Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

112: The Wreck of the Pisces

During this weekend's dives, I had a sad encounter with a part of my own history. No, I didn't find the hull of the old 30' St. Pierre dory I bought from Carl Zeiner in 1970. The old "banana boat," later owned by Boppo the Clown, hasn't resurfaced in a decade or more. Rest in pieces, I say... second happiest day of a boat owners life and all that. No, I spent one of my dives at 60-75 feet with the wreck of the old glassbottom boat Pisces. In the very early 1970's, I used to party (er, conduct research) on this boat with its captain, Lynn Stokes. At the time, I was a faculty member at the former Catalina Island School for Boys (CISB) and Lynn was running the Pisces to serve the Catalina Island Girls Camp which subleased our Toyon facilities during the summer. To give you an idea how far back in history that was, we considered Red Mountain and Spinada to be fine wines. Well, at least they were affordable on our limited salaries.

The Pisces was an interesting vessel. Lynn told me it was a U.S. Navy surplus glassbottom boat when he acquired it. Of course in the depths Lynn operated the vessel, there was little to be seen. After a late afternoon of Spinada, it wouldn't have mattered if there had been! I don't remember diving on his boat since I had access to my old dory and the school's launch, the K. V. (named after Keith Vosburg, the founder of CISB). We did on occasion go out a few miles in search of the drifting kelp rafts that I was studying at the time.

I don't remember exactly what year the Pisces hit the Casino breakwater. I know I had pictures of it going down after striking the rocks, but these were lost years ago. Perhaps some of my readers still have images of this unfortunate event, or know how to get in touch with Lynn. I lost contact with him about 6 years ago when he was up in Morro Bay. If so, please call me at 510-THEM (8436). Easy to remember... don't call ME, call THEM. It works every time.

Let's switch now to 60 feet under and current time. I dove down to the Pisces as I occasionally do, and was saddened to see how badly damaged the wreck's hull was. Over the past 2-3 months, the anchor chain for one of the big mooring cans defining the boundary of the dive park shifted. Or perhaps the boat shifted... according to Einstein it's all relative anyway. The chain ended up right on top of the Pisces, and over the past few months it has torn apart a good section of the aluminium hull. Recently the damage accelerated when the anchor chain would catch on the damaged aluminium, ripping pieces of it off the vessel. In fact on the day of my dive one large piece of the hull was dangling from the chain a few feet above the wreck, bobbing up and down with the swell above. In a matter of months much of this interesting wreck has been transformed into something more akin to a crushed aluminium soft drink can. Perhaps it too should be resurrected and recycled. Hmmm, wonder what the CRV is for something that big!

Now I'm not a big fan of wreck diving. To do it right requires technical training and equipment that is of little interest to me as a marine biologist. In fact, I have only "penetrated" two wrecks that I can remember. The first was the wreck of the King Cruiser passenger ferry in the Andaman Sea off the coast of southern Thailand. Dieke van Ewijk, my Dutch dive buddy and dive master, wanted me to dive it with her. Unfortunately she misread the tide tables and we dove it during peak current. At a depth of nearly 100 ft. the large wreck was barely visible in the strong current and silt. The other wreck was the Fang Ming, located off the Espiritu Santo group of islands near La Paz, Mexico. That wreck was specially prepared for divers with large, easy access holes. Quite a different set of circumstances. However, I'd rather spend my time filming the marine critters growing on a wreck's hull.

It is a shame that the Pisces is deteriorating at such a rapid rate. This could easily be slowed down if the mooring buoy were moved out a few dozen feet. Of course I have an ulterior motive here... that would also make the dive park larger, and I'm always looking for "new" territory to film! While we are at it, why not move the two corner buoys out from the wreck of the Sujac at the south end and the old "swim platform" (more accurately one of the old floats according to Lorraine Sadler who helped put it out there) at the north end? Hmmm... why stop there. Let's rope off Avalon and Descanso Bays as well as Hamilton Cove! Now THAT would really create a dive park that might satisfy me for the rest of my life!

© 2004 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 49, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM weekdays.

Bow of the Pisces (upside-down) and recent images of the damage
done to the hull of the Pisces by the dive park buoy chain. .

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material © 2004 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia