Storm shifts Kittiwake 60 feet

The wheelhouse of the Kittiwake, pictured here following the sinking of the ship in January 2011, is now in 26 feet of water, 10 feet deeper than it originally was

By Norma Connolly - Compass Cayman

Strong waves resulting from Hurricane Rina have shifted the Kittiwake wreck about 60 feet out to sea, divers who dove the site over the weekend have reported.

Jason Washington of Ambassador Divers said the former USS Kittiwake, which was deliberately sunk as a dive attraction off West Bay in January, is now sitting 10 feet deeper in sand and 60 feet closer to the sea wall than before the storm.

“It is incredible. I thought, honestly, that if it was going to move, it would move toward the beach. However the storm worked and however the water moved, it moved the Kittiwake towards the wall,” he said.

An enormous anchor chain on the ship has snapped and metal plates on the side of the vessel have also disappeared.

Mr. Washington and others dived the Kittiwake on Saturday and took video footage of the wreck to show how far it had moved and what damage had been done in the storm.

The wreck is now much closer to the Sand Chute dive site.

The thing that struck me was how close it now is to Sand Chute. Before, when you did the Sand Chute dive, you could just make out that there was a wreck on the sand flat. Now, it’s about 30 feet from the wreck. You can see it clearly,” he said.

He added, “The whole wreck is about 10 feet deeper than it was. At the wheelhouse at the helm station, prior to the storm, it was in about 15 feet of water. Now, according to my depth gauge, it’s at 26 feet, about 10 feet deeper than she was.

Rod McDowall, operations manager of Red Sail Sports, said a team had gone to check the moorings and confirmed the seven moorings were intact, but the wreck had indeed moved, although he was unable to say how far.

We’ll be checking that in the next day or two,” he said.

He said the wreck was still upright and positioned the same way as it had been before the storm.

It’s surprising it moved in the way it did,” he said.

The Kittiwake was sunk on 5 January, after eight years of planning. At the time of its sinking, the ship rested in 64 feet of water, at its deepest. The wreck has become on the most popular dive sites in Cayman.

DiveTech’s Nancy Easterbrook, who headed the operation to bring the ship to Cayman and sink it, is off-island and has not been able to dive the wreck to see the impact of the storm.

She said she had only received second-hand reports on the effect Rina had on the wreck and was awaiting more information.

Mr. Washington said the ship did not appear to have slid toward the wall, rather with the force of the sea, she “walked standing up”. The movement shoved a bank of sand between the ship and Sand Chute, embedding the Kittiwake firmly in the seabed, he said.

“She’s built up so much sand between herself and Sand Chute that I don’t think she can move any closer to the wall. She’s settled,” Mr. Washington said.

The huge propellor of the ship is still visible, though is now in a hole in the sand, which Mr. Washington said was likely to fill in during the next few months.

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