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Shitwrecks

We teamed up with some potty-minded wreckers to explore the poop decks of shipwrecks around the world. Water sports anyone? We offer these heady bits.

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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?” 

Hmm…

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.

HMS Hermes

The HMS Hermes was the world’s first purpose built Air Craft Carrier. It was commissioned by the British Royal Navy in 1923 and sunk by the Japanese on April 9, 1942 with the loss of 307 of its crew. Depth (toilets): 44m/145ft. Photo (2010) by Andrew Fock.
Photo by Pete Mesley.

HMNZS Canterbury

HMNZS Canterbury, A New Zealand frigate scuttled in Bay of Islands, New Zealand in 2007. Depth: 31m/103ft. Photos by Pete Mesley.

MS Mikhail Lermontov

MS Mikhail Lermontov, was an Russian Ocean Liner that collided with rocks near Port Gore, New Zealand and sank in 1986. Depth: 28m/94ft. Photos by Pete Mesley.

SV Kingsbridge 

The SV Kingsbridge was an iron hulled clipper ship that sunk after colliding with the sailing ship Candahar with the loss of 15 lives. Depth 90m/295 ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

SV Avalanche

SV Avalanche was a three-masted iron sailing ship that sunk in the English Channel in 1877 after colliding with the sailing ship SV Forest, which also sank. Lives lost: 106. Depth: 52m/171ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

The SS Egypt

A P&O Liner carrying gold & silver cargo. She sank after a collision in the Celtic Sea. Depth: 127m/417ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

Unidentified Paddle Steamer

North Sea. Depth: 50m/164ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

SS Tuscania 

The SS Tuscania was a luxury liner that was torpedoed and sunk in 1918 in the Northern Channel between Scotland and Ireland by German U-boat UB-77 while transporting American troops to Europe with the loss of 210 lives. Depth: 102m/335ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

SS Justicia

The SS Justiçia was British Troopship that was torpedoed and sunk during WWI near Skerryvore, Scottland. Depth: 70m/229ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

Kensho Maru

The Kensho Maru was a passenger cargo ship sunk in Truk Lagoon during Operation Hailstorm in 1944. Depth: 36m/118ftPhoto by Leigh Bishop.

The Oite Destroyer

The Oite Destroyer was a Kamikaze class destroyer sunk in 1944 in Truk Lagoon. Depth: 66m/217ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

Katsurigusan

Katsurigusan Maru was a cargo ship sunk by a Japanese mine in Truk Lagoon in 1944, and is Truk’s deepest shipwreck. Depth: 70m/229ft. Photo by Leigh Bishop.

MS King Cruiser

MS King Cruiser was a car ferry that sank off the West Coast of Southern Thailand on 4 May 1997.  Depth: 24 m/80 f. Photos by Nico Lurot.

SMS Cōln

The SMS Cōln was a light German cruiser scuttled in Scapa Flow at the end of WWI. Depth: 36m/118ft. Photo by Jason Brown, bardophotographic.com


Aikoku Maru

The Aikoku Maru was an armed merchant cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II. The ship entered service in 1940, and was sunk in February 1944 during Operation Hailstone. Photo by the Dirty Dozen Expeditions.
Photo by Pete Mesley.

Yolanda

Yolanda was a Cypriot cargo ship built in 1964. She was carrying a load of porcelain toilets and bathtubs when she was grounded on a reef at Ras Muhammed in 1980, spilling her cargo. She subsequently slipped off the reef in deep water in 1985 during a storm. Depth: 15m/49 ft. Photos by Jesper Kjøller.

C53 Felipe Xicotencatl

Roger Montero—the “Mayan Diver”—perched on the throne of the C53 Felipe Xicotencatla US Built Admirable-Class minesweeper that was decommissioned in 1999, donated to the Cozumel underwater park and sunk that same year. Depth: 15m/49ft. Photo courtesy of Roger Montero.

Added April 5, 2022—Some recent poop on the RUBY E: “Lonely Toilet

SS Andrea Doria

A head on the iconic SS Andrea Doria which sank in July 1956 after a collision with the SS Stockholm off Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, killing 51 people.  Depth (toilet): 58m/190 ft. Photo by Gary Gentile.

USS Wilkes-Barre

USS Wilkes-Barre was a Cleveland-class light cruiser of the US Navy that served during the last year of World War II and was skuttled in 1972. She served as the training wreck for Capt. Billy Deans’ Key West Divers mixed gas classes in the 1990s. Depth: 64m/210 ft. Photo by Gary Gentile.

The SS America

The America was a packet boat transporting passengers, mail, and packages between settlements Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, US. Built in 1898, the America sank in Washington Harbor off the shore of Isle Royale in 1928, where the hull still remains. Depth: 24m/80ft. Photo by Tamara Thomsen.

The SS Monarch

The SS Monarch was a passenger-package freighter built in 1890 that operated on the Great Lakes. She was sunk off the shore of Isle Royale in Lake Superior in 1906 and the remains of her wreck and cargo are still on the lake bottom.  Depth: 24m/80ft. Photo by Tamara Thomson.

SS Daniel J Morrell

Rebreather diver explores the captain’s quarters inside the SS Daniel J Morrell, a Great Lakes freighter that broke up in a strong storm on Lake Huron in 1966, taking with it 28 of her 29 crewmen. Depth: 51m/165ft. Photo by Becky Kagan Schott. 

The AA Parker

The AA Parker was a wooden steamship that sank in 1903 during a storm in lake Superior near Grand Marias, Michigan. Notice the bell behind the toilet. Depth: 64m/210ft. Photo by Becky Kagan Schott.

RH Rae

PThe “RH Rae” was a three-masted bark that capsized during a white squall on Lake Ontario in 1958 near Point Traverse. The wreck was explored by the Cousteau in 1980, the only time they ever visited the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, they lost a diver at this site—the only time they had a diving fatality. Depth: 32m/105ft. Photo by Chris Kohl

Shinkoku Maru

The Shinkoku Maru was a Japanese oil tanker that was sunk in Truk Lagoon in 1944 during Operation Hailstone. Below Rusty Cassway pours Bart P. Malone’s  ashes into the Shinkoku Maru head in 2019. Photos by Becca Boring 

Bart P. Malone (1946-2017)

Bart Malone post dive August 2016. Photo by Rusty Cassway

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.



Art

YOWIE WOWIE!

Internationally acclaimed Chinese wildlife photographer Singda Cai, aka WOWIE in Tagalog, knows how to put the WOW into Blackwater photo making.

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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.”

You can find Wowie’s work here: Photography SCai 


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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