The Kittiwake Wreck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dive the wreck of the Kittiwake, a 251-foot long, 5-deck, decommissioned US Navy Submarine Rescue Ship. Enjoy a guided dive through the decks to a maximum of 72 feet, for up to 60 minutes with a computer profile. Small groups are guided with your Sunset Divers instructors.  Snorkelers are welcome aboard the dive boat and may join friends and family who are certified divers on this excursion.

Specs: The Kittiwake is 251 feet long, 44 feet on her beam, and drafted 19 feet fully loaded. Her light displacement was 1704 tons and full displacement was 2193 tons. After removal of much of the equipment and steel on board, her displacement is around 1800 tons of steel for sinking. She is a very solid steel hull/steel superstructure that had 18 bulkheads, a single screw propeller made of solid brass that is still on board, and had a complement while in active duty of 10 Officers and 98 enlisted service personal. Her armament was removed before export from the USA.

Location: The Kittiwake is at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach, on the West or lee side of Grand Cayman at latitude 19 21.714’N and Longitude 081 24.073'W for her bow, ½ a mile off shore, near to the Sand Chute Dive site. The bottom is flat and sandy. The Kittiwake rests at 72 feet deep at the bottom and is around 35 feet from the surface.

Decks: There are 5 decks on the 47 foot tall Kittiwake. Externally, the crow's nest, mast and large stern a-frame have been cut down and remounted to make her height suitable for Cayman waters. The upper decks accommodate the 2 bridges (both an external and internal bridge to allow operations in heavy seas) along with the radio and navigation room.  On the main deck, from bow to stern, internally you will find the rec room, mess hall, ironing room, small tool workshop and recompression chambers. You will note the large a-frame structure on the stern that supported submarines and hard hat divers, as well as the diving bell where divers would enter to return to the ship from the ocean and then be placed in the chambers for decompression.

Below the main deck, 2 decks exist that include the crews quarter, medic/hospital station, engine and propulsion rooms, air bank storage and compressors, as well as the steering gear, shaft, gyro, ammunition lockers, cold storage and barber shop to name a few areas. While the Kittiwake has been opened up with large access holes both vertically and horizontally, every space on the ship was used while in service.

In September 2016, the wreck of the Kittiwake moved onto her side, allowing divers to see a whole different layout of the ship.  You can still snorkel overhead, but she is now deeper than hr original resting place.   There is no end of rooms to explore on this wreck, that has now become an artificial reef, enhancing the marine environment with new fishery stock and habitats for marine life. The Kittiwake is situated in a Marine Park that is protected under law in Cayman, with no touching or taking of anything, no gloves allowed and no fishing allowed on the wreck/Kittiwake site. All operators that visit the wreck are licensed and the marine park fee is included in the cost of the trip.  The fees go towards the ongoing maintenance and protection of this artificial reef. An exception to taking fish is made for culling lion fish, an invasive species to Cayman waters.

In Service: The primary mission of the Kittiwake was to rescue sailors from downed submarines. She was very much a diving vessel. Many of her stories are still locked away as 'classified'. Over 50 years, she has many stories to tell, from submarine rescues to salvage operations recovering the black box from the Challenger disaster, rescuing a Haitian boat running P-250's non-stop, serving in the Caribbean and western Atlantic including stops in Bermuda, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto Rico and Havana, Cuba, to name a few stops, to Atlantic crossings to the North Sea, assisting the USS Orion, testing ballistic missiles, recovering dummy missiles from Polaris subs and helping out divers, to running interference for a Trident Submarine missile test (DASO) and almost sinking her from time to time..... she saw the world. From stories of the crew, there was great comradery and both rewarding and challenging voyages. All in all, the ex-crew are fond of her and say "to know her was to love her, and God bless the USS Kittiwake and those who served aboard her".

Visit The Wreck of the Kittiwake each Monday and Wednesday

Cost: $85.00 per diver/$60 per snorkeler 

Departure Time: 1.30pm

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