In their goal to reach 365 dive sites, on January 5th the Cayman Islands Tourism Association has added one more to the list. They sunk the Ex-USS Kittiwake ASR 13, a Chanticleer class submarine rescue ship, just off shore in the marine park at the north end of the Grand Cayman’s popular Seven Mile Beach. The sunken ship will gather life to create an artificial reef that will be accessible to both scuba divers and snorkelers.
Unlike many wreck dives, which are sunk deep, presumably in an effort to limit access to divers that are trained to go deep, The Kittiwake is sitting in only 62 feet of water. That means the top of the 47 foot ship in very close to the surface. This makes it an easy dive for
novices scuba divers and visible to snorkelers.
Pay to Play
To dive or even get near the Kittiwake you have to pay a fee to the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA). Prices are $5 US/day for snorkelers and $10 US for divers, with annual and lifetime passes available. All vessels, commercial and private, are required to be licensed and visitors and staff are required to wear the medallion to show that the entry fee was paid. Vessel fees start at CI$150 per year for commercial vessels and CI$50 for private vessels. Dive charters rates include the permit/medallion fee and average $95US. Charter groups are assigned specific times
that they may visit the wreck.
The Kittiwake was built in Savannah, Georgia near the end of WWII and commissioned on July 18, 1946. After 54 years of service, she was decommissioned on in 1994. Up until 2009 she was part of the James River Reserve Fleet in Fort Eustis, Virginia. After an application process the the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) donated the ship for “artificial reefing” to the Cayman Islands. This was a pilot project for MARAD to donate the ship to a foreign government. After a complete cleaning and removal of all hazardous materials in Norfolk the ship was deemed to be “possibly the cleanest wreck to be sunk as an artificial reef.” In mid December 2010 the Kittiwake weathered rough seas on her final voyage to the Grand Cayman. She arrived, appropriately, on Christmas day. She was sunk and landed upright on the bottom on January 5, 2011 and opened for the licensed operators diving at 12 noon on January 8th. Further information including comments by former crew members can be found at the official website: http://www.kittiwakecayman.com/.