Storm shifts Kittiwake 60 feet

    Kittiwake Cayman underwater 300x250

    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. 

    Although it is now 10 feet deeper, the ship can still be easily seen by snorkellers. “It’s deeper, but I don’t think it’s taken anything away from it,” Mr. Washington said. 

    However, snorkellers will no longer be able to “stand” on the ship, he said.  

    “Before, you could stand on the superstructure and have your head out of the water. You cannot do that anymore. It’s gone from about 5 feet to 15 feet,” he said. 

    He and fellow divers also observed plates at the back of the ship were no longer there, but that has served to let more ambient light into the ship.  

    “I don’t know if the plates were part of the original ship. They may have been welded in place for transporting the ship down here,” he said. 

    One anchor had snapped and its enormous links can be seen hanging off the side of the ship, the divers reported. 

    The anchor chains at the rear of the ship slackened and now lie underneath the ship.  

    “They did not break, she moved so far toward Sand Chute, the chains slackened and she sat on top of them,” Mr. Washington said. 

    The 251 feet-long USS Kittiwake was in service from 1945 to 1994 and served as a submarine rescue vessel. 

    Kittiwake Cayman underwater

    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. – PHOTO: LAWSON WOOD


    1. I’m glad for everyone involved in the project that it wasn’t worse but it is pretty much what I predicted would happen when I dove the Kittywake in February.

      Sounds like she’s pretty well bedded in now.

    2. Interesting… for a better view of the Kittiwake and its sinking, you can see the wreck on

      I still applaud all those who took part in the sinking of the Kittiwake to make an artificial barrier reef. It will definitely attract more tourists on the island, so long to dive at the site remains free for local people. I would hate to be told I can’t dive at the site when I was born and raised here.

    3. B.T.:

      Snorkeling at the Kittiwake is free.

      To dive the site requires an entrance fee from a licenced operator, regardless if you were born and raised in Cayman.

      I agree, it’s a good thing that those Americans with all that expertise came down here to sink it.

    4. Am I the only one to notice the connection between the movement away from the beach and the lack of sand around the prop? Obviously a duppy crew boarded her and tried to take her out to sea…

    5. LifesABeach:
      I just went to the official website, and it states that snorklers require a wristband:
      Scuba Divers Snorkelers:
      The Kittiwake ship wreck is a private park and attraction that is managed by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. All visitors to the Kittiwake ship wreck are required to pay an entry fee.

      – Scuba Divers = US10.00 / CI8.00 per day (single use)
      – Snorkelers = US5.00 / CI4.00 per day / snorkel
      – Annual Pass = US31.25 / CI25 per year
      – Lifetime Pass = US500 / CI400

      Medallions are not transferable. Exchange rate @ CI0.80 = US1.00

      Vessels doing multiple dives the same day are reminded of the 1.5 hour time limit and are required to leave the mooring for their surface interval between dives.

      Scuba Divers will be issued a tag to attach to their BCD or Regulator. Snorkelers will be issued with a wrist band.

    6. caymantransplantandlovingit:

      I stand corrected.

      My point, actually, was more about the subtle Caymanian elitism represented in the comment without regard to those of whom actually did the work.

    7. Seriously, who cares.

      No one would pay 5 dollars to walk around that garbage scow when it was above water.

      Now people are actually paying money to see it underwater. I don’t get it.

      Hmmmmmm. Wonder if I can do that with my car that’s about to fall apart. No one will buy the thing, but if i sink it. Some diving rtards will pay money to see it underwater. Brilliant!

      I have just found my retirement plan.

    8. Who cares? Seriously? You two are like peas in a pod of ignorance.

      I think the multi-million dollar SCUBA diving industry that’s helping keep this rock afloat cares a great deal.

      And talk about insulting the hand that feeds you. Do you have any idea how much money this garbage scow and the diving rtards that go underwater to see it generate for Cayman?

      Me neither. Let’s go ask Trina Christian of CITA how she feels about all her hard work to contribute to the Cayman tourism product is viewed.

      Welcome to Caymankind indeed.

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