Kittiwake toppled onto natural reef

| 09/10/2017 | 41 Comments
Cayman News Service

Kittiwake wreck, Grand Cayman (Photo by Jason Washington)

(CNS): A famous sunken wreck off Grand Cayman suffered major damage and toppled over as the seas were churned up during the passage of Tropical Storm Nate. On Sunday local and international divers broke the news about the USS Kittiwake, which has fallen onto its port side and drifted towards the reef, where divers believe parts of the shipwreck have been crashing against the natural reef. CNS has contacted the Department of Tourism, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Department of Environment for more details, but we understand that the dive site is currently closed. 

According to various dive blogs and reports on social media, the 10-foot seas that came from the south heavily impacted Seven Mile Beach and the West Bay coastline. The stormy seas pushed against the wreck and snapped the anchor chains, propelling the artificial reef towards the real one. At this point it is not clear what damage the Kittiwake has caused the surrounding marine life.

The 251-foot ship was sunk in 60 feet of water off Seven Mile Beach in 2011 as an additional dive attraction. Underwater photographer Jason Washington from Ambassador Divers, who blogged about the movement of the wreck, said that it is now another 20 feet further down.

Fears that the old wreck has damaged the reef were expressed on Facebook, as Washington’s blog was shared and re-posted hundreds of times, stirring up major concerns with many commentors who pointed out that when the ship was sunk as an artificial dive attraction, officials had insisted that it would not move and so the nearby natural reef was not at risk.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (41)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone advise if the site is open and divers are able to go throughout the ship like previously ? Additionally what is the new depth ?

    Thank you,

    I’ve passed your question onto Auntie, our columnist on CNS Local Life.

    • Anonymous says:

      We went snorkeling there 3 days ago and they said it was between 60 and 70 ft now.

    • Debi Moir says:

      Just came back from Grand Cayman – the site is open (and often crowded) but you have to have a guide. It lists at about 45-50 degrees, almost on to the reef next door. It is still a fabulous dive site, one that I would do again.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For those who think that deeper depths would prevent it from moving; remember that Dennis flipped the entire wreck of the Spiegel Grove and it is 130+ feet deep.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Gross neglect by CITA and the original project heads who all did nothing to maintain and preserve the wreck and the dive site while amassing enormous funds each year from diving fees on this dive site. What has happened to all this money. An official CI Government audit needs to be done of the entire project and the finances of the Kittiwake from the collections of fees for the past almost 6 years since the Kittiwake was sunk. This could have been prevented. Now the Kittiwake will break its back and the wreck will break up into pieces. The responsibility given to the CITA was just too much.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If you want to know what the future holds for the Kittiwake simply take a look at what is left of the Oro Verde…

  5. Anonymous says:

    One more hurricane and she will ski down the sand chute and disappear over the drop off.
    I wonder if anyone will be fined for the destruction of the reef.

  6. Elvis says:

    Dohhhhh. Another fine mess

  7. The reef says:

    This is ridiculous. With all the professional advice we still got it wrong and at cost to the environment. I hope those in power realize, it’s the same predicament for the port and seven mile beach.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is pretty much what people were predicting would happen when I dove the wreck for my 60th birthday shortly after it was sunk in 2011.

  9. Anonymous says:

    IT was too shallow and should have been sunk with the bow perpendicular to the shore, not broadside to the waves!

    • Anonymous says:

      I like your theory that wave can only travel at 90 degrees to the shoreline.

      • Jay straith says:

        The experience with ships as artificial reefs demonstrates that there is significantly better stability when ships are sunk “bow towards worse case scenario waves”. This was done with the Ocean Rvival Project in Portugal. The ships there get the same kind of large waves ( not hurricanes) and are doing well. One ship was sunk parallel to the shore and broke due to the wave action. The other ships sunk bow to weather are also doing well.

      • BELONGER says:

        The winds and seas can blow from any direction but predominantly here in the Cayman Islands winds and seas comes from the North East. (NE Trade Winds) Occasionally, we also get winds/seas from the South East. Very rear do we get winds/seas from the South West. We do get North West winds/seas particularly during the winter months. (North Wester’s)

        The winds and seas that pushed Kittiwake most recently, came from the South East.

        Had this vessel been properly sunk and anchored in a North to South direction or a North East to South West direction, (instead of East to West – parallel with the coast line) she would not have ended up where she presently is.

        To put it simple, in rough seas/winds you want to have a vessel into the wind/seas, not sideways or cross ways, or else you will get flipped over and scattered all over the place.

        A good example is the Capt. Keith Tibbetts Wreck in Cayman Brac. She is anchored in a North to South direction, which is in line with the North East Trade Winds. (non parallel to the East – West coast line) Although there has been some movement over the years (wreck has been there for 15 – 20 years) she has held her own pretty well considering the time she has been sunk. Not to mention, she did go through Hurricane Paloma as well.

      • Anonymous says:

        The predominate waves come from the West/Northwest rarely from the South .The ship was moved twice by these waves.

  10. Anonymous says:

    uh-oh spaghettio’s….

  11. Anonymous says:

    its been one CIG mess up after another since they got their hands on the kittiwake…..
    the usual cig incompetence at all levels…..

  12. Anonymous says:

    good ole caymanian forethought!

    • Anonymous says:

      You mean the bright sparks up in Cayman Government, that think they know everything. Please leave the rest of us out of it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Genius !!!

  14. West bay Premier says:

    Can we imagine if we had got Irma full force , kitty would be on shore . Just send Nate the bill but you better hurry because he is somewhere in the USA falling apart .

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep…Kitty at Kimpton soon come. Hurricane Rina in 2011 did the major part of movement on the wreck , Nate followed up again in October . 2017 storm season is far from over- watching this space …Errr….wreck.

  15. Anonymous says:

    In 5+ years and after the wreck of the Kittiwake moved 70ft offshore a few years ago due to the effects and sea conditions of a passing hurricane, the CITA and the people involved in the CITA with the Kittiwake Project did absolutely nothing to re-stabilize the wreck in its new location. No maintenance has been done on the wreck to maintain and re-set the five anchors of manage the erosion of the sand bed around the wreck to maintain the stability of the wreck on the seabed. This is the result of incompetence by the Project leaders and the CITA from only wanting to collect the diving fees and spending absolutely NO money on the upkeep and maintenance of the wreck and the wreck site. Irreversible damage, what a shame when it is probably one of the most accessible and best diving wreck sites in the world.

    • BELONGER says:

      Those big dive companies that have made a killing ($$$) off the site, will now come to the tax payers (Govt) seeking money to get it back into position. I can tell you all one thing, there will be lot’s of air lift bags needed for that job and lot’s of money for an international salvage company to do so.

      Next time, anchor it down properly in a North East – South West direction instead of being parallel to the shore.

      Another storm and it will go off the wall like Kirk Pride.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Who’s going to pay for any damage to the natural reef?

  17. Anonymous says:

    can’t we blame it on some rich guy’s yacht?

  18. Anonymous says:

    With hindsight perhaps intentionally sinking a vessel wasn’t such a smart move afterall.

    • Anonymous says:

      Nothing wrong with sinking ships to make artificial reef, they just need to be sunk in deeper water. The people behind the sinking of the kittiwake wanted snorkelers to be able to enjoy it which is why it keeps getting shifted around every time we have a storm.

      Check the Oro Verde wreck.. it’s in a million pieces now because it sunk in the same sort of depths. The Kittiwake will be smashed apart as time goes by because it is also too shallow.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The water the ship was sunk in was too shallow. I hope people learn from this.

    • Anonymous says:

      It couldn’t have been too shallow. The boat sank and that is exactly what they wanted and got.

      • Anonymous says:

        The Shallower a body is in the water column, the more effect wave action has on it. If the Kittywake was sunk at say 100 feet rather than 60 it would not move nearly as much in heavy weather and storms.

        Sinking it shallow so more people could access it is great, but much more needed to be done to secure her to the sea bed.

    • Anonymous says:

      So what? Learn? What’s dat?


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