Monday, October 20, 2014
Men of Honor: Actors, Navy and DIT Staff
Divers Institute of Technology

Men of Honor: Actors, navy divers and DIT staff

Written for DIT by Londi Gamezde

“Diving’s been around since man started getting stuff out of the water,” says John Paul Johnston, DIT’s Executive Director with a distinguished 30-year career as a Navy diver. Today, we’re a long way from just ‘getting stuff out of the water,’ and the state of commercial diving is indebted to the research and investment from the Navy over the years. The 2000 film Men of Honor is in part a tribute to the Navy’s diving history. John Paul, Bruce Banks and the late Richard ‘Rag Man’ Radecki of DIT played a major behind-the-scenes role in the film, helping prepare the actors for their parts in the film and getting them dive-savvy.

Rag Man w/ De Niro training him in Mark V diving gear


JP and Bruce Banks helping train cast and crew

JP and Bruce Banks helping train cast and crew

The film interprets the amazing true story of Carl Brashear, the US Navy’s first African American master diver and its first amputee diver. Brashear needed his leg amputated following a salvage operation and his story is one of incredible courage and fortitude in the face of many challenges. Initially applying to the Navy, he faced multiple rejections but persistently pursued his goal until finally being able to qualify as a master diver. After the tragic loss of his leg, Carl secretly started training to dive again, sending pictures of himself diving and working out to the Navy, to convince them he was in good enough shape to return as a master diver. This was a man with guts, passion and dedication. Brashear is played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Robert De Niro plays Master Chief Billy Sunday who trains Brashear in the film, a fictitious character based on many superiors encountered by Brashear in his journey through Navy diving.



I caught up with John Paul, who chatted to me about the Navy, Carl Brashear and DIT’s first brush with Hollywood… and the precious personalized gifts from Robert De Niro.


LG: How did you end up getting connected with the movie?

JP: I was the commanding officer on a naval base over on the Olympic peninsula, and one day, the producer Bill Badalato showed up and asked where they could possibly shoot a film. The base I was working on had a lot of historical significance but it housed a lot of explosives so we couldn’t film there. I asked what the movie was about and he said, “A one-legged black diver.” I knew immediately it was Carl! He was on set for all the filming and involved in the production, so I ended up going to work with them on the movie.

Cast and director learning how to fall into formation

Cast and director learning how to fall into formation

Carl Brashear, Director George Tillman, & Rag Man


LG: So you already knew Carl?

JP: Absolutely. Carl Brashear was, what you call in the Navy, my ‘sea daddy’; he kind of looked after me as I came up through the ranks. He was an interesting guy – a spectacular athlete, very focused and driven and in great shape, even until his late 60s and early 70s, when the movie was underway. When I met Carl, he was already a master diver, in charge of the diving side of the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, Va. I had just become a saturation diver and got paired up with Carl on an odd project that came up. We flew around Europe for 30 days, just the two of us looking at some problems – we went to Scotland, England, Spain and Italy – one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on. From then on he looked after me and followed my career pretty closely.

Cuba Gooding practicing with mark v gear

Cuba Gooding practicing with mark v gear

Director George Tillman diving the mark v

Director George Tillman diving the mark v

LG: What did you do for the movie?

JP: I looked after the script mostly, working with the actors. At one point I picked up Cuba Gooding, Jr. and all the young actors who played the students and drove them out to a navy base on Whidbey Island where there’s a big naval air station where there was a big unit of divers. I took them just to get used to the scene, see what the divers were like, and talk to them about motivation. Even though we prepared them for their roles as divers in the film, the actors didn’t actually dive. During filming, the young actors would be all out there on deck but when it came time to put somebody in the water, it was one of the students who had just recently graduated from DIT. That’s the magic of Hollywood!

De Niro, Rag Man, and Director George Tillman


LG: What was it like to work with such high caliber actors?

JP: Cuba Gooding and Robert De Niro are both extremely approachable, but very different. De Niro is quiet, intense, and private in the way he approaches things. Cuba Gooding is a spectacular ball of energy! I remember a scene in the hospital where he gets upset about his leg. Before filming, he was kinda laughing, but as soon as they said, “Action,” he took on his character almost immediately. And then again, as soon as they said, “Cut,” he went back to that totally different person. It was amazing to watch that kind of ability.

Cuba Gooding Jr. Having lunch with DIT students

Cuba Gooding Jr. Having lunch with DIT students


Here’s a little story about De Niro – a gentleman, a classy human being to be around. One day a few months after the filming had been wrapped up, I came home and there was this big box sitting on my front steps. I open it up and inside is a what we call a gimballed ship’s chronometer, from Tiffany’s of New York. It’s beautiful. Later my phone rings and its Rag Man. He’s shootin’ the breeze with me and I’m thinking, I wonder why he’s really calling… I’ve known Rag since I was a young sailor boy. He was jawing and jawing and finally he goes, “Hey, did you get anything in the mail today?” and I just started laughing – he got one too, and so did Bruce. Inside of each chronometer was a personalized brass plaque that Bob De Niro had written to each one of us. So that is one of the most treasured items in my house and it speaks volumes to the gentleman that he is.


LG: You’re in diving, not film. How did you like the change to your routine?

JP: It was all great fun, but filming movies very slowly and is incredibly time-consuming. I don’t know that it’s something I’d do again but it was a great experience and I’m thrilled to have been involved.

“The Navy Diver is not a fighting man, he is a salvage expert. If it is lost underwater, he finds it. If it’s sunk, he brings it up. If it’s in the way, he moves it. If he’s lucky, he will die young, 200 feet beneath the waves, for that is the closest he’ll ever get to being a hero.” – Billy Sunday, Men of Honor.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Salvage Dives Around the World
Divers Institute of Technology

Salvage Dives Around the World

Written for DIT by Londi Gamezde

Ever wonder what happens when shipwrecks happen, or are discovered? Well, modern-day explorers, aka salvage divers, are contracted to rescue remaining objects of value from the ships, to disassemble wrecks for safety and environmental reasons or to provide research assistance on sites in the ocean. Salvage divers can play many roles, often at the same time: construction worker, historian, hero and detective, and they connect the past and the present through secretive, underwater worlds. At the moment there are many salvage expeditions taking place around the world, combining art, history, sociology, restoration and, of course, the hands-on, hard core skills of commercial diving.

Diving for treasure and knowledge

The London, a British warship, inexplicably exploded in 1665 just off the coast of Southend, UK, and was discovered in 2005 with some mysteries aboard. Funded by English Heritage, salvage divers have recovered artefacts from the wreck that shed light on England’s naval history and technology from the era. Strangely, many female skeletal remains have been found in the wreck, likely the wives and sweethearts of the crew. But why were they aboard, in the middle of a war with the French? If we ever find out, it will be thanks to the dive crews who work in very difficult conditions on the site, diving between tides with extremely low visibility, sometimes able to see only a few inches ahead. Despite these challenges, divers have found a wealth of objects by the low light of their headlamps – pistols, scales, spoons, navigational devices, and piles of leather shoes. Local volunteers are donating their time to classifying the artefacts which will find a home in the Southend museum.

Flipping a beast


In 2012 the world experienced the closest thing to a modern-day Titanic accident: the sinking of cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy, in which 34 people perished. The salvage operation included parbuckling the boat, which involved lifting the 27,000 ton vessel from lying on its side on the ocean bottom to floating upright, requiring a custom platform to be built, constructed largely by salvage divers. The whole project required over 48,000 man hours of engineering and over 22,000 dives.

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DIT graduate Sonny Schreiner worked on the salvage operation with crew from over 30 other countries, and had a total blast on the project.


“You could go down 100 feet in a 3mm or 4mm wetsuit and you could pretty much see the surface from there; the visibility was just phenomenal. I have never before seen three foot long mussels in my life. Though we’re not allowed to eat anything we find in the ocean, we’d go on land to this nearby island, which nobody ever really heard of, Giglio, and we’d go to the restaurants… oh, the gelato, the chocolate, the wine, the olive oil, it’s so delicious you’re just like, l’m living the dream! It’s pretty much like a vacation party spot, I couldn’t think of a better spot for the boat to go down. Most of the work was cutting, welding, tons of welding, fabricating, removal, concrete grounding, a lot of dives. National Geographic came out and filmed us – I was like, I can put that on the bucket list!”

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Here’s a time lapse video of the Costa Concordia being towed from its original site. Click Here For Video

Exploring distant depths

In another recent and strange tragedy, a Malaysia Airlines flight disappeared over the deep, inhospitable trenches of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia. The cause for the plane’s disappearance is still unknown – one reason that Australian and other forces are vigorously plowing ahead with the search. Divers initially explored the area where the plane was thought to be. However, since then, telecommunications evidence seems to show that the area may be larger than previously thought. High-tech sonar devices have mapped some of the sea floor; massive trenches and an underwater volcano have been found. One of the world’s least-explored undersea areas is now being combed, mapped and will perhaps yield even more mysteries of the deep – and salvage divers will be the first in the know.



Monday, October 6, 2014
Diver’s Institute Earns Military-Friendly Designation
Divers Institute of Technology

Divers’ Institute Earns Military-Friendly Designation

Written for DIT by Londi Gamedze

Serving in the military is an experience like no other – thrilling, intense, tough. It might seem that once out of military service, you’re prepared for anything, but people transitioning to civilian life have more to combat than just finding a new job. Social, work and cultural norms may be different in civilian communities, and a lack of daily structure can leave veterans overwhelmed with how to organize their time effectively.


What is Military FriendlyTM?


Military FriendlyTM is a veteran-owned business that surveys institutions – including schools, employers and cities – and ranks them according to how well they support veterans. For the second time, Divers’ Institute of Technology earned the Military FriendlyTM designation. Nearly  half of Divers’ Institute staff are veterans, available to connect with ex-military students meaningfully, answer questions and support them in their transition to a civilian world. You can read about Military FriendlyTM‘s methodology and criteria for ranking institutions here.







Brad Grantz, Director of Recruiting and Veterans Affairs at DIT, served in the United States Army and was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2011-2012. He talked to me a little about his experiences transitioning from military to civilian life.

US Army Veteran Brad Grantz discusses Vet Life at DIT


LG: What was your experience like transitioning into civilian life?

BG: My experience was positive both times I transitioned back. In 2007 I moved out here to Seattle because my girlfriend at the time (wife now) was from here, and I got work with a marketing firm. In 2012 I returned to DIT right away and begin working again. The key for me was to always remain busy and active, and surround myself with supportive people.

LG: What are today’s challenges of transitioning into civilian life?  

BG: I think the biggest challenges are, 1) finding something in the civilian world that is as interesting, hands-on and as exciting as the military, 2) finding something that encourages or facilitates the camaraderie we had in the military, 3) just getting back into a routine and simply understanding that things are run and done differently in the civilian world. You have to develop the ability to adapt to those differences.

LG: What services and attention does DIT offer veterans?

BG: In addition to nearly half ouVeteran Instructorsr staff being vets themselves, we have an official chapter of the Student Veterans of America on campus; we bring representatives from the Seattle Veterans’ Center to orientation each month to explain services available to veterans; and the DIT staff participates in trainings throughout the year to improve our work with veterans and accommodating their needs. We are also active participants in military education and career fairs and provide literature to Army Career and Alumni centers across the country. We also attend Department of Defense sponsored events like Marine Muster calls.


LG: How does a military background influence one’s life, studies and work in dive school?  

Flag SparksBG: Veterans are used to working long hours in a high-stress environment, with a focus on safety. They’re comfortable working as an individual and as a member of a team.  They’re disciplined, motivated, and mission-focused. These are the greatest characteristics for a commercial diver and it’s these skills that make veterans such successful  dive students and ultimately great divers.


Join Brad and DIT’s veteran staff members to start an exciting post-military career in commercial diving, and learn from the best! Click here to get started.

Monday, September 29, 2014
Featured Graduate: Kevin Lewis
Divers Institute of Technology

Kevin Lewis: DIT grads excelling in the Gulf

Written for D.I.T. by Londi Gamedze

Kevin on deck

“When I first got down to the Gulf, DIT grads were kind of a big deal because they were so competent,” says DIT grad Kevin Lewis from Seaside, Ore., class 10906.

Signing on and breaking out with Cal Dive, Kevin has seen so much of the world in just a few years of diving – he’s been to some amazing, remote spots of this blue-green planet that most people will never get to see. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Bahamas, Mexico and parts of Africa are all under Kevin’s belt. But it’s not just the travel that sets apart his career. We caught up with Kevin to chat about his current life out on the Gulf of Mexico and his experiences since graduating.


Tearing it up

Kevin with crew

Divers from all over the world go out to work the varied and lucrative jobs offered by the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico. The friendly air of competition at the work sites, however, often shows that Americans, and DIT grads, are the most prepared and competent among them.

You can imagine what it’s like: a big group of (mostly) young men working hard on the same projects. Many are new on the job so they’re more than ready to knuckle down, put their skills to practice and show the world what they’ve got. Kevin chuckles.

“When we first got down we were in competition with people from other dive schools – and we [DIT grads] tore it up… The guys who come out of dive schools in Scotland, Australia, France, or wherever, don’t catch quite as much as we do because their schools are shorter – 4 months instead of 7 months. … As a breakout hand overseas I was many steps ahead of them because I’d done a lot of stuff they hadn’t even seen yet.”

And Kevin has seen quite a range of offshore projects in his day: platform installs and removals, tie-ins (aka flange-ups, usually between platform and pipeline) jetting, inspections, setting explosives – and lots of cleaning – barnacle busting, grit blasting and water blasting. He credits his training through DIT and his years spent on deck with Cal Dive as the factors that put him ahead in an industry where you can expect to make $50 000-$60 000 working as a tender, and more when staying on a vessel. But it’s not a life for everyone. Kevin notes that the main reason people burn out is because they aren’t ready for the intensive lifestyle of a commercial diver.

Getting to know your tools

DIT students train in coKevin Lewisnditions similar to the Gulf – cold waters with low visibility, giving them that edge over divers who trained in tanks or milder waters. Kevin’s advice for people getting into commercial diving: “Get to know all the tools you work with and take advantage of the fact that you’re going to be tending for a while – if you can use [equipment] on deck, then when you get in the water and you can’t see what it looks like, you know how it works – and that makes a big difference.” His deepest dive to date is two hundred sixty four feet in the Gulf – conditions that offer almost no visibility. Kevin plans to shift his career towards international sat (saturation) diving, where divers live in pressurized environments for up to several weeks, allowing for more frequent diving work at great depth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A Day In The Life Of An Offshore Diver part II
Divers Institute of Technology

Written for DIT by Londi Gamedze

First Offshore, Then World

Three DIT grads-turned-instructors who started their careers working offshore on the Gulf have continued to pursue different career paths in diving but they all reminisce fondly about their formative times offshore. Jeff Stiffel, Britt Coates and Jake Dow, all DIT grads, collectively put in over six years working offshore gigs in the Gulf. Jeff specializes in pipelines and oil rigs, Britt in HazMat and salvage diving and Jake in the whole gamut of offshore work. While tending and diving on the gulf of Mexico ensures something of a regular day in the life of an offshore diver, outside of that there is almost no such thing, with offshore divers engaging in such a variety of tasks and projects happening in very different places in the world.


Jeff: A Business and Family man

“Adapt and overcome,” is one of Jeff’s cherished philosophies – something he truly has done. After breaking out with US Underwater Services in 15 months, Jeff joined Central States Underwater Contracting, where he worked as a diver. Only a few years later, he became a project manager, meeting with top oil companies – including BP, Shell, Chevron – to plan projects that met their various needs. Eventually Jeff left to start his own dive company offering a broad array of both inland and offshore dive services.

Jeff’s life these days consists of visiting and checking on his company’s dive sites, spending time in the office and with his family. It’s pretty different from life on an offshore rig, and with patience, excellence and hard work, Jeff has made a business, a career and a home life from diving.


Britt: The Adventurer

Britt is an instructor at DIT, specializing in Hazmat and offshore diving. He has had a varied and exciting career, with all sorts of jobs keeping him on his toes. He now works daily with DIT students preparing them for the challenges of life underwater. Like many active divers, Britt has traveled extensively and there is not much in the way of a typical day for Britt when he’s in the field.

Last year Britt worked on a research base in Antarctica for the National Science Foundation. After a grueling six-day trip – two days of flying to Chile and a four-day boat ride – Britt and the dive crew arrived at the station. If you can imagine the middle of nowhere, imagine it in the icy ocean. This was not going to be the rowdy prankster environment of a Gulf project, but something entirely different.

Britt says, “Instead of roughing it with a whole crew of construction workers and other divers, we shared the site with scientists working on research out there. Life was more toned down from what I was used to: the scientists would bring us coffee and pastries or hot soup if we were working a little longer. Once a week someone would present a talk on a scientific topic or their research; everyone on the site was invited. It was pretty cool.” On this project, Britt and his co-divers spent around three hours at a time in the icy Antarctic water working with underwater jackhammers, ultrathermic cutting rods and other heavy equipment building a ramp for the researchers’ boats to enter the water.

On the flipside, Britt has worked jobs with days that included up to six hours of diving in warmer, shallow waters – about 15 ft deep – doing underwater construction on long, long days of physically taxing work.

Britt in Antarctica

Britt in Antarctica

Jake: 1400 Days on the Ocean

Fourteen hundred days, sixteen thousand hours – that’s how long Jake’s been out diving  offshore jobs before moving out to instruct offshore at DIT. If you want experience, Jake’s your man. “When you start you’re all nervous, don’t know who you’re going to meet out there, but I was out there so long I knew everyone.” He started his career in construction and carpentry and one day heard a radio commercial for DIT. He can still hear it in his head today: “Have you got what it takes?” Jake knew that he did, and has never looked back. As well as time spent in the Gulf of Mexico, Jake’s been out to Nigeria and the Bahamas – two very different sites. On a pipeline job, the massive pipelay ship combated rough waters in Pirate Alley off the coast of Nigeria and the Nigerian navy cruised constantly around the vessel to maintain safety. The ship was surrounded with razor wire and alert level was high… this is the real deal. This is not America, nor the stunning blue, clear visibility diving of the Bahamas.
Offshore diving will take you places you had never dreamed of, will challenge your body and offer a lifestyle like no other. And since many divers move in other career directions, it opens up all sorts of opportunities – business ownership, project management, education, research and more.

Jake catching a grouper

Jake Offshore

Monday, September 22, 2014
A Day In The Life Of An Offshore Diver part 1
Divers Institute of Technology

Work Hard Offshore, Play Hard Onshore

Written for DIT by Londi Gamedze

We know that love is what makes the world go round, but it’s oil that makes us go around the world. Up to 300 miles off the coastline of the gulf of Mexico, there are over 5,000 men and women who work the thousands of jobs that the productive deepwater oil reserves offer. They are scientists, engineers, divers and more, working to supply more than one-fifth of the US’s oil production. For the most part, the divers here are young, hard working and tough: life out in the middle of the ocean brings them together and binds them like a band of brothers. It’s exciting and intense, the granddaddy of commercial diving: the biggest bucks, the deepest dives, the widest dive community and the most gigantic machinery.

It all starts when crew are transported from the mainland out to sites on rigs and vessels, and get ready to put in fourteen consecutive twelve-hour shifts hopping from rig to rig before returning to land. The sheer size of the rigs and equipment used offshore is staggering and the immensity never gets old. Humans are tiny beings operating a huge, oversized mechanical world out there. Offshore diving work is not for the faint of heart – it is physically demanding and can be dangerous, requiring great attention to safety practices, but the atmosphere is warm, light-hearted and fun.

Day-to-day on the Gulf

Rigs operate 24/7 so there’s always something going on: on a single job, there are typically two crews consisting of four divers, four tenders and one lead tender, and the crews switch it up on a 12-hour cycle. On day one, personnel arrive at the vessel after rough rides on enclosed boats smelling like diesel. Some get seasick, some don’t. It’s often a somber ride, like a Monday morning at a nine-to-five office. Once close to the vessel, everyone lines up in single file and a massive crane swings its Billy Pugh basket over. You drop your gear in and hop on the outside of it – riding a crane’s basket for the first time is pretty cool, an exciting thrill. Once aboard, the lead tenders take charge and select their crews. Bunks and duties are assigned and everyone attends a fire drill, orientation and a few safety briefings. Lead tenders are typically divers next in line to break out – they are deck foremen who are also responsible for maintaining work equipment and act as mentors to new tenders. Life on the ocean has begun.

One team wakes up in preparation to start at noon. Days offshore begin with workouts, brunches, joking around and some chores. During shift change the retiring crew gives a briefing on the work conditions and progress, and then the noon team heads off to the crane, rig, pipeline or other current project. Divers suit up, get ready with their heavy equipment and get down there, to lay pipeline, repair a rig or inspect a platform while tenders keep everything going smoothly. Each diver underwater has one tender monitoring health and safety conditions and being available to assist where necessary. At least one other diver and tender are on standby in case the current diver needs underwater help. Dives typically last for about three hours and depending on the depth, divers require up to another three hours to fully decompress. Shared mealtimes and the jocular camaraderie of working on a great team break up the intensity of these taxing and serious jobs.

Friends play jokes and tricks on each other and there’s a lot of laughter and fun onboard. All of a sudden, it’s over until the next time: two weeks of high-intensity work culminate in thankful sighs and eager trips back to loved ones. And then, just when you start to get bored again, it’s time to grab your gear, head out the the great blue yonder and knuckle down for two more weeks of good, solid hard work.

Check back tomorrow for part two of this article


Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Video Shoot at D.I.T.
Pearl Rasmussen

 Video Shoot Captures The Action At D.I.T.

Josh Interview

If you were on campus last Wednesday and Thursday, you might have seen a camera crew running around getting shots of divers in action. If you were part of the action in the welding tanks or on barges 6, 7, or 8, you might become a YouTube star!

DIT is producing a series of short videos to post to YouTube to show people what it is like to train for a career in commercial diving at DIT.

The filming took place on August 20th & 21st. The video crew got shots of underwater welding, burning, hydraulic tools, and salvage. They also filmed topside welding, topside burning, and several interviews with instructors explaining how they teach their subjects.

Filming in Welding Tanks

Perhaps one of the most exciting moments was filming underwater burning through a large pipe with the letters D.I.T. cut into it. Instructor Josh Oxley burned behind it, causing the letters to light up in flame before the camera.

While no one at D.I.T. seemed to enjoy being in front of the camera, the instructors summoned their courage for their interviews, spoke wisely, and even managed to crack a joke here and there. With Director of Training Boy Kayona coordinating the shoot, Admissions specialist Nick Crivello as a second camera person, Admins Kelsey Badion and Michelle Perrigo on site making sure everything ran smoothly, and instructor Bradley Peterson making sure the videographer didn’t drown, the filming was a real group effort!

JP Interview

Now the footage is on the editing table, getting crafted into a final product. The final edits will be 10 to 12 short videos showing a variety of subjects such as “What is underwater burning like?”, “How do you salvage a sunken boat?” or “Underwater Chainsaws? Heck Yeah!”. We will all be able to see the finished videos in a few weeks when they will be posted to YouTube.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
DIT Student Rescues Seattle Police Captain And Wife
Divers Institute of Technology

DJ Campbell is a U.S. Navy veteran and commercial diving student at DIT. On June 12th, he was driving down I-90 on his way to see his father when he spotted flames in the rear-view mirror. The pickup truck behind him was on fire.DJ Campbell Truck Fire Hero

Acting quickly, DJ weaved across traffic and used his flashers to warn the driver of the pickup that something was wrong. The driver, Seattle Police captain David Emerick, used the emergency brake to stop the burning truck, and Emerick and his wife Sally escaped through the windows.

DJ helped steer the burning truck off the road and even attempted to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Emerick shouted to him that everyone was safe and he should get clear. A minute later, the truck’s gas tank exploded.

After the fire was out, DJ even offered to drive the Emericks all the way back to Seattle.

Captain Emerick, impressed by DJ’s actions, is now trying to recruit him to join the Seattle P.D. Harbor Patrol.

Read the full story, as picked up by local Q13 FOX News.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
$1.3M in Gold Recovered from SS Central America Shipwreck
Divers Institute of Technology

SS Central America Shipwreck

In mid-April, ocean explorers recovered nearly 1,000 ounces of gold worth approximately $1.3 million from a historic shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Maritime Executive. A sophisticated ROV was used to investigate the shipwreck of the SS Central America, which is located 160 miles off the South Carolina coast and sits 7,500 feet deep, the article explained.

The gold was brought to the surface by Odyssey Marine Exploration, a deep-ocean exploration company based in Tampa, Fla. The company confirmed that the shipwreck site had been undisturbed by treasure hunters since 1991, not long after the shipwreck and its horde of gold was discovered in 1988.

How Much Gold Had Already Been Recovered from the Shipwreck?

Between 1988 and 1991, more than $40 million in gold was recovered by a team led by Ohio engineer Tommy Thompson. However, that initial gold recovery effort came to a standstill in the midst of lawsuits involving who owned the rights to the gold and investors demanding their share in the treasure. Only 5% of the shipwreck was reportedly investigated at that time.

This past March, however, Odyssey won the rights to go to the shipwreck. Odyssey now has an exclusive contract to run the archaeological excavation of the shipwreck and recover any remaining cargo of value, according to an Odyssey press release.

What Kind of Gold Was Recovered?

Five gold ingots and two $20 Double Eagle coins (an 1857 coin minted in San Francisco and an 1850 coin minted in Philadelphia) were in the most recent gold haul, the press release noted. The average collector price for the Double Eagle coins alone is about $5,000 each, the Maritime Executive reported.

How Did The Ship Sink?

The SS Central America sank in September 1857 after getting caught in a hurricane. The 280-foot sidewheel steamship operated during the California Gold Rush era, carting gold on the Atlantic leg of the Panama Route between New York and San Francisco. All in all, the ship made 43 round trips between New York and Panama before it sank while carrying 21 tons of gold, including gold ingots, gold coins and raw gold, not to mention any personal wealth of the ship’s passengers.

Historians note that the loss of so much gold caused the American public at the time to lose confidence in the economy, which contributed to the Panic of 1857, the press release noted. The ship’s sinking reportedly led to one of the largest documented cargoes of gold to be lost at sea and the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history. The story of the SS Central America shipwreck inspired the best-selling book Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder.

Consider a Career in Commercial Diving

Ever considered a career in commercial diving? The Divers Institute of Technology can help you prepare for a globally marketable career in commercial diving or underwater welding in just seven months! For more information about commercial diving programs call us at 800-634-8377 or contact us online.

(Image from via Reuters)

Thursday, May 1, 2014
Historic Shipwreck Near San Francisco Tells Tale of Heroism
Divers Institute of Technology
historic shipwreck

Location of the City of Chester shipwreck / Photo credit: Robert V. Schwemmer, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

NOAA recently identified a 19th-century shipwreck near the Golden Gate Bridge as the passenger steamship City of Chester, according to the Maritime-Executive. A future waterfront exhibit will tell the tragic tale of the shipwreck, which claimed the lives of 16 of the ship’s 90 passengers, the article explained.

How Did The Ship Sink?

historic shipwreck

SS City of Chester / Photo credit: San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park K01.2.571PL

The 202-foot-long City of Chester sank back in August of 1888 after another steamer called the Oceanic accidentally crashed into it on a particularly foggy morning, the article explained. The steamship had only just set sail from San Francisco when the collision occurred with the Oceanic, which was just arriving from Asia.

The City of Chester reportedly stayed above water only six minutes before it sank to its final resting place. While no plans are in place to raise the historic shipwreck, many wish to share the history of the ship to honor both the memory of the lives lost and the heroism of those who rescued passengers from the sinking ship.

A Forgotten Shipwreck & A Tale Of Heroism

While the location of the shipwreck was known to NOAA’s predecessor agency 125 years ago and veteran salvage divers, it faded from memory over the years and was lost to time. The shipwreck was only recently re-discovered via NOAA sonar surveys last May and its identity confirmed as the City of Chester this year.

Research into the shipwreck offered a glimpse of San Francisco’s early Chinese-American community and racial tensions at that time in history, the article noted. While news reports at the time originally cast blame at the Chinese crew of the Oceanic for the tragedy, that contempt eventually turned to acclaim. Eventually, it came to light that the Oceanic crew bravely worked to rescue many passengers on board the City of Chester and their heroism was commended, the article explained.

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