2020 Diving Recap (Top 10)

Photo Credit: Drew Wilson

In June 2019, I was honored and had the privilege of giving the keynote commencement address at the Cal Poly MBA graduation ceremony. In that speech, I quoted Dickens and I think that the quote it is very fitting for 2020. In reality, in mid-2019, I had no idea just how relevant it was going to become:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness

It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity

It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness

It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair

We had everything before us, we had nothing before us

Charles Dickens

I was planning and hoping to dive the SBD Dauntless with Tyler on Monday this week but that was canceled due to conditions and bad weather (after multiple plans in the previous weeks were also canceled). Then we shifted to today (Thursday 31 December) and I thought it would be the perfect “send-off” to 2020 and to leave it behind with an amazing couple of dives. We canceled that and it looks like my diving in 2020 will end with a whimper and not a bang.

It has been a really interesting year. I have a lot to be grateful for and wanted to reflect back on the year in terms of my diving.

I had to cancel some amazing trips I had planned:

  • The “Might O” in Pensacola with Pete Mesley in April
  • Tek Dive conference in April
  • Bikini Atoll in August
  • MOD3 with Mel Clark at Eagles Nest in September
  • Chuuk (Truk Lagoon) in October

However, I consider myself very lucky. I’ve met and dived with a lot of really great people that I otherwise probably would have never met. I’ve been able to see wrecks that most people can only dream of diving.

The Top 10 of 2020

So, here is a look back and my own little “Top 10” list in reverse order.

The amazing part of this is that I was fortunate enough to be able to do so many local dives that it was actually really hard to pick out the top 10 of all the great diving I’ve been able to do.

10. The Infidel (Catalina, 150 fsw)

The Infidel is a squid purse seiner that sank in 2006 in about 150 feet of water off the southeastern tip of Santa Catalina Island. It is a small-ish wreck that sits upright in the sand and is a fun dive to do and you can cover the wreck in 30 minutes or so without accumulating too much deco. 

9. Jenny Lynne (San Pedro, 145 fsw)

The Jenny Lynne was a 66′ long, 21.6′ breadth, 106 gross ton steel hull fishing boat built in 1972.

It sank on December 6, 2003 off Long Point, Rancho Palos Verdes. It was fishing for sardines and started taking on water and sank soon thereafter.

Given the location, the visibility is usually 5-10 feet but we got lucky and had 30+ feet of visibility which made for a fantastic dive.

8. USS Hogan DD-178 (San Diego, 130 fsw )

The USS Hogan (DD-178) was a Wickes-class destroyer in the US Navy during World War II. She was decommissioned in 1922 and then recommissioned in 1940 and converted to a high speed minesweeper. She had a lot of active duty in WW 2 in the Pacific Fleet and was involved in the invasion of the Marshalls and other islands on the campaign towards Japan. She also took part in the assault on Iwo Jima. She was reclassified as AG-105 in 1945 and was assigned as a target ship for bombing tests and was sank off San Diego on 8 November 1945.

7. P-38 Lightning (San Diego, 130 fsw)

The P-38 is a pretty unique looking aircraft with a “twin tail” as can be seen in the picture. Since the plane has been down for close to 80 years and since a lot of the plane was made from aluminum, it has really started to show the age. Very cool wreck that is approachable for advanced recreational divers.

6. F-4 Phantom (San Diego, 150 fsw)

I’ve always loved the F-4 Phantom.

The F-4 was a “do-it-all” interceptor jet. It entered service in 1961 and flew extensively in Vietnam and was a major part of US military air power through the 70s and 80s.

The F-4 was known for the acceleration and thrust and was a huge advantage in air-to-air combat. It had advanced radar systems and used a lot of titanium.

Bottom line: The F-4 is sexy as hell.

5. New Saturnia (Laguna Beach, 140 fsw)

The wreck was only located relatively recently in 2018 by Endurance Marine.  Tyler located it by using bathyscape data and some digging and research.

The New Saturnia was a fishing vessel built in Tacoma, Washington in 1936. It was 82 feet long and sank on November 14th, 1955 after a relatively short career. The vessel was full of sardines and was traveling back to San Pedro when it encountered heavy seas and foundered two miles off Laguna Beach and all 11 crew were picked up by another ship and survived.

4. F4-U Corsair (Dana Point, xxx fsw)

What can I say? I love Corsairs.

This was an extra special dive because Lora had brought the Marissa up to Dana Point and Tyler and I were doing some exploratory dives and this is one of the sites we found. It had been discovered previously, but was still a great dive.

This was also the dive where we saw the congregations of sculpin which led me on the trail to figure out the behavior.

3. TBM Avenger (San Diego, 250 fsw)

I’ve had the TBM on my “wish list” for a long time.

The airplane itself is such a cool design. The standard plane had three people on-board and so it is a relatively large plane (but small in terms of “bombers”). You really get a sense of the size when you see the height of the plane even without landing gears and down in the sand.

I feel privileged to have dived this wreck in 2020. Other than Ben, Justin, and myself, I don’t think anybody has been on this wreck in about 10 years.

2. Osborne Bank (Channel Islands, 225 fsw)

The original plan was to dive the USS Burns on Sept 2nd. Two days before our departure the military shut down San Clemente island to civilians so we had to come up with an alternate plan.

We headed out on a long ride to Osborne Bank and had an amazing dive exploring deep offshore cave areas. We will definitely go back in 2021 and explore more!

This picture is me heading into an unknown cave that is 225 feet deep. 🙂 Picture Credit: Ben Lair

1. UB-88 (San Pedro, 190 fsw)

The UB-88 is just such a cool wreck with an interesting history. Imagine a German WW 1 submarine off the coast of California. How cool is that?

The sub was sunk almost exactly 100 years ago (Jan 3, 1921).

This was the dive where I met a lot of the local technical divers I now call friends. I hope to finish my photogrammetry model of the sub in early 2021.

Photo Credit: Drew Wilson

Summary

In retrospect, it was an amazing year of diving — just not the year I expected it to be.

When it started to become clear that Covid was going to be a big problem, I realized the implications and started researching local wrecks (mostly ones in deeper waters requiring technical diving). I came up with a list in March and started to check them off. Below is my notebook page.

Not too bad.

I would really have liked to done some of the wrecks off San Clemente but couldn’t make that trip that Ben Lair put together. It is DEFINITELY on the list for 2021. I was also hoping to get to the Dauntless this week but it will have to wait until early in 2021. The weather and conditions just wouldn’t co-operate.

The good news is that I still have plenty of local diving left to do in 2021.

A HUGE thanks to Ray & Kyaa at the Sundiver and to Lora at the Marissa and also to all of the people I dived with this year or helped me research wrecks (you know who you are). Without them, none of this would have been possible.

2020 Wreck “Targets”

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