Sunday, 11 January 2015

Wreck hunting for beginners - free diving the USS Kittywake

As someone with a (I think understandable) fear of deep water / sharks / giant octopus tentacles, I've always been a bit wary of sub aqua activities. I've scuba dived a little and done plenty of snorkelling and a  bit of free diving but I'm never at the front of the queue to get off the nice dry boat. 

The Kittywake is a former US Naval ship, originally launched in 1945 - she saw nearly 50 years service before being bought by the Cayman Islands and sunk as an artificial reef in 2011. She's a pretty popular wreck dive and I've been making non committal noises about swimming out there ever since I first came to the island in 2011. But it's taken be four years to summon up the courage (and organise myself off the extremely comfortable pool loungers) to get out there.

Fortunately my mother in law is a prodigious life organiser and excellent ignorer-of-my-fear-of-sharks and so six of us got aboard a charter dive boat from Don Foster's Dive shop and made the 20 minute boat trip out to anchor above our wreck site.

She lies about 15 feet below the water at her highest point so we'd opted to snorkel and free dive this time. I find exploring, once you've remembered to equalise, much less terrifying with out the bubbles and darth vader breathing soundtrack that inevitably accompanies a scuba trip.

It was not without trepidation that I jumped off our boat into dark blue water but, as with most fears, the reality is quite different. 

Once your head is beneath the water the Kittywake looms eireily beneath you, close enough to take a deep breath and swim down to hang on to railings and scare clusters of parrot fish hiding in dark corners.

We ducked and dived and dipped and dodged..!

Practised our best Kung Fu

Tried to catch the fish

and bubbles rising up from the scuba divers below us 

...And I completely forgot about the potential giant squid attacks. A bit embarrassed its taken me 28 years to over come my fear of the sea. I think I get it now though. As Jaques Yves Costeau is quoted in dive shops all over the world "the best way to observe a fish is to become a fish". He had a point. I'll definitely be back here. And will try and be a bit more adventurous exploring the rest of the reef next time.

Locations: USS Kittywake, George Town Harbour and Don Foster's Dive, South Church Street. Both Grand Cayman.

All underwater photos taken by my excellent sister in law Katie. 



  1. Wow, props to you for doing this despite your fear! While I don't have any fear of deep water, I do indeed have a very understandable fear of strange creatures (mostly of my imagination) that could possibly appear in deep water. We're talking horror-movie stuff and underwater axe murderers. I'm not sure I could do this, but it looks like a really cool experience!

    1. Haha I don't think that under water axe murderers are any less rational than giant squid... The key to comfort, I've found, is to be swimming with at least one person who's a little bit slower than you are!!


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