Feb 112013

MV Sea Chart mastAbout the site

For all this talking about macro shots and fish, and cave diving and dry caving recently, I’ve been a little light on for wrecks. We did some brilliant wreck dives at the end of our stay on the MV Giamani as we headed back down the coast towards Phuket. All three vessels were in “terrible vis” for Thailand – which is to say it was comparable to average to good Melbourne vis, and there were a hell of a lot more fish.

The first wreck dive was the MV Sea Chart. The Sea Chart was running from Myanmar around and down to Vietnam with a load of illegally logged teak when she ran into some bad weather about three years ago. Some of her cargo broke its restraining tie-downs and the weight redistribution and damage saw her taking on water. The boat went down just offshore from a Thai naval base and the crew were rescued. Salvaging the ship and its cargo, on the other hand, is not so simple.

The illegally harvested teak logs in the cargo are incredibly valuable and become more so as time passes and less teak wood is available on the global market. The hardness of the wood means they’re unlikely to be damaged by their undersea sojourn. Maritime law gives the Thai Navy a salvage claim, which the original owners are fighting in court. While that’s all tied up in legal arguments the wreck is just sitting on the bottom, waiting to be dived.

Teak logs in the cargo hold

About the dive

This was one of the deeper dives of the trip, which combined with interesting currents (I swear I swam into the current on the way to the bow, and then again on the way back to the stern) and less than perfect vis made photography trickier. After descending down the shotline in flapping current we ducked behind the shelter of the hull and looked down on the huge logs.

The wreck lies on the port side and the logs are haphazardly stacked through the middle of the hull. The broken restraining chains hang down from the starboard hull above as fish school through the beams. We swam along under the starboard hull and out to the pointy end, keeping an eye out for rope and fishing line strung like spaghetti between the beams.

About the photo

As you can see from the shot of the teak logs to the right, the vis was less than ideal. There was a definite dirt-o-cline in the water with a lower layer with lots of suspended particulate. Even above that layer the silt through the water was blocking a lot of daylight and turning the strobes up just brought out the backscatter. The easiest way to get rid of backscatter in photos is to put something else in the foreground and not leave enough empty water to be full of spots, so I went subject hunting.

In this case I chose a mast from up near the bow to capitalise on the nice diagonal through the shot. You can see that it’s lit only by the top strobe, with the bottom one under the mast illuminating the fish in the middle ground. I like the lines of this shot – I have a number of failed shots from this dive where the railings and hull are completely obscured by schools of fish. Lots of fish are an interesting problem for wreck photography, and I had to learn patience in a hurry. Given time they will usually, eventually school around into a good formation…hopefully before the deco obligations become excessive!

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