Saturday, October 20, 2001
On October 20, 2001, 411' of the 441' HMCS Cape Breton was sunk off snake island near Nanaimo BC making it the largest diver placed artificial reef in the world. It sits a few hundred yards from the 366' HMCS Saskatchewan.
The ship is square on her keel in about 130 feet of water. Divers began diving her Sunday AM. The consensus, to a diver, was a collective WOW.
Used to be a nice quiet spot to hunt cod & cannonball.
TR by Brian from Edmonton
I drove from Edmonton to Nanaimo, via Calgary, leaving Friday at around
2pm and arriving in Nanaimo at 8AM. We drove to the downtown area and
boarded the liveaboard vessel Mamro (www.mamro.com). This was to be my
home for the next few days. My group,
consisting of myself, Charlene Barker from Aquaports in Calgary, Greg
Mossfeldt (videographer extrodinaire) from Calgary, Ray Lefrense from
Edmonton, Glen Scott from Edmonton, and Miranda
Alldritt, sailed out to the sinking site along with a whole herd of
other vessels of all types. The sinking was to happen at around 11:30am
but as so often happens it took a while and the big event didn't happen
until just after 12:30pm. Lots of flames and explosions. Very cool. As
the ship went down it started to list starboard more and more. Oh, oh.
It didn't look good. We headed back to shore to await further news.
Later that evening we ran into Al Spilde, former Sea Venturer owner and
a go-to guy for all things Nanaimo. He said that the navy guys had swept
the ship for unexploded ordinance and declared the wreck safe and open.
Oh yeah, the thing landing upright. Yay!!
We were to dive Sunday but the winds came up and we couldn't get out as
we were slow to get going in the morning. Monday was kind of windy and
overcast but we got out and did a dive. My first impression was that
this is a very big ship, not a whole lot longer than the destroyers sunk
previously, but much wider and deeper. The wreck starts at 85'. It's
deeper than they had hoped. My first dive was spent forward of the
bridge and we did a little penetration. Because of the size of the ship,
penetration is much different than on the destroyers. The hallways are
bigger, higher, the decks are wider, there's more of them and it's going
to be much, much easier to get turned around and lost. This is not going
to be a wreck for single 80 divers to be screwing around on doing
All in all I did 6 dives on the ship in 4 days of diving. We had hoped
for more but the weather wasn't co-operating and we had big winds most
days except first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon. In 6
dives I think I covered a quarter of the ship. Like I said it's big. For
two of the dives I was very lucky and got to use Greg Mossfeldt's Silent
Submersion scooter. These things are way, way too much fun. The worlds
that scooters open up is amazing. I want!!
The ship lies in about 135' but inside of the engine room you can get
deeper than that because it's sunk into the mud bottom. Top of the
bridge is 85', main deck is around 100'. Did I mention this thing is
big. The engine room is a neat dive because you enter through the
skylights on the main deck at 100' and freefall down to the bottom at
140'. The engine has been removed and is going to be on display at the
Vancouver Maritime Museum along with a chunk of the ass-end of the ship,
which was cut off prior to the sinking. Lots of shafts and passageways
to explore. Visibility sucked big time for the most part and it varied
according to where you were on the ship. Best we got was maybe 30' and
down in the engine room it was down to a couple of feet. It lies just
off Snake Island, about a hundred yards from the artificial reef, the
former HMCS Saskatchewan.
If you're into wrecks, the Cape Breton is a doozy of a dive. We're
already planning a trip in February to dive her again.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Cape Breton artificial reef project artificial reef society
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