Dive Report: WWII Fletcher Class Destroyer — Rebreather World

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Fletcher 238 boat

Dive Report: WWII Fletcher Class Destroyer


Sponsored by Deep Outdoors

Expedition Team Leader: Robin Jacoway

Expedition Research: Tyler Stalter

Expedition Announcement: May 22, 2009

Location: San Clemente Island, California

Date of dive: December 20, 2009

Primary Wreck:

World War II Flecher Class Destroyer. Name is unknown. Believed to be shelled for target practice in the early 70s. Coordinates confirmed in early August 2009.

Respecting the wreck:

No taking of any artifacts

Minimize touching the wreck

Confidentiality of location required by every member on the expedition.

Team(s) objectives:

On the final day of the expedition, 6 dive teams were assembled to perform specific tasks related to the confirmation, Identification, and documentation of the wreck. Specific briefings were given highlighting the safety procedures, protocols, and preservation of the ships integrity by team Leader Robin Jacoway.

Dive Team Members:

Rob Herman, Brandon Hendrickson, Greg Wolfkill, Dave Forsythe, Phillip Marco, John Mankat, Bob Ferguson, James Casady, Mike Kazma, Matt Pidcock, Robin Jacoway, Bill Reals, Steven Frankel, Chad Nicholson and Mike Laprade

Dive Support Team Members:

Scott Poindexter, Spece Green and Claudio Maier


80 cu-ft tanks of 02 were stationed at 20 stop on the down line.

Two support divers in the water at the deco stops carrying 50% and 100% O2.

Team run times were posted before entering water.

Time was recorded when team descended.

Teams were separated by 20 min to prevent stack-ups at the 30 and 20 deco stops.

If ascending away from the visibility of the down line, teams were instructed to shoot one bag, and chase boat will pick up.

If an emergency ascent was being performed by any of the teams, two SMB s would be deployed by the team in distress as a signal that one of the safety divers was to immediately dive to meet the team and assist with the emergency.

Dive Team 3 (Phil Marco and John Mankat):

Dive Plan Deco:

Dive plan assumed an average depth of 260

Bottom time was planned for 25 minutes; nominal run time was 115 minutes

For planning, we used VPM-B +3 and added 6 min ascent from the 20 stop.

We both used VPM-live for the actual run, conservative setting +3


Diluent: 10/50

PPO2: 1.3 for entire dive

Bailout: 15/50, 50%, 100%.

Dive Report:

Weather conditions were excellent, light breeze, 70F, 1 swells. Due to the depth of the wreck, this dive was live boated . This can be a challenge with large teams if not done right. The down line was places mid-ship, slightly off the wreck. The surface ball floated with no tension on the line, hence very minimal current. The teams were made of two or three divers. John and I were team number three. The teams were separated by 20 minutes to minimize the stack-up of divers at the 30 and 20 foot stops. John and I were the only team that were scooter enabled (Bill Reals had his scooter too). The goal of this dive was to perform an external survey, video as much of the outside structure as possible, and to make very nominal penetrations to video some of the internal compartments of the wreck, and ultimately to see if we could identify the wreck.

I checked my PPO2 before the decent (set point selected was 0.7). The visibility at the surface was excellent (100+), we descended to

160 when we could see the strobe at the anchor. We also ran into the first team (Brandon and Rob). They wrote on there wet notes that the bow was to the right and the stern was to the left. At

200 the wreck appeared below us, it was huge! John and I hit the bottom

7 minutes into the dive and I switched my PPO2 to 1.3. At this point I had my HID light in my left hand along with the video camera and the right hand was controlling the scooter. Everything had a leash, so I could let go of the equipment without risk of entanglement or loss of the equipment if I needed to address any unplanned issues that might arise.

John and I decided to go towards the bow first. The first thing we noticed was the smoke stacks that had fallen off and were in the sand. Next up was the bridge; this bridge platform had squared off corners. The first generation of Fletcher Class Destroyers had a rounded bridge, so this was at least second generation ship. I did peak into the housing above the bridge; it was very small and empty.

I then noticed — where was the second 5 gun? It was missing and noticed a steel cover was covering the turret hole. The first 5 gun (bow gun) was pointing towards the bow but slightly up — an awesome sight! I looked into the gun turret and could see the breach — awesome! A good portion of the structure just behind the port bow is missing — explosion?

Next, we inspected the bow for numbers but the growth was too heavy. The anchor chain was laid out in front of the bow, and was attached to a large steel sunken float. The bow had significant damage from impacting the sea floor. I looked under the bow for numbers but just saw some large Sheepheads. John had move up the bow about 20 feet and we examined a large exit wound from an artillery shell. We moved towards the super structure from here. Massive damage was evident on the port side of the super structure. At this point I did some penetration into the wreck to look for further clues.

The bridge was where I penetrated but only found large amounts of wires and cables. I did see the port holes and the main door of the bridge (starboard side). Next up was the torpedo tubes, they were covered in growth. After the torpedo tubes we examined the third 5 gun.

Next up was the forth 5 gun. We looked into the turret and saw the gun s breach — very nice! The fifth gun should have been next but it was missing too. Here again a large steel cap was covering the turret hole, just like the second gun. On the poop deck, we came across a hatch; the hatch cover was missing so I looked into the compartment — nice place for the next dive!* This then brought us to the stern, here again we could not read any name or numbers due to the extensive marine growth.

Last but not least were the two propellers and the rudder. The propellers had sponges growing on them with other indigenous growth one could classify as typical. I shot between two of the prop blades on the scooter ride out and then followed the shafts for about 30 . We had 23 minutes on the clock and it was time to return to the up line.

During deco we could see teams one and two at the shallower stops and the safety divers along side them taking any used tanks and/or gear the teams wished to discard. At the 60 stop, some cool jelly fish swam by — it helped pass the time. At the 30 stop the safety divers checked on us to see if we needed any gas or if we wanted to hand anything over them to take to the boat. We did stack up at the 20 stop but neither John nor I touched the up-line during deco, so enough room for all to use the up line when necessary.

During this dive, we only had a slight current on the wreck and it was gone by the 150 depth. This was an Epic dive. John and I feel very lucky and privileged to have been a part of this expedition.

Thank you Deep Outdoors. And a special thanks to Robin Jacoway, Brandon Henrickson, Tyler Stalter and my partner John Mankat for making a very successful expedition plan become a reality!

Last edited by Curt Bowen; 24th December 2009 at 20:19.

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