F/V Midnight Hour (Catalina Island — 100 fsw)

After we had spent some time at Farnsworth Banks, we decided to go dive the Midnight Hour. After all, I can’t go out for a dive day and not dive on some rusted metal! I had heard about the Midnight Hour but didn’t know much about her but did know that she was a squid fishing boat that sank in 100 feet of water and was 61 feet long. I figured it would be a perfect target to build a model.

Midnight Hour History

The Midnight Hour was a 61-foot long fishing vessel originally built in 1958 and owned by a family in San Pedro.

As usual, sometimes researching wrecks can be tough due to common names, terms, etc. It can also be challenging because newspapers didn’t seem to have good spell checkers or fact checkers! My first stop was Islapedia where I quickly found some information about the wreck. The website had quotes from a LA Times article and I knew the date of the sinking (the night of Aug 30, 2011) so I figured finding the article would be easy. I could not have been more wrong.

I searched Newspapers.com with everything I had but still couldn’t find the article. I finally figured out the problems: (1) The Islapedia article said the date of the LA Times article was 31 Aug when it was actually 1 Sept, (2) the LA Times article had misspelled the USCG Cutter Narwhal as “Narwahl,” and (3) the LA Times article had misspelled the actual name of the boat as “Midnight Star” instead of “Midnight Hour.” With all that, here is the article about the sinking:

In addition, Steve Lawson had a copy of the National Response Center report, of which a shot of the part of the first page is below:

I found the US Coast Guard PIX page for the Midnight Hour as well:

As far as I know, the cause of the sinking was never identified but thankfully all six crew on board were rescued and lived. The boat was owned by a family in San Pedro, similar to a few of the other fishing boat wrecks that I have dived (Mercator, Nightingale, etc.). I tried to find a historical photo and ran across one of the Midnight Hour at the 1967 Fisherman’s Fiesta boat parade in San Pedro but it is covered up with decorations so much that you can’t even tell it is her.

The Wreck

The wreck lies in about 100 feet of water near Eagle Rock which is at almost the complete tip of the West End of Catalina. It is on a sandy bottom and she lies on her starboard side. Since she has “only” been down for about 11 years, she is still intact.

On our dive, we were fortunate enough to see quite a few juvenile mola mola fish. I entered the water first and was given a 15-20 minute head start to get photos of the wreck for a photogrammetry model. During that time, before others entered the water, I saw a few of them around the wreck but I concentrated mainly on taking pictures of the wreck.

Soon enough, the others entered the water and began exploring the wreck. After the other open circuit divers left, I found Lauren who was at the stern. She asked if we could take another lap around the wreck and I thought “why not?” As we made our way along the bottom of the hull, Lauren spotted more mola mola out in the distance and we went to investigate. Either because they didn’t care or we were on rebreathers (or both), they were very inquisitive and got very close to us. We enjoyed watching them for a while and then made our way back to the wreck and to the downline to do our ascent and deco.

I took 1168 photos for the model and my bottom time was adult 52 minutes with about 20 minutes of deco.


These photos are just a few from the wreck that I used in the model. I didn’t take any photos of the wreck for composition, etc. I also included some pictures of the mola mola we saw on the wreck.

Midnight Hour

Mola Mola (Sunfish)

I saw the mola mola on-and-off during the dive and had a chance to take a few photos of them circling around. Most of the photos were taken without artificial light so the colors aren’t white-balanced.

On deco, I had another mola mola come check me out. I had a GoPro mounted on my camera so I decided to turn it on and take a quick video:

Mola Mola fly by

Photogrammetry Model

Building this model was a bit different from past models because I had to do some “post processing” on the RAW files before putting them into the software to build a model.

I had made a mistake in one setting on my camera that turned out to be the cause of the problem. Sony cameras have a setting called “Live Preview.” If it is turned ON, you see pretty much what the photo will look like after you take it. This is sometimes referred to as “What You See Is What You Get” or WYSIWYG. This is normally the setting I use on photogrammetry models when I’m shooting with video lights and the subject is continuously illuminated.

However, prior to this dive, I was on diving with my Retra Strobes on Farnsworth Bank taking photos of, well, fish and stuff. In this case, you want to turn Live Preview OFF. Why? Well, the strobe is going to illuminate whatever you are going to take a picture of and the camera can’t predict what that will look like. Sony cameras have the ability to basically “open up” all the settings (e.g., aperture, ISO, etc) to make the scene much brighter so that the camera can focus more effectively. Then, right when you take the picture with the strobes, it changes back to the “real” settings and takes the photo.

Therefore, when I was on the Midnight Hour, the screen on the camera made the pictures seem like they were exposed properly. I actually remember looking at the settings for the f-stop and ISO and thinking “wow, I’m getting a lot of natural light on this wreck” and though it might have been just because it was a clear day, the sun was shining, the visibility was pretty good, and I was somewhat shallow compared to what I normally dive.

When I got home and uploaded the photos to Metasahape, I had an “oh shit” moment. Below is a preview of the sparse cloud:

Ruh roh.

I had severely under-exposed the photos. Therefore, I imported all the photos into Lightroom and added 1.75 stops of exposure, boosted the shadows and applied some white balance. Here is a before/after in LR of one of the photos:

What is the downside to this? That is debatable. By increasing the exposure in post-production, I’m adding noise. However, if I had properly exposed the photo under-water, I would have had to either increased the ISO, or opened up the aperture, or slowed down the shutter speed. My friend Drew Wilson once told me about something called “ISO Invariance” which I think has to do with the relative performance of in-camera corrections vs. post-production — but it was well beyond my pay grade to understand.

All of that long story is basically just to explain why this model looks a bit different than any of the other models I have created of SoCal wrecks. I lightened more than normal and applied white balance. Instead of doing each photo, I picked one and applied the settings to all. This means that sometimes the “reds” are “too red” and sometimes the photos are a bit over-exposed and sometimes a bit under-exposed.

There are really only two areas I wish I had better shot pictures: (1) the bottom side of the big cylinder that has the nets (2) the top port side of the wreck with the seaweed. However, the end result is pretty good.

“Live” Model on Sketchfab

Model Screenshots

Processing Time

  • Photos: 1168
  • Alignment (Low Accuracy) : 56 minutes
  • Depth Maps (High Quality) : 8 hours 40 minutes
  • Dense Cloud (High Quality) : 6 hours 35 minutes
  • Mesh (High Quality / Medium Face Count) : 1 hour 48 minutes


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