depths then during the mid to late 90s the images were coming home
with them. In the background the industry watched, at first with an
unknowledgeable disagreement then as it woke to the advantages that
lay on plate for them the interest snowballed. Along with the images
and developing equipment the expeditions grew ever more glamorous
and with that results for sponsors were even more obvious. Mixed gas
combined with determination of select individuals was the recipe that
was needed, now historically famous shipwrecks that had resembled
nothing more than interesting reading in the history books would now
realistically be explored.
|'The Golden age of Shipwreck exploration'
Throughout the decade of the 1990s evolving trends towards deep
technical scuba resulted in many outstanding Shipwreck explorations
that had never been seen before. The onset of mix gas into mainstream
led to individuals blending teams that were now capable of some
serious expeditions. With shipwrecks lost in some of the most
remote locations of the world the logistics behind these projects
imposed further difficulties in themselves. The new breed of
mix gas divers were unaware but soon discovered they were making
history in what has passed as perhaps the golden age of shipwreck
discovery. These gas divers were making historic visits to shipwrecks
in excess of 400ft
Setting the Standards
The decade began with serious plans to explore the German Battleship
Ostfriesland a wreck that lie a long way offshore in 380ft of water.
During a milestone wreck diving operation Gentile, Pete Manchee
and Ken Clayton made a single Heliox dive each to the wreck using
custom decompression tables designed by Dr Bill Hamilton. The way
now had been set; Gentile had shown that these previously inaccessible
sites were now slowly becoming a possibility. In 91 the late Captain
Bill Nagle and John Chatterton led a team of experienced amateur
shipwreck divers on an expedition to explore an unknown wreck at
a site approximately 60 miles east of Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
Upon descending to the wreck, the divers discovered what appeared
to be the remains of a submarine in approximately 77 meters of water.
The general appearance was that of a World War II era submarine
wreck. On subsequent dives it was discovered that there were human
remains aboard the wreck, but the identity of the mysterious "U-Who"
would not be confirmed as that of U-869 until nearly six years later.
The mix gas divers now had reasons to remain at depth.
Famous historic wrecks
August 2nd 1993 and the fishing trawler F/V Mistake had snagged
her nets on an uncharted wreck. The wreck turned out to be the remains
of the Spanish brig of war
El Cazador 'The Hunter' lost in 1784 with a cargo of 450,000
pesos of newly minted coins on board. Marex embraced the latest
deep diving technology available mixed gas scuba and hired Billy
Dean's owner of Key West Diver & Deep Sea Technologies to conduct
the salvage. The team conducted 22 dives in the 83-92m range over
a 10 day period logging approximately 11 hours of bottom time before
the operation was closed down by the coast guard whom found that
commercial diving standards were not being maintained as free swimming
divers were being utilized as opposed to the set commercial regulations.
During the summer of 1994 British wreck diver Polly Tapson led the
first sport diving expedition to the wreck of the Lusitania, sunk
off the old head of Kinsale in Southern Ireland during the First
World War. The question of whether the Lusitania would become a
popular site for technical divers was opened during Tapson's expedition
whom conducted more than 100 dives to depths in excess of 90m. In
November of 1995 Kevin Denlay and Terrence Tysall made the first
visit on open circuit to the WWII wreck USS Atlanta sunk in the
Guadalcanal to a depth of 130m. Later during the summer of 97 both
Tysall & Denlay would use Aquazepp DPV's to completely survey
the wreck certainly an outstanding feat for its time. Back in the
UK during the same summer members of the Starfish Enterprise now
an established deep wreck diving team after the success of the Lusitania
expeditions of 94/95 became the first sport diving team in European
waters to explore a wreck in excess of 100m. Expedition leader Leigh
Bishop had teamed up with skipper John Thornton to locate and survey
the wreck of the King Edward VII, found sunk in 116m of water of
the North coast of Scotland. At the same time as the King Edward
dives both Kevin Gurr and Nick Hope had each secured that long awaited
sort after License from the Greek authorities granting access to
dive Titanic's big sister HMHS
Britannic. The success of Both expeditions conducting numerous
dives as a team to depths of 120m proved that techniques and decompression
theory currently available, meant that the worlds most spectacular
and deepest wrecks were now available to the experienced free swimming
As the decade draw to a close more and more significant lost shipwreck
finds were making headlines around the world, in the UK the starfish
enterprise team continued to focus attention to historic discoveries
on home shores such as the lost British Submarine HMS Affray and
many more before welcoming the new decade in with explorations of
the Deep Treasure ship Egypt.
On route back from the Egypt expedition the first historic sport
dive was made on the famous Flying
Enterprise lost in 1952 after a strong battle to save the ship
by a stubborn captain Carlsen. The wreck was discovered in some
280ft dept. Also in the UK the active 'Northern Gas Team' made decent's
down to the Dasher a WW2 aircraft carrier suck off the North west
in a depth of 460ft.
Contrary to popular belief with the current climate as it was proof
that the wreckers could work in conjunction with survivors of sensitive
war losses veteran London diver and mix gas pioneer Keith Morris
led teams to the wrecks of HMS
Charybdis & Limbourne.
Both these milestone expeditions were significant in there own right
bonding relations with divers & hero's of past alike. Quickly
followed up by Simon Bennett's expedition out to film
HMS Manchester off the waters of Tunisia.
2003 saw perhaps one of the most definitive wreck expeditions to
date when Englishman Carl Spencer led a team of closed circuit divers
to unravel the mysteries of Titanic's sister ship Britannic. The
wreck sunk in 119m depth saw the first true deep penetrations inside
the ship to answer questions historians had been asking for decades.
Deep Image sets out to collectively bring together
some of the most significant expeditions in Deep Shipwreck explorations
carried out by technical divers. Keep watch as we also bring latest
information and links to expeditions, including quite possibly the
largest shipwreck expedition of its kind planned for Sept 2003.
Be sure to keep an eye out on Deep Image for a forthcoming announcement.
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