The Ex USS Kittiwake is probably Grand Cayman’s number one wreck site. And being located off Seven-Mile Beach in relatively shallow waters, this dive site is popular amongst scuba divers and snorkelers.
A Quick History
USS Kittiwake was a submarine rescue vessel that was in service from 1945 to 1994. Although most of her missions are still classified by the US Government, we know some of the things she used to get up to. Probably her most well known mission was that to recover the Challenger Space Shuttles’ blackbox from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. She also set a world depth record when she took crew members to 705ft on a submarine rescue exercise. The Kittiwake currently rests is Grand Cayman.
Take A Tour
Now serving as an artificial reef, the top of the ship reaches roughly 25ft and hits the sand at 65ft. With easy access along the length of the wreck, it’s possible to head inside and explore. My first stop on the wreck tour is usually at the stern, where the name “Kittiwake” is embossed. You can swim between the hull and the prop (which makes for a great photo opportunity). There are two decompression chambers fitted onto the third deck; it’s a bit of a squeeze, but you can fit two divers in there. I also like to swim through the bathrooms, where a couple of cracked mirrors are still hanging on the wall; although I’ve still not taken a successful selfie in the mirror. You may also bump into the infamous Goliath Grouper that supposedly lives in the bottom deck of the wreckage (I always thought this was a myth, until I came face to face with him one day). Having sunk in 2011, this artificial reef is developing a strong following from other marine life too; it’s not unlikely to see Hawksbill Turtles, Eagle Rays and Horse Eyed Jacks surrounding the wreck.
Come For A Dive
This wreck acts as a great training ground and adds variety to Grand Caymans typical reef diving. Although she was sunk in an upright position, Hurricane Nate had other ideas. Nate snapped her anchor chains, so now she lists to the port side. Despite the fall she didn’t harm the natural reef or get damaged herself, though it can get a little disorientating whilst swimming inside. The White Sand Dive Team is still debating whether its less disorientating to dive in proper trim through a wonky wreck or to dive slightly wonky, so that the ship seems straight. What would you do?
Height: 5 decks
Weight: 2220 tons
“She was a ship that served divers all of her life,” Easterbrook told CNN. “So it seemed the appropriate ship.”