Need a rationalization to ditch the winter weather and take a tropical vacation? We’re happy to help.
There are two wrecks that are celebrating pivotal anniversaries in the Cayman Islands – a diving Mecca that is home to 365 unique dive sites spread across three distinct islands, and which has an average temperature of about 70-85 degrees.
The first one is the USS Kittiwake, which is found just off of the famed Seven Mile Beach, and which is a popular destination for both divers and snorkelers.
The vessel served as a submarine rescue ship for a dizzying long span, (1945-1994), and patrolled a global range of sites, including coastal New England, the U.S. Caribbean, and the Mediterranean Sea.
The USS Kittiwake is most renowned for playing an essential part in the search and recovery mission to retrieve the black box from the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion.
Decommissioned in 1994, this wreck was sunk in January 2011 in Marine Park to form a new artificial reef, and the endeavor was even filmed for a documentary television series called “Monster Moves.” You can watch the documentary on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/–D4epIbq6g
Check out this shorter video of the USS Kittiwake sinking from photographer Cathy Church, one of the first to photograph the vessel:
Today, the ship rests 60’ ft. beneath the surface, (barely offshore from West Bay), and is a fascinating site for divers who want to take a peek at the main decks, the smoke stack that opens straight down to the hull, and the endless array of rooms that are open for exploration.
Look for massive groupers and squirrelfish schools, which have taken to the exterior of the vessel, and be prepared to see a veritable world of maritime equipment that’s still in exceptional shape. Best of all, this site is accessible for divers of all skill levels, and is a great launching point to discover how cool wreck diving can be. (Note that an entrance fee may be required to access the site.)
The other Cayman Site that’s celebrating a birthday this year is the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts – an anti-submarine warfare frigate built by the Soviet Union.
Spanning 330’ ft. long and constructed in 1984 by the USSR, the vessel didn’t see any wartime action, but was sold to Cuba to protect its fleet of Cold War era vessels.
A few years after the war, the ship was purchased by the Cayman Islands government as a dive attraction in 1996.
Though the wreck has seen its fair share of hurricane action, (a major storm broke it in half in 2004), the dive site is still a popular destination 20 years after it was scuttled, and remains one of the only Soviet Union sunken wreck sites in the Western Hemisphere.
Located roughly 200 yards from shore, there are more than 100 species that have been documented at the site, including two unique and well-know residents – a green moray eel named Charlie, and a massive but shy jewfish named Boris!
The Cayman Islands are effectively known for good wreck diving, and there’s no better reason to plan a trip than the celebration of the formation of two of the island’s most popular and easily-accessible dive sites.
Want to know more about diving in the Cayman Islands? We cover it as one of our many dive destinations!
Have you dived either of these wrecks? Let us know in the comments section below!
Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/crdunn/