The popular USS Kittiwake shipwreck has been deemed safe for divers, but concerns persist about the threat it now poses to natural coral reef.

The wreck toppled in heavy seas and now lies on its side, wedged against a section of reef, close to another dive site known as Sand Chute.

A chunk of reef was chipped off as the 2,200-ton wreck shifted position, reigniting fears that it could move again in future storms causing more significant damage.

The Department of Environment said in a statement that the impact from the recent incident was minimal and it would not seek compensation. But previous storms have shifted the wreck more than 50 feet from its original resting place on a shallow sandy bottom off Seven Mile Beach and it now poses a much greater threat to the reef.

“Movement such as has been observed at the Kittiwake is not completely unexpected during a storm event,” the Department of Environment said in a statement.

“This is why the DoE has consistently recommended against the placement of artificial wrecks and other objects on the seabed around the Cayman Islands as our extremely narrow marine shelf makes it is very difficult to place these structures at any safe distance from living reef.”

Further damage to the reef is likely and it would be futile to seek to restore the damaged section, which was confined to a 5 by 3 meter area, the statement indicates.

“Although no longer touching the reef, the ship currently lies very close to it and future contact with the reef can be expected with other large storm events. This suggests that repair of the identified damage is not advisable at this stage.”

The Department of Environment said it would work with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association to monitor the site.

CITA advised Tuesday that it had commissioned an examination of the wreck and given the all-clear for water sports operators to resume snorkel and dive trips.

“The official assessment report as at Monday afternoon, indicates that moorings are safe for boats to tie up to, and visitors are still able to see the entire wreck from the surface, hence making for a visible and interesting snorkel spot,” CITA, which manages the site, said in a statement.

The association is advising scuba dive operators to ensure their staff dive the site first, without customers, to get used to the new layout before guiding visitors.

The Kittiwake now lies closer to the reef following the passage of Hurricane Nate. – PHOTOS: Tony Land, Divetech

Jo Mikutowicz, owner of Divetech, which led Monday’s assessment of the site, said it was still just as accessible as it had been previously.

She said, “It is still the same Kittiwake, it is just lying on its side. I went through the wreck and took the same route. It was a little bit different, obviously, but it can still be fully penetrated. It is definitely safe for divers.”

She said the wreck was well embedded in the sand and it would take a severe storm to shift it. She said Divetech had advised CITA there was a possibility that further storms could push it on to the reef, however.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder if to properly secure and anchored the kittiwake down that it wouldn’t move and damage anymore coral .

    Now this could be dangerous if you don’t know how to do this .
    I would think that the sand under the side might be a couple of feet deep . So if we had a barge that could contain the sand after it has been pumped on board the barge , and let that side settle down on the rock bottom. Then take and anchor her down to prevent her from being lifted up by wave action . She would need to be anchored from the bow and stern and the top of the high side from both directions . Then all that would happen is the sand would build up around her but she wouldn’t be able to go no where .

    I would think that it’s urgent to have her secured before the next bad storm or hurricane, because how I see her sitting on the sand now it wouldn’t take much of storm to move her again and cause much more damage to the corals around the area . That’s my 10 cents worth to avoid any more damage to the corals and the environment.

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    • Kittiwake Shipwreck , a threat to the coral reef , says Ron Ebanks and DoE . I see so many things going wrong with this loose cannon kittiwake sitting loose in the water waiting for the next Hurricane , and no one else has no intrest to not even read the article or write an opinion comment to get the problem fixed . But when there’s a article written about one specific man that article seems to get alot of readers .
      Why don’t we ask Mr Dart to fix the kittiwake properly sense you all think that there’s no one can do anything better than Mr Dart before it destroy all the corals in the marine park and land in the Kempton lobby next Hurricane .

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  2. The Kittiwake anchor chain on the starboard side front and back both broke during the storm. The Kittiwake has 5 huge anchors that have not moved but the chain broke on two of the anchors. So, I propose that 4 of the anchors be moved to the starboard side and reconnect the chain to prevent further movement to the port (reef side). Another thought, is to pump sand into the hull of the ship to give it more blast.

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  3. Cayman Compass newspaper , why do you have such a small comments section ? How do we expect to have any debate on topics when we have to search to find subject .
    We can learn alot more when we have a smart intelligent debate .

    Here we have a few good comments on a very important issue, the future destruction of the UNDERWATER ENVIRONMENT / CORALS and no one is getting the chance to see the article or the opinions on the subject .
    We should remember that two heads are always better than one .

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