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Trip Report and Photos: Olympic II, Johanna Smith, and the F.S. Loop


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Posted by Elaine on September 23, 2005 at 12:33:35:

Trip Report and Photos

A Day of Wreck Diving

The Olympic II, The Johanna Smith, and The F.S. Loop

Story and Photos by Elaine Jobin, may not be reproduced in part or in whole without advanced written permission. (Wreck histories summarized from the book "Shipwrecks of Southern California" by Patrick Smith and Bonnie J. Cardone, © 1989.)

On Sunday September 4, 2005 I went on a day long wreck diving expedition with Patrick and Andy on the Moby Kate. This was an especially special trip for me because as many of you know Patrick Smith coauthored the book the Shipwrecks of Southern California with Bonnie J. Cardone. The book is now out of print but used ones can be obtained from sellers such as Amazon.com. Wow, diving the sites with one of the authors!

Our transportation for the day was the the Moby Kate - a 25 foot trailered boat. Our first stop of the day was to fill our boat with gas. I am sure that all of us who boat dive will be feeling the pinch of the higher fuel prices, now, and in the future.

Photo by Elaine Jobin

We began the water part of our journey at a San Pedro area marina. From there it was a fairly short trip out to the Olympic II. All diving was done from a live, unanchored boat. Patrick and Andy have designed interesting down lines with attached dive flags that help to indicate the direction and the strength of the current.

Photo by Elaine Jobin

The Olympic II

The Olympic II was a 258 ft long, 38 ft wide, iron hulled ship. It was used as a permanently anchored fishing barge in the channel off of San Pedro. A Japanese ship, the Sakito Maru, ran into, and sank, the Olympic II on a foggy morning in 1940. Seven Americans died in the collision. The ship had been built in 1877 and originally named the Star of France. Prior to its life as a fishing barge it had been used to transport Jute in Europe and as a salmon packer in Alaska. The ship now sits in about 100 feet of water with the stern still rising to about 60 feet.

Patrick and I were dropped off a little up current of our marker lines. The current was stiff for the first 30 feet of the descent. It was a difficult swim to keep the down lines in sight. I was in my drysuit with my large camera in tow and I just about gave up when we finally made it down to calmer water. We found visibility to be good and it was one of the better days that I have seen on the Olympic II. We were greeted with a great view of the stern section.

Stern of the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin Stern of the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin

We toured parts of the midsection

Midsection of the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin Midsection of the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin

and, Patrick posed over the site that marks the point of collision.

Patrick Smith at the impact point on the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin Impact point on the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin

We ended our dive with a tour around the stern and some posing for photos.

Patrick Smith at the Stern of the Olympic II, Photo by Elaine Jobin

After returning to the boat we decided that our next destination would be the wreck of the Johanna Smith.

Wheelhouse of the Moby Kate, Photo by Elaine Jobin Patrick Smith on the Moby Kate, Photo by Elaine Jobin Andy Saxon on the Moby Kate, Photo by Elaine Jobin

The Johanna Smith

The 257 foot long Johanna Smith was one of the largest wooden ships built on the Pacific Coast back in 1917. Originally designed to transport things like lumber it later became the first gambling ship off of the Pacific Coast. The Johanna Smith sank after a fire in 1932.

This was my first visit to the Johanna Smith and I explored only a small area. Here are some of my photos.

Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the Johanna Smith,Photo by Elaine Jobin

The F.S. Loop

Our last stop was at F.S. Loop. Built in 1907, the F.S. Loop was a 193 foot steam scooner that hauled lumber from the Northern Pacific to California. After being badly damaged in a 1936 storm it was overhauled and used by the Dr. Ross Pet Food company to turn Sea Lions into dog food off of the Mexican Coast. In 1939, the F.S. Loop docked in a Los Angeles berth and it stayed there until it finally sank in 1945. It was hauled to its present location and explosives were used to reduce its profile so that it would not be a navigational hazard.

The visibility at this wreck probably about less than 20 feet. There are some interesting intact parts and we spent most of our dive in the area around the boilers.

The first thing that I noticed were the amazing number of Tritonia festiva present in the area of the ships remains. I probably saw at least 30 of these sea slugs, most decorating gorgonians.

Tritonia festiva, wreck of the F.S. Loop, Photo by Elaine Jobin Tritonia festiva, wreck of the F.S. Loop, Photo by Elaine Jobin

We inspected some of the the remaining structure.

Wreck of the F.S. Loop, Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the F.S. Loop, Photo by Elaine Jobin Wreck of the F.S. Loop, Photo by Elaine Jobin

Then, we ended our dive watching a Purple Striped Jellyfish being consumed by bat stars.

Bat Starfish - Patiria miniata, eating a Purple Striped Jellyfish Pelagia panopyra, Wreck of the F.S. Loop, Photo by Elaine Jobin

Our final ascent was made just as a moderately strong bottom current started to run.

Darn, another super dive day was over. With the exception of the Olympic II, it generally isn't easy to get to these wrecks. There are very few dive trips chartered to these destinations. I want to thank Andy and Patrick so much for giving me the opportunity to see the Johanna. Smith and the F.S. Loop. These wreck remains are little treasures in our own back yard.

Until next time.....................




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