Archives for Diving

There are other interesting wrecks in Grand Cayman besides the USS Kittiwake.

Doc Paulson bow, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman (

The Doc Poulson is a purpose sunk shipwreck on the western part of Grand Cayman.  The ship was originally a Japanese cable laying ship and was sunk in Grand Cayman in 1981 to create an artificial reef on Seven Mile Deck Wenches, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman (  The wreck site is named for Doc Poulson who helped set up the first hyperbaric chamber on Grand Cayman for the treatment of decompression sickness.

The wreck sits upright in about 50 to 60 feet of water and can be easily explored. However, given the age of the wreck there are many exposed surfaces that can cause harm to a diver.  The ship is about 70 feet in length and the cable wenches can still be seen on deck but are heavily encrusted with corals.  There are a variety of fish in and around the ship from Goliath grouper, to Queen Conch, to cleaner shrimp, blue tang and many more.

The wreck sits on a sand flat Below Deck, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman ( is about a 5 minute swim away from the reef.  The clarity of the water in Grand Cayman, along with the upright position of the boat makes it a great place for underwater photography from the novice to the professional.

The hatches have been removed to make penetration diving easy and safe allowing a diver to explore the decks and the hold of the ship.  The interior of the ship is filled with a good bit of sand, but working your way through the ship is still quite easy even after 30 years on the reef. Doc Paulson amidships interior, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman (

As a day dive the Doc Poulson is a rather small site and is usually combined with diving the reef nearby which is about a 5 minute swim away.  If you take your time however, you can spend most of your dive time at the wreck.  However, this is a better dive when there are no more than 5 to 6 divers on the site and great when there are only two.  It can be a good night-dive spot especially for an underwater photographer as you have a Christmastree Worm, Doc Paulson, Grand Cayman ( variety of marine life around the wreck including a number of small creatures great for macro shots. There are many sponges, brain corals, Christmastree worms and a nice Social Feather Duster on the stern rail.

For other underwater photographs of the Doc Poulson just click on one of the photographs or go to my Doc Poulson Gallery.  If you want to find information on other wrecks in Grand Cayman such as the USS Kittiwake you can check out my Blog and/or view more underwater photographs on my website and/or follow me on Twitter at Images2Inspire

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Scuba Diving (Steven W Smeltzer)

West Wall, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman, Bonnie’s Arch

For most people into Scuba Diving, there is nothing like a wall diveand there are hardly any better places for a wall dive than Grand Cayman. Looking out into nothing but blue, the visibility well over 100 feet, Spotted Eagle Rays performing a ballet just in front of you, a reef shark or even a Tiger shark swimming by, this just could be paradise.  That is if you are into scuba diving.




Scuba Diving History

Scuba diving has come a long way since its invention.  In 1771, British engineer, John Smeaton invented the air pump. A hose was connected between the air pump and the diving barrel, allowing air to be pumped to the diver. In 1772, Frenchmen, Sieur Freminet invented a rebreathing device that recycled the exhaled air from inside of the barrel, this was the first self-contained air device. Freminet’s invention was a poor one, the inventor died from lack of oxygen after being in his own device for twenty minutes.

Scuba Diving (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, (Euphrasen, 1790), Grand Cayman

In 1825, English inventor, William James designed another self-contained breather, a cylindrical iron “belt” attached to a copper helmet. The belt held about 450 psi of air, enough for a seven-minute dive.

In 1876, Englishmen, Henry Fleuss invented a closed circuit, oxygen rebreather. His invention was originally intended to be used in the repair of an iron door of a flooded ship’s chamber. Fleuss then decided to use his invention for a thirty-foot deep dive underwater. He died from the pure oxygen; oxygen is toxic to humans under pressure.

In 1873, Benoît Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze built a new piece of equipment a rigid diving suit with a safer air supply, however it weighed about 200 pounds.

The modern demand regulator was invented by Emile Gagnan and Jacques Cousteau along with an improved autonomous diving suit. In 1942, redesigned a car regulator and invented a demand regulator that would automatically fresh air when a diver breathed. A year later in 1943, Cousteau and Gagnan began selling the Aqua-Lung.

Almost anyone can learn to scuba dive. There is a basic level of health and fitness that you need to have to be safe and to enjoy your time underwater. You will be required to fill out a medical form before starting a certification class. In some cases, you may have to see a doctor before you begin training.

There are many scuba classes for kids under 14 years of age. Being a senior citizen is not a problem either, provided you have a fair level of fitness and approval from a doctor. There are also training programs for the disabled so they too can enjoy the sport of scuba diving.

What Does the Word S.C.U.B.A. Stand For: The word S.C.U.B.A. is an acronym for

Scuba Diving (Steven W Smeltzer)

Exploring Starboard, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

Self-Contained-Underwater-Breathing-Apparatus. A scuba system allows autonomous diving (diving without an air line to the surface). The word also describes the sport of scuba diving.

The term scuba originated during WWII. It was used to describe navy divers who used oxygen rebreathers to attack enemy ships from underwater. Today you can use the word scuba to refer to the sport of scuba diving or to the equipment used by those who take part in the sport.

Scuba diving today has an estimated 3 to 6 million divers global and is growing rapidly.  With today’s advanced equipment, availability of online learning, getting started with Scuba Diving has never been easier. So come join the millions of other divers and take fish pictures, explore shipwrecks, glide over coral reefs and enjoy the beauty and fragility of our wonderful oceans.

For more information about scuba diving, underwater photography or to view photos from the underwater world visit my Website or Blog and/or follow me on Twitter for more inspiration from around the world.

You can also find more historical information on Scuba diving at and also on

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                                                                               Ode to the USS Kittiwake shipwreck

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman


Rest well your work is finally done

No more the ocean to roam

No more to fight the storm and sea

Rest well beneath the waves



View the complete USS Kittiwake shipwreck photo gallery here or click on each photo to go to the gallery.

 (Steven Smeltzer)The USS Kittiwake shipwreck is a Chanticleer Class Submarine Rescue Ship. Its keel was laid down, January 5, 1945, at the Savannah Machinery and Foundry, Company shipyard in Savannah, GA. It was launched on July 10, 1945 and commissioned as the USS Kittiwake (ASR-013). She was decommissioned September 30, 1994 and struck from the Naval Register September 30, 1991950s photo of USS Kittiwake, ASR-13 (Steven Smeltzer)4. She was initially transferred to MARAD for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet and then withdrawn from the fleet February 18, 2010 and prepared for reefing in the Cayman Islands.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Preparing for Reefing, USS Kittiwake

The Chanticleer Class ships were designated specifically for submarine rescue. Each ship in this class was equipped with powerful pumps, heavy air compressors, and special mooring equipment. The Chanticleer Class ASRs support air and helium-oxygen diving operations to a depth of 300 feet of sea water (fsw) and use the McCann Rescue Chamber for submarine personnel rescue operations. The ASR design provided a large deck working area.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

USS Kittiwake. ASR-13. Grand Cayman

The USS Kittiwake shipwreck finished a distinguished service career spanning almost 50 years when she was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy in 1994. Following her retirement, the ship became part of America’s National Defense Reserve Fleet under the control of MARAD, or the Maritime Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The ship ended her career as the first MARAD ship sold to a foreign government for artificial reefing.



USS Kittiwake Shipwreck Overview

That a patch of sand off the north end of Seven Mile Beach has become the final “port-of-call” of the USS Kittiwake shipwreck is the result of a long and determined effort by a partnership consisting of the Cayman

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Engineering Mural, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

Islands government and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA). Negotiations had to be conducted and funds raised to purchase the ship from the U.S. government and prepare it for sinking as a dive site, including removing hazardous contaminants and cutting openings in the hull and bulkheads to give divers greater access to the vessel’s interior.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Into the Distance, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman


After years of delays and concerns that the plan might never come to fruition, the Kittiwake began the first stage of its last voyage in February, when it was towed from its Reserve Fleet mooring at Newport News, Virginia, to the facilities of private contractor Dominion Marine. There, all the final preparations for the sinking were completed. The ship was sunk January 5, 2011 off the north end of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Descent, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

There are 5 decks on the 47 foot tall USS Kittiwake shipwreck. Externally, the crow’s nest, mast and large stern a-frame have been cut down and remounted to make her height suitable for Cayman waters. The upper decks accommodate the 2 bridges (both an external and internal bridge to allow operations in heavy seas) along with the radio and navigation room. The sonar has been removed. The Captain and XO’s quarters are also on the upper decks.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Bridge, USS Kittiwake, Grand Caman

On the main deck of the USS Kittiwake shipwreck, starting at the bow, you will find the rec room, mess hall, ironing room, small tool workshop and recompression chambers. You will also see a large a-frame structure on the stern that supported submarines and hard hat divers.  This also supported the diving bell where divers would enter to return to the ship from the ocean and then be placed in the chambers for decompression.

Below the main deck, 2 decks exist that include the crews quarter, medic/hospital station, engine and propulsion rooms, air bank storage and compressors, as well as the steering gear, shaft, gyro, ammunition lockers, cold storage and barber shop to name a few areas. While the USS Kittiwake shipwreck has been opened up with large access holes both vertically and horizontally, every space on the ship was used while in service.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Shaft Alley, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

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Commanding Officers:

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Forward Exit, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

LT L. H. COLLIER 1946 – 1948
LTT. C. HURST 1948- 1950
LT W. K. WILSON 1950 – 1952
LTP. P. ROGERS 1952- 1954
LT T. E. COLBURNE 1954 – 1954
LCDRW.D.BUCKEE 1954-1956
LCDRW.H.HIBBS 1956- 1958
LCDR W. M. SCOTT 1958 – 1960
LCDR P.O. POWELL 1960 – 1962
LCDR R. E. KUTZLEB 1962 – 1964
LCDR G. R. LANGFORD 1964 – 1966
LCDR H. H. SCRANTON 1966 – 1968

LCDR R. F. JAMES 1968 – 1970
LCDR W. J. MULLALY 1970 – 1971
LCDR S. MCNEASE 1971 – 1974
CDR F. K. DUFFY 1974 – 1977
CDR F. M. SCHERY 1977 – 1979
CDRP. F. FAWCETT 1979- 1981
CDRT.J.MARTIN 1981-1983
CDR R. J. NORRIS 1983 – 1985
CDRT.J.ERWIN 1985-1988
CDR J. S. TROTTER 1988 – 1991
CDRW.J.STEWART 1991-1993
CDR S. N. ZEHNER 1993 – 1994

Displacement 1,780 t.(lt) 2,040 t.(fl)
Length 251′ 4″
Beam 42′
Draft 16′
Speed 14.5 kts.

USS Kittiwake shipwreck (

Stairwell, USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman

Officers 6
Enlisted 96
Largest Boom Capacity 11 t.
two single 3″/50 cal dual purpose gun mounts
two single 40mm AA gun mounts
eight single 20mm AA gun mounts
four depth charge tracks
Fuel Capacity
Diesel 1,785 Bbls
four G.M. 12-278A Diesel-electric engines
single Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship’s Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 120V/240V D.C.
one Diesel-drive 100Kw 120V/240V D.C.
single propeller, 3,000hp

The Freckled Snake Eel, Callechelys lutea, is one of the more interesting eel species in Hawaii.  They borrow into the sand by day, appearing to labor heavily when breathing.  Their eyes are typically closed and can be approach quite closely if done slowly.  Even though you only see only its head sticking up from the sand, the Freckled Snake Eel can be up to about a meter in length under the sand.  Take a little time to watch this eel’s behavior if you are lucky enough to spot one.

Freckled Snake Eel (Steven Smeltzer)I photographed this Freckled Snake Eel at Molokini Crater just off of Maui in Hawaii at about 45 ft (13 m).  The snake eels can be found in the sand channels that run out from the remaining wall of the old volcano.  As you traverse the site and swim across the sand channels from one group or finger of coral to another, make sure to check the sand closely and you might be able to spot a Freckled Snake Eel.  You can also find these eels out swimming at night but it is quite rare.  If you do spot a Freckled Snake Eel approach slowly and spend a minute or two watching this interesting creature.

The Freckled Snake Eel is one of 15 families of true eels found in the coral reefs surrounding these islands.  The eel is typically light yellow in color and has numerous black spots covering its body.  These eels typically dwell at a depth range of 4 to 24 metres (13 to 79 ft), and forms burrows in sand sediments. Males can reach a maximum of 104 centimetres (41 in).  This eel is another of the many endemic marine species in Hawaii.

Check out other photos of eels on my blog or on my website.

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Reef Silversides, Hypoatherina harringtonensis, are always a great site and make for very interesting Reef Silversides, Atherinidae, Clupeidae, Engraulididae, Orange Canyon, Grand Cayman (Steven Smeltzer)photographs.  These massive schools of fish are seen throughout the Cayman islands.  They form into large defensive schools to confuse predators and the “swarms” seem move as one as they react to changes in pressure underwater caused by the movement of predators or other threats.

They can be approached easily while scuba diving if you take your time and you can even swim through these schools and have the fish literally enveloping you.  There have been large schools around Orange Canyon, where I took these shots, the Oro Verde wreck, and many other locations.  You can find schools of these fish in most dive sites from time to time and be sure to take time to observe their behavior.   They prefer shallow protected bays and lagoons and protected areas around the reef usually staying at depths from 0 to 10 meters.

They are greenish white on back, silvery with bluish reflections below; moderate silver stripe covering 3 rows of scales down from top plus edges of two adjacent rows bordered above by an iridescent blue-green line, from gill opening to tail, at front silver stripe is nearly as wide as pectoral fin base; tips of tail dusky.  There are a variety of these fish and it is almost impossible to tell them apart in the water.

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Sharks are amazing creatures. They have roamed the Earth’s seas since nearly the beginning of time. Their size, power, and great, toothy jaws fill us with both fear and fascination. Sharks have few natural predators allowing them to roam the earths oceans with relative ease.  There are over 500 types of sharks ranging in size from a few centimeters  to more than 15 meters.  They are found in all seas and are common to depths of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater although there are a few known exceptions, such as the bull shark and the river shark, which can survive and be found in both seawater and freshwater.

Sharks (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, Maui Hawaii

They are “cartilaginous fish” meaning that the structure of the animal’s body is formed of cartilage, instead of bone. Unlike the fins of bony fishes, the fins of cartilaginous fishes cannot change shape or fold alongside their body. Even though they don’t have a bony skeleton like many other fish, they are still categorized with other vertebrates in the Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, and Class Elasmobranchii. This class is made up of about 1,000 species of sharks, skates and rays. They have five to seven gill slits and rigid dorsal fins, for which they are famous.  And though they kill only a few people each year, media coverage and movie portrayals of attacks have marked sharks as voracious killing machines. Our fears—and appetites—fuel an industry that hunts more than 100 million sharks each year and threatens to purge these vital predators from the oceans.

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We were about 10 minutes into the dive when we entered the canyon and found it filled with Silversides.  These interesting schooling fish always make a great shot.  The Silversides typically come  between June and August and can be found in the many grottoes, wrecks, caves and swim-throughs, on the reefs surrounding Grand Cayman.

Silversides, Atherinidae (Steven Smeltzer)

Surrounded, Silversides and Scuba divers, Grand Cayman

Silversides, Atherinidae, are one of the key reef species in Grand Cayman and the Caribbean in general.  These great swarms of fishes provide an excellent food source for many of the larger species of fishes and provide a wonderful experience for divers as well.  It is a great experience to be surrounded by one of these “balls of fish” or to watch Tarpon or Barracuda dart through the swarms.


The large balls are a defensive mechanism for the fish and you will notice that the entire swarm tends to change direction at once, acting almost a s single organism instead of thousands and thousands of individuals.

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The Green Sea Turtle is a wonderful, graceful creature.  They capture the imagination especially when seen gracefully swimming underwater or as young hatch-lings racing for the relative safety of the sea.

Green Sea Turtle, (Steven Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle, Grand Cayman

The Green Sea Turtle inhabits tropical and subtropical coastal waters around the world.  It is a large turtle and may grow to over 300 kg (700 pounds).  These marvelous creatures can also live for up to 80 years.

The Green Sea Turtle is named for the greenish color of its skin. Its shell can be a dull brown to an olive green tint depending upon its habitat.  There are generally though to be two types of green turtles including the Atlantic green sea turtle, normally found off the shores of Europe and North America, and the Eastern Pacific green sea turtle, which has been found in coastal waters from Alaska to Chile.

Green Sea Turtle, (Steven Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle,

Unlike most sea turtles, adult green sea turtles are herbivorous, feeding on sea grasses and algae. Juvenile green turtles, however, will also eat invertebrates like crabs, jellyfish, and sponges.

Green Sea turtles have lengthy migrations from feeding sites to their individual nesting grounds, normally on sandy beaches. Mating typically occurs every two to four years in shallow waters close to the shore. To create a  nest, females leave the sea and choose an area, often on the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They dig a pit in the sand with their flippers.  The nest pit may contain as many as 200 eggs.  After the eggs are placed into the pit it is covered with sand and the turtle returns to the sea.  It takes approximately two months for the eggs to hatch.  Immediately after hatching is the most dangerous time of a green turtle’s life.  The short but difficult journey from the nest to the nest to sea requires the young turtles to evade multiple predators, including crabs and flocks of gulls.

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Wall dives.  There are no other dives like them.  The opportunity to float in “space” as you look away from the reef into the deep blue of the ocean is amazing.  In Grand Cayman you can look down on the wall on the north dive sites and realize it is about 4,000 ft to the bottom.

Wall Dives (Steven W Smeltzer)

West Wall, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman

Great wall dives surround Grand Cayman.  There is often 100+ feet visibility along with great corals and a wide variety of marine life especially on the North/East end.
There are a number of great wall dives around the world, but I must admit I am partial to the Cayman Islands.  You can find other very good wall dives in Honduras, Canada, Palau and Mexico, but to me there is no comparison to the Cayman Islands.  The visibility, the ease of access, the variety of marine life, the vibrant corals all set Grand Cayman apart from other wall dive opportunities.  The North Wall is mecca for wall divers, with almost 50 different dive sites, from the legendary Babylon, to  Andes Wall, to Eagle Ray Pass to many, many others.  These dive sites often have visibility of over 200 feet, amazing corals, sharks, rays and much more.

The north end of Grand Cayman can be a little rough, but the dive sites are well worth the trip.

There are a number of great dive operators on the island.  I would check out Red Sail sports. They have a good diver operation and we have diving with them for over 15 years. Don’t forget to mention that you I sent you their way.

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