The changing faces of the Kittiwake

Storms reveal new side to famous shipwreck

Going, going, gone. Cayman’s most famous shipwreck, the USS Kittiwake, was pushed further on its side as storm swells swept through the Seven Mile Beach marine park over the weekend.

The wreck was left positioned at a 45-degree angle after being tipped over in rough conditions associated with Hurricane Nate earlier this month. With Tropical Storm Philippe bringing swells from a similar direction this weekend, dive industry leaders feared the wreck could be pushed onto a nearby coral reef.

In reality, the weekend weather may have made the wreck and the reef more secure, said Jason Washington of Ambassador Divers and iDive blog.

Upright. The Kittiwake standing proud on the sea floor on Sep. 16, prior to Hurricane Nate. PHOTOS: JASON WASHINGTON, iDIVE

Mr. Washington, who swam out to the site to survey it Sunday, said it was now lying on its side in the sand. He said it did not appear to have damaged the coral as it shifted position once again.

“As she has heeled over on her port side, she has started to fill with sand. She has more surface area on the sea floor and is actually a lot more stable. It is going to take a massive storm to move that ship now.”

As with all shipwrecks, he said, the weather would have its way with the Kittiwake over time, slowly revealing different sides of the wreck and creating different opportunities for divers and photographers.

Listing. The Kittiwake began to topple after Nate on Oct. 12. PHOTOS: JASON WASHINGTON, iDIVE

“What we will witness now is the slow deterioration of the wreck and eventually she will make her way down to a debris field. The moment she went under water, she started her journey of returning to the earth, molecule by molecule.

“It is exciting to witness the changing faces of the Kittiwake. We have seen three changes in the last few months and we will see more.”

He said the main concern was to protect the reef at the neighboring Sand Chute dive site.

Floored. The Kittiwake pictured on its side Sunday after the latest storm. PHOTOS: JASON WASHINGTON, iDIVE
Divers watch from a dive boat as the USS Kittiwake is sunk on Jan. 5, 2011 off West Bay.

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  1. As I have said before that the kittiwake should have been properly anchored .
    Mr Washington just confirmed that she shifted again, but apparently no damage to the coral . I will ask a few questions . Have we seen anything that size sitting lose on the sand in the ocean that couldn’t be moved by the waves/turbulence ? No . What happens when something heavy is sitting on lose sand in the ocean in a storm/hurricane ? As we have seen that waves and turbulence can move it and break anchor chains .
    To properly anchor and secure the ship from moving to avoid the destruction of the corals , the sand have to be removed from under her so she would be on hard surface . But the securing of the kittiwake is urgent to avoid the destruction of the corals that took thousands of years to grow that size .