at his air gauge. He is getting low on air, so it is time for all of us to leave the wreck and return to the surface to finish our dive.
At the surface we help each other into the boat, take off our dive gear and head back to Odyssey. We had hoped investigate a coral reef, but, instead we got to explore a mysterious sunken ship. This was an exciting way to start our day!
My excitement for today is not over because after lunch I will be going back in the water. This time Karen will join me to look for shallow coral reefs that we can easily investigate using only our snorkeling (no air tank) equipment.
Christmas Island, Kiribati
Position: 1º 56' N / 157º 24' W
Air Temp: 84ºF
Weather: light breeze, clear skies with scattered clouds
Sea Conditions: calm seas
Location: Christmas Island
Dive Time: 50 minutes
Maximum Depth: 70 feet.
Water Temp: 82ºF
Underwater Visibility: 80 feet
Clownfish Seen: 0
Sharks Seen: 0
Hotel manager Craig (left) and Captain Frank (right) are at the bottom looking around for something to investigate.
In the blue haze we discover a sunken ship!
The stern of the ship rests on the white sand bottom, 70 feet underwater. The large poles sticking out the back are parts of the winch system to raise and lower things out of and into the water.
This is one of the two propellers we found under the ship. This propeller is about 4 feet long and covered with algae.
Hundreds of colorful tropical fish school in and the around the wreck. This wreck has become their home.
With our air getting low we return to the surface and end our exciting shipwreck dive.