Chanson d’Mer (Catalina Island — 160 fsw)


I first dove this ketch wreck back in July 2020 with Ben Lair and Justin Judd after we did a dive on the Infidel. It is a really nice and picturesque wreck but, unfortunately, I really never got any good pictures on that first dive so I didn’t publish anything about it.

Tyler has been doing a bunch of research lately to find new targets to dive and explore. He had also been diving this location in the past. During his research, the data lined up and he deduced that the wreck that a few people had been diving was actually the Chanson d’Mer which sank after a fire broke out on Nov 30, 1983. The location, depth, and length of the wreck all matched.

I knew that a bad weather window was coming so I decided to get a dive day in while I knew I could. I booked a trip with Kyaa on the Sundiver out to Catalina. We had a few targets to check out and figured that we would just have a day of fun diving.

The Dives

Ray had coordinates for a wreck that was near Hamilton Cove at Catalina. It was apparently a ship that sank and took the morning ball down with it. We looked around and got a decent return between a couple mooring balls at a site about 170′ deep and so I geared up and dropped in. The visibility was really amazing — it had to be 40-50+ feet. It turned out to be a large pile of rocks but I swam around the rocks to see if there was something hidden on the other side and then saw a few other shadows so I went and checked them out. One turned out to be the cement block for one of the mooring balls.

I spent about 10 minutes searching around but never found the wreck and had about 15 minutes of deco obligation. Oh well.

We spent a little more time looking on the sonar at a few other targets but didn’t get anything worth diving and a sailboat was moored directly over one of them so we needed an alternate plan.

Given how good the visibility was and our location, I figured a trip up to the wreck in 160′ would be fun. It is a known location and I really did want to tell the story since Tyler had identified it and I was hoping to get some good pictures.

I got down to the wreck and it was, once again, amazing visibility. I spent about 20-25 minutes on the wreck and did about 30 minutes of deco but I ended up getting some great photos and it was so nice to see the whole wreck in amazing vis.


Underwater Natural Light / Wide Angle Photography

I have been working on natural light photography lately. Given the visibility, I figured it was a perfect dive to spend some time doing that. Taking wide angle photos with no artificial light on deeper dives in California can be a frustrating task and a fools errand. As with any photography, light is the key.

We have three different ways to “increase” the amount of light the the camera sensor sees, each with a downside:

  • The first is to slow down the shutter speed so that we gather more light over a longer period of time. The downside is that as you slow down the shutter speed, images tend to get blurred. Luckily wrecks don’t move, but divers do — especially in current. Being in water helps since it “dampens” any movement, but it still is hard to take crisp photos at slower shutter speeds.
  • The second is to open up the aperture (f-stop) to allow more light into the sensor. The downside to this is that the corners of the photo get blurred as you open up aperture. In some kinds of photos, this is even desirable and is referred to as “bokeh.” Sometimes in water, it doesn’t matter since the corners of the photo are sand/rocks or water.
  • The third option is to increase the ISO (gain). The downside to increasing gain is that photos get “grainy.”

As you can see, as with most things in life, “there is no free lunch.”

Since we had such good conditions and a somewhat sunny day, I was fortunate enough to be able to take some good natural light photos. Forgive my indulgence, but I’m going to post quite a few photos since they really did come out nicely. These have almost no changes from what came directly out of the camera.

Keep in mind that the wreck is 55 feet long so you can get a good gauge of the visibility.

Stern. Note both masts in the sand. One on the port side towards the bow and one on the starboard side by the stern.
Looking from the stern to the bow. Amazing visibility.
Bow section
Bow looking toward the stern
Port side with mast
Port side from the stern.

Photogrammetry Model

Well, you can probably tell by the above photos that I made a lap of the wreck and took a bunch of photos. It is rare that photos for a photogrammetry model also have great composition for still photos. I got lucky on this dive.

Given the number and quality of photos, I figured I would try to make a photogrammetry model with only the natural light photos. It turned out reasonably good so I figured I would publish it. Not spectacular and lacks some details, but fun to play with:

Photogrammetry Model of the Chanson D’Mer

Artificial Light Photos

After I made my lap around the wreck to take natural light photos, I also took some photos with my BigBlue lights to show the “real” colors.

Inside looking from the bow to the stern
Bow detail
Stern prop & rudder

Oh, yeah, and then a giant sea bass also came buy to pay a visit but he kept his distance so the photo isn’t great, but here he is:

One thought on “Chanson d’Mer (Catalina Island — 160 fsw)

Leave a Reply