Wreck Diving at San Clemente Island

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Posted by Kevin on September 10, 2001 at 09:32:30:

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to San Clemente Island. Myself and 5 friends chartered the Second Stage diveboat for two full days of wreck diving, and only wreck diving. Well, I also shot a bunch of fish, but only after we cleaned up everything off the wreck. We left Friday night and dropped the hook at Pyramid Cove around midnight.

Saturday at 7 AM we concentrated our salvaging on the USS Gregory DD-802, a Fletcher class Destroyer sunk March 1971. The ocean floor is littered with brass and copper and bronze, you get to a point where you cannot carry any more brass even on a big lift bag. The first dive alone the six of us brought back in excess of 400 pounds of "diver's gold". I was able to revover a large piece of the turret gear from one of the big 5 inch main guns. I was also able to find a large intact 18 inch porthole. Its in the surfzone and the constant pounding of ten to twelve foot waves onto the rocky shore littered with sharp metal prevented me from getting it home. I don't advise anyone to try to get it either, as the area is a cross between a knife shop and a washing machine. As the waves pound you, your depth guage goes from 3 to 10 feet and back again, and as you fight the surf and intense surge, you also have to constantly clear you ears every five seconds. Its about as dangerous as you can get. ( I can hardly wait to go back. )

That afternoon we dove the wreck of the White Eagle, a Victory class freighter that sank in November of 1966 on her way back from Japan. Great site again, brass was recovered and I was able to shoot Sheepshead and Calico, which we all BBQ'ed and ate for dinner that night. I saw the largest Black Sea Bass of my life off this spot. And Eel Cove is the place for bugs when the season comes around.

Sunday we concentrated on the USS Butler DE-339, a Butler class Destroyer Escort sank in December 1971. I was able to penetrate below decksand and all the commonly dove areas, and there are still goodies to be had for those with the experience, training and equipment. Its a tight fit below deck, especially when you have a speargun and hunting for both brass and food. Crowbar in one hand and gun in the the other I explored. Kathy K who's photos appear on this site laughed at me back on the boat because my decompression stops alone were longer than her total dive time !

We ate like kings.

We dove our brains out.

The boat came home much heavier than she left port.

Its was a classic weekender with friends.

My only regret was having to leave that 125 pound porthole on the Gregory. For those of you that know me, you know how hard its was for me to make the decision to abort the recovery. And if I said the diving was hazardous, you also know just how bad it was. I rarely get my butt kicked in the water, but that area and the 5 foot depth and heavy surf chewed me up and spit me out.


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