Whenever our local wreck diving guru says he’s driving his zodiac to Washington State, the first thing out of my mouth is, “What day are you heading up and can I join?”
Thus far I have had the good fortune of doing a couple off Washington State diving expeditions with Jeff, including diving Flag Pole, the wreck of the Diamond Knot, and more recently, the Kehloken Possession Point Ferry.
While I wish I had written about diving the Diamond Knot at the time I dove it—it was my first wreck dive, my first wreck penetration dive, and the biggest wreck I have ever seen underwater—I am not going to make the mistake of not writing about the Kehloken, if for no other reason than to preserve my own memory of it.
As is typical of a “Jeff Carr diving expedition,” one usually only knows what wreck one is diving the day of, and even then you can’t be too certain until you’re ready to go. This, for people like me who read and research far too much, is a good thing. I have no time to set expectations and no time to worry about whether or not I am experienced enough to dive the site. Of course it helps that I usually have an experience dive guide…
Had I read the description for the Diamond Knot before diving it, I wouldn’t have backed out but I might have been an even bigger bundle of nerves. Luckily, the “current-swept” description I later read about was not much of a problem for us that weekend. The fact that the wreck is practically a “legend” is also something I am glad I did not know beforehand.
While the Kehloken wreck is also billed as a “very current-sensitive” dive site, it doesn’t have the same aura of mystery and awe surrounding it that “The Knot” does (You can only call the Diamond Knot “The Knot” if you have dived it). Diving the Kehloken, in spite of its lack of a deathly allure, was nonetheless spectacular. The size of it, its remote location, and the marine life, all made it feel very special. Not only did we have a 16-mile boat ride out to the site—which is always fun—but we had the right crew on board, a good-natured bunch that was helpful and that didn’t go hand in hand with the often oversized scuba diver ego.
When we finally got to the wreck and dropped the anchor, we all kitted up. Jeff went in first. He was to descend on the anchor line, ensure the anchor was properly tied into the wreck and then wait for the rest of us to show up so that he could give us a “guided tour.”
With Andrew helping us gear up, we were quickly in the water. With me leading the charge, one by one we began dropping down the anchor line. About 30 feet down I noticed Jeff was heading back up. I gave him the “okay” question. He returned my question with a “thumbs up” signaling we should ascend. I relayed the message to the others and up we went.
As soon as we surfaced, Jeff told us the anchor had come loose and that he hadn’t even been able to tie in.
A chill ran down my spine and I voiced my concern, “What if this happened while we were diving?” Jeff’s answer was immediate.
“That’s why I tie us into the wreck. We’re not coming loose once I do that.”
Still… I thought of all the disaster-at-sea stories I had recently read and I wondered why none of us invested in a GPS marine rescue device, especially considering they only ran a couple of hundred dollars and we are all used to shelling out hundreds on dive gear.
We got back on the boat, repositioned it, and then dropped the anchor once again. Jeff dropped it further up the wreck so that if it came loose before he tied in, it would have to pull through the whole wreck, or so he said.
Now, a lot more exhausted from the weight and speed of gearing up for a second time, we descended once again. Fortunately, the current had died down a bit.
For the first 40 feet I couldn’t see much, just the anchor line and a blue-green haze all around me. This seemingly endless green space is the one my mind loves to fill with sharks and orcas. To this day I have yet to experience a shark or orca in the Pacific Northwest. It is a peculiar feeling to simultaneously hope for and fear the sighting. On the one hand, our waters are cold, murky and generally low-visiblity—not great for helping a shark figure out you’re not on the menu—on the other hand, the desire to see something alien, to experience a feeling you know you have never experienced, is a desire hard to sate.
Until I sighted the wreck I wasn’t sure what this green color would mean—whether it would make for good or bad visibility. One never really knows until you are literally at the site.
After about 40 feet I noticed something below me. It was peculiar. It looked like something I might see if looking down on a military parade from an aerial stance. As I continued dropping I realized it was fish. An impossibly huge school of fish was settled on the surrounding debris of the wreck. They spread in every direction I could see, an army at attention. It was spectacular.
As soon as I was down I checked in with the others and with Jeff. He had already secured the anchor and run a cave reel from the anchor to the boat, ensuring it wouldn’t be hard to find if we did get “turned around” or separated.
My immediate impression of the wreck of the Kehloken was of a burned skeleton. Metal and wood stuck out at varying angles and it appeared, initially there wasn’t an overhead environment in site. I took a few moments to get my bearings and to take in the many giant metridiums (plumose anemones) that cover the wreck, as well as the rockfish that so casually kept us company on this dive. Never before had I seen so many rockfish in one place. Coppers. Chinas. Quillbacks. Blacks. Blues. The list went on.
Jeff gestured for me to follow him and so, telling the others to do the same, I began wending my way through the remains of the Kehloken. When we crested one of the sides and began dropping into the hull, towards where Jeff was pointing at a mass of machinery, I realized there was indeed penetrable wreck left. More than I had thought. Jeff, peered into one of the spaces and then motioned for me to look. I did so.
Inside the bowels of remaining ship were a couple of the biggest ling cods I have ever seen. Downturned mouths and huge eyes. Thick muscled torsos. They stared defiantly back at me as if to say, “Yeah, what of it?” I couldn’t see egg mounds, but I sure didn’t want to get too much closer to find out if these monsters were protective males.
We continued exploring the wreck, getting more comfortable as we went. Visibility was good. The current was low, and the life was incredible. There was a moment of concern when we lost sight of one of our crew, but it wasn’t for long. She was off checking out a section of the wreck out of sight. We continued to explore.
Finally, when one of the girls signaled she was at 1,000 PSI, we started to head back. Thanks to the line Jeff ran from anchor to wreck, it was easy to find our way back. The buddied up with another of our divers and they began their ascent. I stayed with Jeff to unhook the anchor and chain.
During the safety stop I made sure to alternate the hand that was holding the anchor line and to maintain a horizontal position in the water. Previously I have been told that it’s best to off-gas when your whole body is at the same level (same depth), which makes sense. And switching hands means you’re not cutting off blood flow in one area more than in another thanks to bent arms.
Getting back on the boat was relatively easy once I’d removed my weights and clipped my BCD to a line on the boat.
Over all, the impression I was left with was one of awe. Wrecks like the Kehloken Possession Point Ferry are a special kind of dive. For the most part there are no charters out to them, that you got to dive a site like this in the first place is an honor—you knew someone with a boat and you know someone who wants to take you out, or who trusts your diving abilities. This is especially true on sites like “The Knot.”
If you have an opportunity to do this dive, do it!