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The GHOST SHIP of Saba Banks

Discussion in 'Wreck Diving' started by teamoctopus, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. teamoctopus

    teamoctopus Angel Fish

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Grand Case, St. Martin, French West Indies
    59
    2
    0
    Thought I would share this video that I took recently of the Ghost Ship on Saba Banks.

    After the Wreck Detectives and Dive Detectives (or whatever they like to be called) investigated the sinking of this vessel I was really interested in finding out exactly why she sank.

    So, a Friend of mine and I set out on a very rough and expensive journey to investigate.

    This is my video and please excuse my excitement... it took weeks of planning and hours to locate it...

    The Ghost Ship of Saba Banks, Caribbean - YouTube

    We know why she sank and she wasn't scuttled as previously thought.... how do we know she wasn't scuttled??? Thats a secret at the moment!

    This is a blog that I recently wrote:

    The Ghost Ship – by Chris

    “The Ghost Ship” sounds like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, however the Ghost Ship that we dived recently is real and probably one of the last existing mysteries of the Caribbean.About 3 years ago I was informed about a ship that was found and nobody knew about it. This ship had no name, no mayday was given and no loss of life reported. This is rare in Modern day Maritime History as most vessels carry the appropriate safety equipment, Marine Radios and locating beacons called EPIRB’s.After years of research and listening to old drunk sailors sat in bars around the Island talking a tale or two about this ship I finally organized an exploration expedition to check it out.
    Our goals were to find out why she sank, how she sank and to hopefully have an idea if it’s worth diving again!
    [​IMG]The Ghost Ship lies on the Saba Banks, notorious for treacherous conditions, big seas, strong currents, ‘Man Eating Sharks” and also this ship is known to be “Cursed” by some fishermen. So we knew we had to be cautious.Putting a team together was also difficult, we need a REALLY fast boat to get out there and back in a day, an excellent Captain and crew member and I also needed a well rounded Dive Buddy as we were aiming to dive with Double tanks and 80% Nitrox for accelerated Decompression. This was a TEC dive from day one and venturing down to 40M on a single tank is just dangerous.There are plenty of PADI Instructors on the Island that can dive safely to 100feet on a single tank but very few that have the skills that I was searching for.Luckily we trained Simon Uzcatgetui a few years ago and just by coincidence he called me about 2 weeks before the expedition.After a long chat with Simon we had established that we both want to dive some of the en-explored sites that the Caribbean has to offer and that we both had an interest in Wreck diving and Trimix.Simon is a Captain of a Megayacht and also a very experienced diver. He had all his own kit, tanks, regulators and was recently certified as an IANTD Rec Trimix Diver. He even had access to an extremely powerful boat and also a Captain and Crew…..The Fuse was lit and we were set for our exploration dive.Now all we need is good weather and calm seas, one would think that living in the Caribbean this would be commonplace and usually it is, but when we get a squall, watch out. Gusty winds can turn a flat calm sea into a washing machine in minutes and has caught many a sailor out in the past.First we set our dive plan, calculated gas mixes, bottom time and Decompression stops and times. This isn’t easy as we both have to make sure that we have enough gas to complete the dive, enough gas to decompress and also enough gas to decompress on our travel gas (the 2 tanks we wear on our backs) just in case our Deco gas is compromised.
    This is not as easy as it sounds and as the dive was so remote, we also had to make sure that we were covered for every eventuality.
    [​IMG]So it was decided that we would be breathing a custom mix of 28% for our bottom gas (Travel gas) 50% and 80% deco gases which would accelerate our decompression.
    Thats a total of 6000 liters of gas per person!The boat was prepped, fully fueled and all our kit was prepped, loaded and strapped down. The boat is a 32foot Intrepid and Tender to (T/T) Orinokia which is the Megayacht ($10m, 120ft Benetti).She has two extremely powerful motors which are Yamaha 350HP V8 outboards. Anyone who knows about boats will understand that 700HP on a 32foot boat is a lot of power!On Sunday 20th January our weather window appeared. The forecast predicted 14knot winds, clear skies, low current and seas around 1.6meters or around 4 – 5 ft. Not the best conditions but we knew we had a chance.At 0530am I headed over to the boat in Isle de Sol Marina, met the crew, did a final check and we headed out. Simon had arranged some food and coolers stacked with Drinks, Sandwiches and of course beer for the journey home!
    [​IMG]Sea conditions were ok and we had a following sea so it wasn’t too bad. We headed to Saba First and then turned to head out to the Wreck. 1 ½ hours to Saba and then 26miles or 1 hour to the wreck. This was the easy part and we knew the return journey would be rough to say the least.Once at the wreck site, the first thing we had to do is make sure we had a wreck to dive! It sounds so easy, just follow some coordinates, tie the boat to a mooring and jump in for a lovely relaxing dive….. NOT today! It took an hour to find the wreck using the echo sounder, then we had to tie the boat into the wr
    eck. This is easier said than done and took us a few attempts until we hooked into it.All this time I have this feeling that this isn’t the wreck, that we may have to call the dive at anytime due to rough seas, will the boat be here when we get back to the surface, can I really trust the Captain and crew to pick us up if we have an issue…. all this is going through my head…. We are extremely remote, what happens if one of us is injured? We both know that if something happens help is about 3 to 4 hours away…. so you can see just how cautious and professional we have to be, we couldn’t take ANY chances.So we kitted up, did our safety drills, check our Deco Regs and tanks and just took a minute to slow our heart rates, check our kit and focus on the job in hand, check our dive profiles and then it was time to get in.The current was ripping on the surface (we did a current check before we got in using a line with a weight so knew this) but once we had our deco stages it was time to descend and swim to the anchor line (which was hooked into the wreck) and then time to venture into the unknown….. this is where the adrenalin really starts.As we got to 15M deep we had hundred of Horse Eye Jacks, African Pompano jacks, huge and aggressive Barracuda and SHARKS… it was amazing how fast the sharks came and also how close they came too. They are obviously not used to Divers!Once we located the stern of the wreck we had to spend a few minutes making sure our anchor was secure and also deploy an SMB or safety marker buoy to let our Captain and Crew know the position of the anchor, just in case we detached for any reason, they could circle the boat around the SMB and follow our bubbles.Once everything was checked and secure we headed off on our journey around the wreck. Visibility was around 60-70feet and there was a very light current.We encountered more sharks, monstrous Jacks, Nurse Sharks, Turtles and just shoal after shoal of fish. The Saba Banks are known as the Nursery for the Caribbean and this was definitely apparent.The wreck sits upright, still anchored and looks like it was being used as a very cheap transportation vessel for shipping Cement. The boat is full of massive bags of cement. 4Foot cubed bags of cement. There must be hundreds of them.Once we explored the bow which is now broken off we found more conclusive evidence as to why she lays on the bottom.Whilst in water both Simon and I had a very clear idea of how this boat spent it’s last minutes.Before heading to the surface I had to get inside the wreck and found an awesome hatch that lead me into the hull. If you watch the video this part is at the end of it. That was a really cool way to end one of the most exciting dives I have ever done.


    Octopus Diving St. Martin is always hunting for new and exciting wrecks, Reefs, Pinnacles and dive sites... if you want to join us please email chris@octopusdiving.com for more information!
     
    reefer ard likes this.
  2. Jared0425

    Jared0425 Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Detroit, Michigan
    921
    579
    93
    Your story got cut off there chief. I'm interested in knowing more as a shipwreck hunter myself.
     
  3. Tampa

    Tampa Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Tampa, FL
    22
    0
    0
    I read that whole thing and seen it got cut off... The suspense!
     
  4. modustollens

    modustollens Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Canada
    104
    61
    28
    It looks cut off yes; but on my machine it looks like the text colour was changed to the background colour (perhaps the OP copied .html tags along with the text?). Dragging the mouse over the blank part of the OP's post reveals the hidden, white text:

    "...find the wreck using the echo sounder, then we had to tie the boat into the wreck. This is easier said than done and took us a few attempts until we hooked into it.All this time I have this feeling that this isn’t the wreck, that we may have to call the dive at anytime due to rough seas, will the boat be here when we get back to the surface, can I really trust the Captain and crew to pick us up if we have an issue…. all this is going through my head…. We are extremely remote, what happens if one of us is injured? We both know that if something happens help is about 3 to 4 hours away…. so you can see just how cautious and professional we have to be, we couldn’t take ANY chances.So we kitted up, did our safety drills, check our Deco Regs and tanks and just took a minute to slow our heart rates, check our kit and focus on the job in hand, check our dive profiles and then it was time to get in.The current was ripping on the surface (we did a current check before we got in using a line with a weight so knew this) but once we had our deco stages it was time to descend and swim to the anchor line (which was hooked into the wreck) and then time to venture into the unknown….. this is where the adrenalin really starts.As we got to 15M deep we had hundred of Horse Eye Jacks, African Pompano jacks, huge and aggressive Barracuda and SHARKS… it was amazing how fast the sharks came and also how close they came too. They are obviously not used to Divers!Once we located the stern of the wreck we had to spend a few minutes making sure our anchor was secure and also deploy an SMB or safety marker buoy to let our Captain and Crew know the position of the anchor, just in case we detached for any reason, they could circle the boat around the SMB and follow our bubbles.Once everything was checked and secure we headed off on our journey around the wreck. Visibility was around 60-70feet and there was a very light current.We encountered more sharks, monstrous Jacks, Nurse Sharks, Turtles and just shoal after shoal of fish. The Saba Banks are known as the Nursery for the Caribbean and this was definitely apparent.The wreck sits upright, still anchored and looks like it was being used as a very cheap transportation vessel for shipping Cement. The boat is full of massive bags of cement. 4Foot cubed bags of cement. There must be hundreds of them.Once we explored the bow which is now broken off we found more conclusive evidence as to why she lays on the bottom.Whilst in water both Simon and I had a very clear idea of how this boat spent it’s last minutes.Before heading to the surface I had to get inside the wreck and found an awesome hatch that lead me into the hull. If you watch the video this part is at the end of it. That was a really cool way to end one of the most exciting dives I have ever done."
     
  5. scuba.mne

    scuba.mne Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Pattaya
    29
    3
    0
    more more please im getting excited :wink:
     
  6. christopher.miles

    christopher.miles Garibaldi

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Fairfax, Virginia, United States
    4
    1
    0
    I watched the "Ghost Ship" episode of Dive Detectives (first aired 04/07/10) on the Smithsonian Channel and this is what they are able to find on the ship:

    They scraped the hull and found the name "Marina" on the back of it. They also penetrated the ship to the engine compartment and found a Polish engine label showing a 1968 date.

    From the "Lloyds Register of Shipping" on insurance claims they were able to find the following information:

    Ship was built in 1968 in Bulgaria. It has 3 holds and 1 engine.
    Originally it was called the Warna (pronounced Varna).
    In 1984 it was renamed the Varna.
    In 1985 it was renamed the Varina.
    And in 1994 it was named the Marina and registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
    Shipping records indicate it was used for shipping cargo around the world for 25 years until the early 1990s.
    Then it was bought by a company in the British Virgin Islands that used it for shipping cement in the Caribbean.

    Final reports have her in trouble in high seas just after midnight on August 4th, 2000, not far from Tortola. The crew reported it was taking on water and the crew abandoned it and was rescued from Tortola. The next day a plane went out and flew over it seeing that it was still sinking but had not gone down yet.

    A salvage crew went out and found a valve that appeared to be intentionally open that was letting water in the bow. They were able to shut it off, pump the water out and bring the ship back to Tortola.

    When the Tortola Police contacted the owners, the original crew showed up and stripped the ship of everything worthwhile (and identifiable) onboard. The Marina left Tortola in September 2000 never to be seen or heard from again. Why it was sank on the Saba Banks and not in deep water is unknown.

    The owner died in 2001 and the truth on why he wanted it scuttled went with him to the grave. The show surmises that it was just too expensive to maintain.
     

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