The Prosper (Catalina –185 fsw)

Background

The Prosper is definitely not dived very often.

In fact, if you do a Google search on “Prosper Wreck Catalina” you will find very little information and, as far as I know, no photos or video footage. Most of the information below on the history of the Prosper was provided to me by Steve Lawson (thanks, Steve!).

I was diving with Tyler Stalter on the Sundiver Express. He had dived the Prosper once before but it had been a while and we were looking for something fun and different at Catalina since near-shore diving has been impacted with all the big swells.

The Prosper was a wooden 3-mast schooner that was launched in 1892. It was 128 feet long and had a beam of 32.6 feet. It was owned by the Alaska Packers Association just like the Santa Clara wreck. It was definitely on the smaller size for an Alaska Packers ship.

Photo provided to me by Steve Lawson

The Prosper (along with the Taurus) was purchased by Vitagraph for conversion to fighting sailing ships for use in movies. They were originally going to be stationed in San Pedro for the filming but, due to the amount of development and backdrop, they were moved to Newport Beach. They were tied up next to the Pavilion and modified to look like pirate ships for the 1924 silent movie Captain Blood (not to be confused with the 1935 version with Errol Flynn).

Photo of the Taurus & the Prosper in Newport Beach provided by Steve Lawson
(photo is from the Sherman Library in Corona Del Mar)

The movie script called for the ships to be blown up and the director refused to use a fake model. So, after the filming was done in Newport Beach, the ships were moved to Catalina. A camera was put on Bird Rock to film the explosions. The Taurus was apparently blown to bits using a lot of dynamite. On August 6, 1924 the Prosper was partially blown up and sank bow first. It had a lot of gravel ballast which slide through the hull and collected at the bow. You can see the gravel mound in a few of my pictures below.

Photo provided to me by Steve Lawson
(original at the Oakland Public Library)

Steve Lawson also related a funny story about the wreck.:

“The submersible that went out from the chamber dived it. They would take passengers to the wreck. Later, they put a fake treasure chest to get their passengers excited. The chest later disappeared.  A wannabe treasure hunter, Chuck Kenworthy, claimed it was a Spanish galleon. Shortly thereafter, the Glomar Explorer went to the Isthmus to transfer the cradle that would later pick up the lost Russian sub, K29. Kenworthy claimed that the Glomar Explorer took all the treasure from the wreck.”

Pictures

The ship was wood and was sank almost 100 years ago, not to mention that it was purposefully blown up! So, there isn’t a lot that remains of the wreck. There is a bow section at the “front” of the gravel mount and then some bits and pieces strewn about. I believe the “round” cylinder in the photos below is the capstan (top part of the windlass). There were also a TON of lobster at the site.

The conditions were great for our dive. Almost no current and the visibility at depth was 50+ feet. Tyler was on his scooter as you can see in some of the photos and I held off on my scooter in order to get some photos and concentrate on that.

References

  1. Private emails with Steve Lawson on Jan 16-17, 2021
  2. Islapedia entry on the Prosper

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