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November 18, 2007: Pensacola, Florida

"USS Oriskany"
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The first part of my Thanksgiving week off included a trip to Pensacola to visit the parents and dive the "Mighty O."
Diving off the northern Gulf coast:
  • Directions from Tampa: I go up I75, then west on I10. At that point, it depends on exactly where you're going; but if you find yourself in Alabama, you went too far.
  • Conditions on the day of my visit: Warmer than expected

  • Personal Notes: I was really looking forward to this dive; very few folks I know had actually managed to go down to see the Oriskany and I was looking forward to having some decent wide angle photography opportunities.

    Here's the pertinent info:
    • You're looking at a two hour boat ride just to get out there. You'll be spending essentially your whole day for this dive.
    • Check with your particular boat - you might have to pack a lunch.
    • The wreck is (according to what I've read) 23 miles off shore.
    • The deck at the island hits 135'. This is outside of the range of the official limit for recreational diving.
    • If you are going to dive this wreck on Nitrox, watch your 02 percentages. I dove at 30%, but everyone reacts to extreme diving conditions differently. 30% will get you safely to the deck if you run your calculations at a liberal 1.6 PP02; otherwise it's considered risky.
    • Weather is a factor and many trips are called due to rough water.
    Personally, I got quite a bit narced at 135'. Be sure you're aware of where you're going and take a buddy with you, and dive within your personal limits. This is not a good place to have your first really deep dive, and not a good place to get "silly narced."

    There's a lot of growth and life on the wreck. While there we saw an octopus hanging out in a railing; a small eel in the cut off mast, and tons of barracuda and other assorted reef fish. If you're ever in the Pensacola or Gulf Shores area, I suggest making an attempt at getting out to the wreck, if it is within your comfort level.

    Bay Breeze Scuba put me on the Viking, which was expertly crewed by Captain Tim and Deckhand Nicole. Thanks guys for a wonderful and memorable trip!

Pictures!

The amount of particulate in the water (contributing to an ugly lack of vis), as well as the partly cloudy conditions topside meant that the lighting was very diffuse and made it hard to make out much of anything for distance shots. Parts of the wreck came out okay.

Camera electronics locked up for some reason between dives; I didn't realize that they were locked up until after I had the monstrosity that is my camera housing in the water. So all pictures are from the first dive.

Lens for all pictures: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6.
USS Oriskany
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Just a little camera test on a deck off of the island on my way down ...
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This is the kind of picture you take when you're a tad narced. That's the wall of the island and the deck I'm standing in front of.
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Looking up on my way up from the deck. I kinda wish that the angle was a little better - more under the structure, with the sun not being diffused by the clouds and particulate.
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Wow look! A Barracuda! Actually, I would get better shots later ...
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A Grunt.
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It just looked like he was looking in the port hole ...
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Not quite close enough for the strobes to properly light him up - may have been able to do a better job with a little more experience positioning the strobes.
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Caught a glint off of his chin ...
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Fairly good shot, probably zoomed in a little.
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Here you get a solid idea about the patterns that hide them from the top down, and the silvery nature of the Barracuda at the same time.
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A kind of crow's nest, I guess.
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A hint of strobe, particularly near the tail.
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Lit up a bit better.
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I'm guessing he decided the strobes were too big to eat. Focal length was 55mm - zoomed in all the way ...
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I think same fish, but at a focal length of 24mm.
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We hooked up to the fresh air intake; here's a diver from my boat making their way down the line. This is at a focal length of 18mm - I was quite a distance away.
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I tweaked the settings a little and got a bit closer to see if I could get some better detail as they made their way down the line ...
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When the strobes don't light them up, they're quite camouflaged.
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I think they had camera issues.
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Got to the bridge (at least I think it was the bridge) and poked my head in; noticed this guy hanging out in there already ...
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Part of the bridge from one of the window openings (focal length, 22mm - it's a very small bridge).
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some leftover controls on the bridge. Honestly, this was the only thing there that was left - otherwise the bridge looked stripped.
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Closeup of one of the boxes.
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Another diver on the line ...
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American and POW-MIA flags hanging down from part of the island, on the side of the island that's away from the deck.
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This shot gives you an idea of the growth that's forming on the wreck.
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Little clam all by his lonesome.
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An Arrow Crab with a couple of Urchins - the kind of creature that makes you wish you had your macro lens on instead of the wide angle.
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Here too we have an opportunity for a macro shot, but not wanting to get too close and spook him, I took a few pictures of what I'm guessing is a Hawkfish.
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A shot of the bridge from a distance.
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Slightly better angle, I think.
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Captain Tim asked me to get shots with divers in them.
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I had to get one with him in the shot.
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Dive data for dives on this day:

Dive Site Name Max Depth Minutes Water Temp
373 USS Oriskany 135 feet 45 min. 72 F
374 USS Oriskany 104 feet 38 min. 73 F
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