In our ongoing search for unusual images, InDepth may have unwittingly uncovered a closeted water-based fetish among some of the who’s who of wreck diving. I shit you not.
The fit first hit the shan when we reached out to renowned British wrecker and photographer Leigh Bishop to see if he had any pictures of sunken shipwreck heads. Bishop was a bit dodgy in his email reply. “Just out of curiosity, who else have you asked? Has anyone actually come back and said they have photos of heads?”
We responded in the affirmative; hyperbaric doc cum wrecker Andrew Fock had indeed sent us a snap depicting a gaggle of sunken thrones from the British warship HMS Hermes. Bishop immediately let loose a missive as if he had been holding it back. “OK,” he replied. “I was just wondering if I wasn’t the ONLY weirdo to have shots of toilets. I do have some, bear with me.” Bishop then dumped NINE images in our box in less time than it took to say “Holy crapper!”
Once we had Fockie and Bishop in the can, the others followed quickly without raising a stink. Crappy photos started to flow in. We had hit the thunderbox! In fact, shipwreck historian and producer Richie Kohler was one of the few who was obstructive. After complaining about not having a pot to piss in, the inveterate wrecker spilled the beans, “No crappy pix here,” he wrote. “You’re shit outta luck and gonna have to head elsewhere to find a John. Sorry for my potty-mouth. Toodle Loo.” Now that’s a “Dear John” letter!
Our efforts were deeply rewarded when we learned that our late dear brother, wreck diving pioneer Bart P. Malone (1946-2017) had a thing for honey buckets. A sweet guy, to be sure. Accordingly, we were able to extend a short but heady tribute to the legendary old-school wrecker, one that he would surely appreciate, as you will soon learn. Thank you Rusty Cassway and Becca Boring for this offering.
The bottom line? You be the judge. We think this was some pretty deep shit.—M2
Thank you to these courageous heady wreckers for their pics of pots and more; Aron Arngrimssοn, Leigh Bishop, Becca Boring, Jason Brown, Rusty Cassway , Andrew Fock, Melissa Foo, Gary Gentile, Jesper Kjøller, Chris Kohl, Richie Kohler, Nicolas Lurot, Beto Nava, Pete Mesley, Roger Montero, Erik Petkovic, Becky Kagan Schott, and Tamara Thomsen. Special thanks to John Fitzgerald and Yuko Takegoshi for inspiring the idea.
Header image: A bevy of toilets from the Cypriot cargo ship Yolanda which grounded on a reef at Ras Muhammed in 1980, spilling her cargo. Image from Alamy Ltd.
MS Mikhail Lermontov
The SS Egypt
Unidentified Paddle Steamer
The Oite Destroyer
MS King Cruiser
C53 Felipe Xicotencatl
Added April 5, 2022—Some recent poop on the RUBY E: “Lonely Toilet“
SS Andrea Doria
The SS America
The SS Monarch
SS Daniel J Morrell
The AA Parker
Bart P. Malone (1946-2017)
Diving legend Bart P. Malone, who passed away in December, 2017, was an avid collector of shipwreck china. (He was also the co-founder of The Gas Station, the first technical mixed gas station in the Northeast US.) Bart collected ship line china from many of the classic wrecks including the Andrea Doria, SS Carolina and the Empress of Ireland. However, to Bart the quintessential piece of china to obtain was a ships head or toilet. It was like a giant ceramic bowl. Just bigger. Bart did this “tongue in cheek”, because as many who knew Bart were aware, he liked to spend a lot of time in the dive boat head prior to and after dives.—Rusty Cassway
Ed. Note: Shipwrecks that have been underwater for more than 100 years, including their sunken heads, are protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Divers are requested not to disturb or remove artifacts from these wrecks. Thank you Rupert Simon from Finland, for bringing this to our attention.
Internationally acclaimed Chinese wildlife photographer Singda Cai, aka WOWIE in Tagalog, knows how to put the WOW into Blackwater photo making.
Photos and text by Singda Cai. Special thanks to Fan Ping for his help connecting with Wowie.
🎶🎶 Pre-dive Clicklist: Daniel Powter – Free Loop
“It was 2016 when we first tried Blackwater photography. It less than 300 meters (nearly 100 ft) away from the shore. Our first attempt has to be categorized as a failure, I’m afraid. The wind and the current were strong, and we made a mistake by tying our underwater light to the ship and chased it for an hour. We didn’t capture any photos; it was a bad experience.”
“Blackwater photography compared to underwater photography is like shooting a shark on shore versus chasing a whale in blue water. Because Blackwater is taken only at night, my team and I worked for more than three years to film many rare species, such as Blanket Octopus and Earthquake fish, and other deep sea creatures, for example. I am the only photographer, and I use three cameras, a Nikon d850 and two Nikon z7s, which are installed in waterproof housing by Seacam.”
“The team consists of a captain, a captain’s assistant, and two underwater guides. The guides are responsible for helping to locate both the marine life and the safety facilities. We all use nitrox double tanks, and dive for no more than 90 minutes per dive, two to three dives per night, and no more than 30 m/100 ft depth per dive.”
“I began underwater photography in the Philippines, Anilao, a small town and a natural paradise with rich marine species. When I started Blackwater photography, only one or two people there had any experience with it. I decided to find good partners and form my own team. Of course we made mistakes at first, but we developed methods that worked for us.”
“Blackwater photography was exciting, especially to me, since it was a risk to go to sea and dive at night where only madmen went; we could not know what challenges we would meet. We have had several close calls, especially with unforeseen currents, but after a couple of years, our experience has given us the confidence we need. We make about five hundred dives a year.“
“If you want to try Blackwater photography always respect nature. Never go to sea when there are strong winds and waves. Try it only after you have the experience of at least 200 dives. Find a qualified dive shop. Beginners, be sure to follow your buddy for the first time, and let the distance from the light be no more than 20 m/66 ft. Take a look at your diving computer once in a while during the shooting. Safety first.”
How were Blackwater dives conducted in the early pre-tech days of scuba? Here’s an “Off Line” report from famed photographer Chris Newbert, from aquaCORPS #2 SOLO. Tekkies, don’t try this at home!
Songda Cai aka Wowie has won numerous awards in various international photography competitions including the prestigious NHM Wildlife photographer of the year and Windland Smith Rice Nature’s Best Photography . His works have been published in countless magazines , books, including the Smithsonian Museum in Washington USA, Natural History Museum in London, Museum Koenig in Germany, Natuur Museum in Netherland and Venice, Italy. His Photographs have been reported by Chinese and International media channels.
Though many have indulged in black water photography, no one does it with more gusto than Cai. It is not uncommon for him to dive through the night to the wee hours of early morning. This dogged enthusiasm has paid off tremendously with awards and recognition by his peers. In his words, “Being able to explore the depths of the ocean is one of the most wonderful experiences in life.”
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Internationally acclaimed Chinese wildlife photographer Singda Cai, aka WOWIE in Tagalog, knows how to put the WOW into Blackwater photo...