Diving the John D. Gill

Monday, June 6, 2011 22:09 | Filled in NC diving

A Window to Another World

A Window to Another World

Sunday, I joined the charter to the John D. Gill and Hyde. They day started perfect for us. The sun was out, the temperature moderate and the boat was full of fun divers. We were going out on the Aquatic Safaris I, the 48′ Island Hopper which makes for a very comfortable ride in the ocean.

 

Our first stop was the John D. Gill.   This was a freighter that was torpedoed by the German U-boat U-158 on March 13, 1942. After sinking, it has gone through quite a bit and not much of the ship is intact.  There is the bow section and stern, which are separated by a debris field.  It is approximately 25 miles offshore, so we had about 90 minutes to ride out and get acquainted with each other.

A Perfect Day to Head out Diving

A Perfect Day to Head out Diving

Rob, who I met on the Safari Hunt dive last month was aboard for the dive.  Also, I was able to meet Steve Campbell of  NC Divers fame in person for the first time.  I appreciated the fact that he recognized me first.  Of course, this shows you how bad my eyesight and cognitive skills are, nowadays.   The local dive community is fairly small, so it is always nice to see people you have been in the water with once again.

 

There was another diver who was doing his first ocean dives since his certification last year.  I was excited for him since I remember when I first went out and did a dive in the ocean off North Carolina and how cool it was to finally experience the wrecks and the sea life that lies beneath the waves.  I certainly hope that his experiences on this day makes him want to dive the rest of his life like it has done to me.

 

Soon, we approached the site and set anchor.  The seas were a little choppy but I didn’t mind.  I’ll brave almost any conditions to be able to dive.  I was buddied up with someone spearfishing.  This was going to be an interesting combination.  We were both looking to shoot fish, in a way.  We discussed our plan and we decided that he would look for fish to shoot while I tried to not spook any potential game as I took pictures.

 

Lloyd, Our Divemaster

Lloyd, Our Divemaster

As we donned our gear, we were told that we were anchored at the stern of the wreck.  This was interesting because we usually are on the bow.  This was only my second time on the stern, and my first experience was under different circumstances.  I was happy to come here for a relaxing dive shooting pictures.  We went in the water and headed down while following the anchor line.  The anchor was right on the back of the stern, making navigation easy.  We would move off, following the edge of the wreck and sand on the starboard side and loop around until we came back to where we started.

 

John D. Gill

John D. Gill

As we swam along, I started taking pictures.  I got my camera situated as my buddy looked under the steel plates and other debris looking for something big enough to shoot.  I peered under and around the wreck as well, since I figured if the fish was big enough to eat, it would be big enough to make a nice picture.  Unfortunately, the fish were not cooperating with us.  There was nothing worthwhile to spearfish today.  Of course, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t find any good subjects to take pictures.

 

Atlantic Sea Nettle

Atlantic Sea Nettle

The jellyfish were very cooperative today.  In fact, they were a little too cooperative.  I had to carefully push them out of the way as I was swimming around.  Luckily, they also provided some of my best shots of the day.

 

Atlantic Sea Nettle on the Prowl

Atlantic Sea Nettle on the Prowl

As we came close to the end of our dive, we circled past the anchor for a couple last minutes.  As we did, I noticed my dive buddy pull something up and start dragging it back to the anchor line.  A second glance saw that it was a small stainless steel anchor that was abandoned because it was caught up on something.  The nylon line was attached to the anchor and ran under one of the steel plates of the wreck.

 

I motioned for my buddy to pause as I swam down to the line and cut it with my knife, in case it was caught on something.  As I was cutting, I looked down and saw a wreck reel on the bottom at my feet, rusted and covered in growth.  It had definitely been down here for at least a season.  I picked it up and swam back to my buddy.  At the anchor line, I attached our newly found anchor to my lift bag (actually my surface marker buoy) and we headed up to do our safety stop and finish our dive.

 

The seas had picked up a little while we were under the water for those 40 minutes or so.  It took a little effort and timing to get back up the ladder in the 5-6 foot swells.  Once on board, we looked at our catches.  Not the fish either of us were looking to shoot, him with his speargun, me with my camera.  But still a worthy memory of the dive to the John D. Gill.  This is always a fun wreck to dive with a lot to offer and something different each time.

 

-Frank

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