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Dive Report: Wreck of the Carolina

On Tuesday morning, 3:00 AM, August 11, 2009 the dive boat Gypsy Blood , skippered by Capt. Jim Wilson, left the Brielle Boat Basin in Brielle, NJ, for the 4 ½ hour run to the final resting place of the steamship S.S. Carolina. The S.S. Carolina was the last of 6 ships all sunk on Sunday, June 2, 1918, by the German U-boat U-151. The date has come to be known as “Black Sunday” and claimed the American ships:

  1. schooner Isabel B. Wiley, 776 tons – bombed, 7:50 AM
  2. freighter Winneconne, 1869 tons – bombed, 9:12 AM
  3. schooner Jacob M. Haskell, 1798 tons – bombed, 12:00 AM
  4. schooner Edward H. Cole, 1791 tons – bombed, 4:00 PM
  5. freighter Texel, 3220 tons – bombed, 5:20 PM
  6. passenger liner Carolina, 5017 tons – shelled, 7:20 PM

All 6 of these wrecks have been located over the years and they all lie within 6 to 10 miles of each other.

We left the dock on a sweltering evening following a very hot day that saw temperatures in the low 90’s with high humidity. As we left Manasquan Inlet we were greeted by a light south westerly breeze and 2 to 3 foot seas. The 6 divers aboard settled into their bunks to get some sleep. This would be the first dive on this particular wreck for all 6 of them. By 7:30 AM we were over the wreck site approximately 80 miles south east of the inlet and 65 miles off of Atlantic City, NJ, in 240 feet of water. The crew quickly located and tied into the wreck and we were ready to dive by 8:30 AM.

The first divers in the water were 3 men who made the trip from Mesa, Arizona for a week of diving “Wreck Valley”. Two were using Megalodon rebreathers and the 3rd was employing a Kiss. I was diving open circuit trimix. I had Tmx 17/45 as my bottom gas in a set of double steel 120 cu.ft tanks. I was using EAN 28 and 70 as my deco gases in steel 45 cu ft tanks slung from my chest. I splashed at 8:36 AM and began my decent down the anchor line. The visibility was excellent all the way down, being that we were in the deep blue waters of the open ocean. The temperature however began to decline from a pleasant 70 degrees at the surface to a chilly 46 degrees at the bottom 240 feet below. At about 200 feet the wreck started to come into view and I quickly realized that we were tied in right in the middle of the ship’s 4 massive boilers, which are the most prominent remains of the vessel. This was good news as it would make navigating the wreck that much easier. The rest of the wreck is a collapsed debris field, although the stern is still recognizable. I cruised in between the massive boilers at 230 feet and then moved toward the stern where I had been told there was still a good chance of finding recoverable artifacts. The vis was excellent at 35 to 40 feet. I could see the glow of the dive lights of the other divers all around me giving the scene a surreal quality. This was my first deep dive of the season and that, combined with the excitement of making my first dive on this wreck, was negatively affecting my gas consumption rate. I needed to relax. Also, there was a bit of a current if you allowed yourself to come up off the wreck. I saw several very large lobsters but I’ve never been much of a bug hunter so I passed them by. I found a spot towards the stern and began digging in the silt and sand. I quickly started to find pieces of brass piping and shards of broken pottery. I was hoping to find some intact pieces of china with the ship’s distinctive “New York to Porto Rico” logo on it. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.

I made another pass through the 4 massive boilers and easily located the anchor line, right on schedule for my planned 20 minutes of bottom time. I began my ascent and upon reaching 150 feet I made the switch to my EAN 28 deco gas. I settled in to the task of completing the 47 minutes of decompression I had ahead of me. All went smoothly except for a bit of a bounce on the anchorline as the Gypsy Blood above us danced on the waves. I deployed my Jon-line to make my hang a bit more comfortable and efficient. I completed an uneventful deco and climbed back aboard perfectly on my 67th minute of runtime, as planned. Once all divers were back on board we saw that one of us had struck the mother lode and returned with a goodie bag full of china plates, saucers, and even a delicate tea cup, all intact. Ironically, it turned out that I had been searching only about 20 feet away from where these pieces were found. Oh well, better luck next time.

At this point Capt Jim fired up the barbecue and we chowed down on sausages and hamburgers as we watched a pod of Mahi-mahi swimming under the boat. I had only planned one dive for the day, so my diving was over. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing as the 3 divers from Mesa completed a 2nd dive. The day just got better as the wind calmed and the seas dropped to 1 foot or below. At 3:00 PM we cut loose from the wreck and began the 4 ½ hour run back home. We had a great smooth ride back and reflected on the satisfaction of making our first dives on this historic wreck, The Gypsy is planning another trip to this wreck in 1 month. I think I just might have to be on it.

4 comments

1 Etienne { 08.13.09 at 8:01 pm }

seem to be a nice dive. Here the question.

Why open circuit and not using your meg ???

Etienne

2 Hans Kaspersetz { 08.13.09 at 8:50 pm }

Etienne, I didn’t write this article. Paul F. wrote the article and he happens still be on open circuit. One day when we gets his stuff together and sees the light, he will come over to the dark side and get a CCR!

Hans

3 Etienne { 08.14.09 at 6:43 am }

Sorry, didn’t notice it was not from you.

Hi Paul how are you. It seem to be a really good dive, thx for taking the time to share. You should come to rebreather, I just finish my mod1 on the revo and really dont regret it.

Have fun

etienne

4 Will { 01.14.10 at 8:36 am }

That sounds wicked! My mates said he’d been down on the texel and said it was amazing.

Will B.