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2010 Battle of Atlantic Expedition

Blog: June 18, 2010

Joe Hoyt
Maritime Archaeologist
National Marine Sanctuaries Photo Gallery
Mission info 2007 Nancy Foster Cruise
 

We have been working hard all week, doing work-up dives on some of the shallower WWII shipwreck sites in the 140-160 foot range. These work-up dives all build up to the primary target we will survey for the deep wrecks portion of this expedition-the E.M. Clark. Unfortunately, the visibility on the bottom has been unseasonably poor. Poor visibility makes already challenging dives even more complex due to lack of sight. The first few dives we did on the Clark, we could see no more than 10-15 feet, which limited our ability to get much done, but today we catch a break.

NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark (NOAA)
NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark. (NOAA)
I line up on the back of the NOAA vessel, R-8501, alongside my dive partners Russ Green and Doug Kesling. The Carolina sun is beating down on us, and we drip sweat, encumbered by wetsuits and nearly 200 pounds of tanks, regulators, and heavy photographic equipment. As the boat gets into position to free drop the divers into the current, I look forward not so much to the wreck but the relief awaiting in the water. Then, "DIVE, DIVE,DIVE" comes the shout from Scott Fowler. We plunge in, instant reprieve from the heat on deck.

NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark (NOAA)
Divers surveying E.M. Clark. (NOAA)
I glance quickly to the other members of the team, and we all flash the OK signal and begin our hasty descent. It is a 250 foot freefall. It will take almost two minutes. As we fall, we adjust our gear, turning on cameras, adjusting lights, and checking gauges. The first 150 feet has over 100 feet of visibility, clear blue water that is 84F. Then we hit the thermocline; the water takes on a greenish hue and the temperature drops almost 20 degrees. However, the visibility stays decent for once, and we finally get a good view of the massive tanker, E.M. Clark

NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark (NOAA)
NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark. (NOAA)
We land in the sand on the hull side and decide to move up over the hull to get to the deck, which has more features. As we get to the edge of the rail, I take a moment to look up and see swarms of sand tiger sharks schooling above me silhouetted against the few rays of sun that reach us.

NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark (NOAA)
NOAA diver surveying E.M. Clark. (NOAA)
We drift towards the bow shooting pictures and video, trying to take in the massive structure. She lies on her port side, intact stem-to-stern with evident torpedo damage below the water line. The current is light, but pushes us toward the bow. We try to collect as much imagery as possible in the 25 minutes we have to spend on the bottom. There is huge deck machinery and massive debris fields. Sharks and jacks are swimming everywhere.

Once at the bow, I pull out a lift bag preparing to end the dive. I attach it to my line and send it to the surface. As we begin our ascent, I look down at the bow for one last peek; that's when I notice the name of the vessel in welded steel letters still legible on the side through all the encrusted marine life, E.M. Clark, a true monument to the Battle of the Atlantic.

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