Rest well your work is finally done
No more the ocean to roam
No more to fight the storm and sea
Rest well beneath the waves
The USS Kittiwake has now been on the reef in Grand Cayman for 8 months. I took this trip to see how the site was progressing and to complete a photo survey of the ship. See the complete photo gallery at Steven W Smeltzer / USS Kittiwake or visit my blog at Steven W Smeltzer / USS Kittiwake - 8 months on the reef for more information
The USS Kittiwake is a Chanticleer Class Submarine Rescue Ship. Its keel was laid down, January 5, 1945, at the Savannah Machinery and Foundry Company shipyard located in Savannah, GA. It was launched on July 10, 1945 and commissioned as the USS Kittiwake (ASR-013). She was decommissioned September 30, 1994 and struck from the Naval Register September 30, 1994. She was initially transferred to MARAD for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet and then withdrawn from the fleet February 18, 2010 and prepared for reefing in the Cayman Islands.
That a place in the sand off the north end of Seven Mile Beach has become the Kittiwake's final "port-of-call" is the result of a long and determined effort by a partnership consisting of the Cayman Islands government and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA). Negotiations had to be conducted and funds raised to purchase the ship from the U.S. government and prepare it for sinking as a dive site. The ship was finally sunk January 5, 2011 off the north end of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.
There are 5 decks on the 47 foot tall Kittiwake. Externally, the crow's nest, mast and large stern a-frame have been cut down and remounted to make her height suitable for Cayman waters. The upper decks accommodate the 2 bridges (both an external and internal bridge to allow operations in heavy seas) along with the radio and navigation room. The Captain and XO's quarters are also located on the upper decks.
Below the main deck, 2 decks exist that include the crews quarter, medic/hospital station, engine and propulsion rooms, air bank storage and compressors, as well as the steering gear, shaft, gyro, ammunition lockers, cold storage and barber shop to name a few areas. The Kittiwake has been opened up with large access holes both vertically and horizontally, to provide safe and easy access to virtually every space on the ship.
This dive site is one of the top wreck dive sites in the Caribbean and well worth the trip. To fully appreciate this dive, go slow and then go slower. Take time to appreciate the ship as she sits silently in the water. It will take 3 to 4 dives to adequately explore the ship and appreciate the work that has been done to get her ready for reefing. After 8 months, small corals are beginning to be found on the ship and a large variety of fish along with various crustaceans have already taken up residence. One of the best entry points is through the top funnel where you can easily exit to the various decks on the ships. The fourth and fifth decks are a little more confined with no direct exit on the fifth deck and which should not be accessed by inexperienced divers.
By starting on the lower decks you can gradually make your way up to the bridge/wheel house and complete your safety stop there. Start planning your dive soon. Any of the better dive operators can take you to the site and the $10 charge for "entry" into the ship for its maintenance and upkeep is well worth the price.