Posted by: mcjangles | August 26, 2008

EM CLARK

24-Aug-2008

Ever play tug of war with a 500 foot long, 9,647 ton oil tanker? I can now say I have. In fact, I was beginning to question my sanity (and the existence of a God) as I pulled myself against 1 knot of current down the anchor line that seemed to go forever. It was hard work but I took it slow, and as long as I was not winded I decided to power on knowing I would be rewarded at the other end with one of the most spectacular shipwrecks on the east coast…. the EM CLARK.

The CLARK was carrying a load of oil when she was torpedoed by the U-124 in March of 1942. The wreck now lies like a sleeping giant on its port side, perfectly intact in 240 feet of cobalt blue Gulf Stream waters. When my Jersey diving plans were canceled last minute, I managed to weasel my way onto Capt. JT Barker’s Under Pressure. The weather was looking iffy and with Saturday already blown out I knew it would be a risk to drive down to Hatteras, but eagerly hopped in the car with Bedford for the opportunity to dive this world class wreck.

Saturday night I got the opportunity to meet the legendary Capt Artie Kirchner who’s Margie II was docked along side the Under Pressure having just finished the 2008 MONITOR expedition. He was generous enough to offer up some tips on the CLARK as well as some other quality stories that I don’t think are appropriate for this G-rated blog. Needless to say I was all ears and felt the effects of the late night Sunday morning. The wind had laid down as predicted and with confirmation that we were heading out my groggy head quickly cleared.

Which brings us back to the descent… The prayers echoing through my DSV were mercifully answered at around 150 feet when the current finally let up. That plus the realization that I was actually looking at hull stretching into the distance in all directions and not the sea floor, kicked my adrenaline into high gear and that last 50 feet went quick as I landed on the flat side of the wreck at 200 feet. I did a precautionary loop flush and picked up my camera for the first time to see how it had faired being dragged behind me like a sea anchor up to this point. I fired it up and with a setpoint change it was all systems go. I slowly crept over to the edge of the wreck on my knees and bent over to look down and was just awestruck. Words really can’t describe it. It was like being perched on the ledge of a 5 story building, except this was an amazingly intact tanker from WWII towering nearly 50 feet above the seabed below. A big barracuda buzzed me as I took a “leap” off and free fell down to the sandy bottom.

I wanted to head aft and see the mighty props so off I went not knowing how far the stern might be. I soon came upon the dark gaping maw of what must have been the engine room skylight and could not resist the invitation to explore within. It didn’t help that Capt Art telling me that a Jersey diver would go in and not be a Sea Pu… uh… kitty, was also fresh in my mind. I soon spotted the unmistakable white gleam of china poking through the silt but it was only a broken saucer with no markings so I left it behind. I worked my way through the engine room much to the chagrin of some large amberjacks who came blasting out from behind some machinery. I proceeded aft and popped back outside into open water right at the fantail. I rounded the stern expecting to come face to face with the prop and completely forgot the massive height of the ship and could just make out the shadow of it in the distance beyond the massive rudder.

Unfortunately it was time to head back. As I worked my way along the bottom to stay out of the current I was surprised how many lionfish were on the wreck. The bottom was literally crawling with these invasive critters. Eventually I arrived back at the grapnel and with a heavy heart pulled it free and began my long ascent. Deco was mostly relaxing since we were drifting with the current. The only excitement came when I heard the boat leaving and looked up to see my only worldly friend was an orange tuna ball. I was a little worried someone had a problem but later found out it was only “Drifting Bob” taking a tour of the mid Atlantic. Nearly a perfect day and I can’t wait to get back!

My pictures don’t nearly begin to do this wreck justice…

Amberjack in the engine room

The stern of the EM CLARK

A couple lionfish (they were all over)

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Responses

  1. Awesome photos! I can’t wait to get home in a little more then a week. I get to head up to Alex Bay and dive the Jodrey. Wooo hoooo…..

    Hans

  2. Wow what a wonderful post. You had me imagining the whole dive.


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