Dive Log Entry: Shipwreck Kostervraket
Posted: Fri, Jul 26, 2013
Our days here have consisted of towing the side scanning sonar in hopes of potential targets to identify as wrecks. Yesterday we towed the side scan in an area that our local contacts directed us to, saying that there was a well preserved wreck here with many artifacts still onboard. We put the side scan in the water a good distance from where we believed the wreck would be located so that we could do a search pattern covering a large distance. After the pre dive checks we deployed the side scan and instantly picked up a perfect image of a ship on the bottom. Could this be the wreck we are searching for? Surely not, it usually takes hours if not days to pin point a wreck location. We do several more passes over our target to confirm its size and position. The data returned by the side scan checks out with that supplied by our local contacts. Now there is only one thing left to do DIVE!
We get our team together to formulate a dive plan. After through discussion we determine our safest option is to send in a pair of divers and leave the other team members on board to maneuver our vessel and be available as surface support. This will be a tricky dive because the wreck is situated in a heavily trafficked area by other vessels. We will not be able to anchor our vessel directly over the wreck because we do not want to risk damaging it with our anchor. We mark the wreck with a surface marker. We get suited up and John brings the boat in close to the marker to deploy us on the site. He will hover the boat near the wreck making sure all other vessels avoid this area keeping it safe for us to surface away from boat traffic.
Travis Yates and I suit up to go in. We are well prepared with our dry suits, lighting and camera equipment. We enter the water and start our decent. The sunlight slowly fades away as we go down. Wait there is a dark spot. Are we on the wreck? I look at my depth gage. It reads 60 feet, only half way there. What we see is just the change in watercolor as we pass through a thermocline. It gets colder and darker as we continue our decent. We reach the bottom and a large wooden object comes into view. It is the stern of a ship. We spot the rudder and follow it up to the deck. We follow the rail down the starboard side. The original blocks are strewn across the deck, many of them still have the lines passed through them. As we come to midships we see the hole where the mast once protruded through the deck. Just forward of that we find several clay pipes nestled near a plate. Maybe this is where a sailor sat and repaired worn lines while underway. We continue on and see artifact after artifact scattered on the deck, untouched since this vessel sank more than 250 years ago. I see a small glimmer and look over to see a copper lid to some sort of container wedged amongst some boards. As we come to the bow I spot something I cant quite make out. I move in for a closer look. As I study the shape of the two things laying in front of me I suddenly realize they are in the shape of two feet. I am looking at pair of boots. They are deteriorated but you can easily see the soles still in good condition with the leather uppers sewn to them. The laces have long corroded away. My mind races, why are there a pair of boots on the bow? Did some sailor quickly shed these in order to jump overboard as the ship was going down? We drop over the rail at the bow to see the stem and bowsprit resting in the silt below. It appears to be undamaged. There is a gap in the hull where it was once attached. It has only dropped from the ship because the iron bolts that once attached it have rusted away. We follow it out and now spot the massive anchor below. It stands straight up off the bottom looking near perfect.
I look down at my dive computer. We are now in 120 feet of water and only have 2 minutes of bottom time remaining. I flash my light at Travis and give him the signal to start our accent. As we slowly work our way back up from depth I wonder what could have caused this vessel to sink? It is in the middle of a large body of water with nothing to run into. The ship doesnt appear have any major damage. Mystery still surrounds this well preserved wreck. We may never know why she went down or if the crew survived. We are now 20 feet from the surface. I inflate my safety marker and send it to the surface to let our crew know we have safely made it to our safety stop. We spend our 3 minutes at this depth processing what we have seen on our dive. We now ascend. As we break the surface we signal to the boat that we are OK and John brings the vessel around to pick us up. As soon as we are buoyant on the surface we remove our regulators. That was unbelievable. What an awesome wreck. We are giddy with excitement and try our best to relay what we have just seen to each other and the rest of the crew. This is why we have traveled thousands of miles, endured frigid water temperatures and strapped on nearly 100 lbs. of equipment to dive into darkness. Being able to open a time capsule and catch a glimpse of the past, an opportunity to relive the lives of sailors not so different from ourselves. This is why we chose to dive the Baltic!
Written by Thomas Mitchell
Quarter Master/Dive Ops