Posted by: mcjangles | September 22, 2008

Journey to the Demon Star (ALGOL report)

21-Sept-2008

Valves in the engine room on the Algol

The weather forecast for Sunday was looking like total slop for most of the week and with Saturday already blown out I had pretty much resigned myself to the quarry for Sunday when I got the afternoon call from Capt Dan that he thought it would lay down and we were giving it a shot. The Independence II left a little later at 0800 and the Diversion group wanted to head to the Coney Island to get something with a bit of relief since it was likely that the ground swells running all week had churned up the bottom.  When we got out to the “parking lot” (aka the Shark River reef) the Stolt was taken as was the Coney Island so we slid in between and dropped shot on the Algol.

At a length of 459′, the Algol (AKA-54) is the largest ship sunk as an artificial reef off of New Jersey.  I’ve only been on this wreck which sits in 140 fsw a couple times and the sheer size always impresses me.  It didn’t take long for the massive ship to come into view in the 50+ feet of visibility as I dropped down to tie in.  The shot had narrowly missed the top of the wreck at 70 feet and I had to force myself to be patient in exploring as I kept dropping down the side of the wreck until I found the shot on the bottom in near total darkness in the shadow of the beast at 142 feet just below the gaping hole in the engine room.  I had a pucker moment as I sent up the shot as it had gotten tangled in monofiliment and the bottom appeared to be lifting out from under me.  I jumped back as fast as I could hoping not to get tangled up and get to play rocketman.  Luckily I was clear and after a quick swipe of the knife the shot was on its way.  Next I got to play Spiderman as I climbed back up the wall of steel passing the main deck at 110 feet and continuing another 40 feet up the superstructure.  I love dives like this where you get that sense of flying.  After the boat was secured at 70 fsw I did a relatively short recon dive to scout some photo ops.

For the second dive I took the camera.  I dropped my tripod on the main deck at 110 feet on the fly and barely paused to square away my strobes and rebreather before dropping right down to the engine room.  Entrance is easy as the holes cut to sink the ship go right in, but care must be taken as it doesn’t seem as much attention was paid to cleaning and removing stuff before sinking in this area as in other areas of the ship.  Cables and fallen pipes hang down waiting to trap the not so diligent diver and at 135 feet it warrants precaution.  It seemed extra eerie today because although the visibility outside the wreck was still 20 feet or better on the bottom, entering the dark hole in the side of the wreck was like stepping through an invisible curtain. The vis inside dropped to maybe 5 feet or so and the pitch blackness gave me a really eerie feeling.  I try to be extra careful when I have the camera so as not to get distracted and although I had been in here before I was not too happy when the large green “window” behind me faded to black.  I spent a couple minutes poking around and was surprised to find the gauge panels further in still full of gauges.  The empty rows closer to the entrance left me thinking I wouldn’t find much to photograph but I guess I’m not the only diver who’s had some trepidation in here.

I spent the rest of the dive taking shots along the deck and of the superstructure.  I was a little disappointed that the vis had dropped a bit but it was still 30 feet or better so I couldn’t complain.  It was also pretty warm, so I had a nice relaxing dive.  The agressive cunners on the top of the wreck were there to welcome me back (they drew blood on 3 people today!) and with the near Caribean like conditions and the top of the wreck spread out before me, reminded me of a steel meadow with fields of mussels, lots of cunners, and a decent number of large blackfish prowling about.

Helen managed to spear one of those blackfish, and several lobsters, and bags of mussels came up.  Who needs a grocery store when you can go food shopping on the Algol!

I really like the sense of atmosphere a long exposure gives on this shot of the top of the wreck

All images (click for full size)

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