This is the top shipwreck dive in Grand Cayman and one of the top ten in the Caribbean. The USS Kittiwake has been on the reef for a little over one year and the shipwreck site is maturing very well. The ship has five decks, is 251.6 ft (76.7 m) in length, 42ft (12.8 m) in beam and approximately 50 feet high. The vessel was built specifically for submarine rescue and was launched on July 10, 1945 and which was sunk in Grand Cayman on January 5, 2011.
The following is a description of the dive, some history about the ship and information regarding the vessel and an overview of what you will find on the wreck. Review the whole photo gallery on the website and see the blog entry for the USS Kittiwake for supplementary data on the wreck and a history about the ship.
The Dive site:
The boat was reefed In january 2011 off the west side of the island at the end of Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.
There are 5 decks on the 47 foot tall USS Kittiwake. To meet caymanian requirements for wrecks, a portion of the upper mast was removed. The are two bridges on the upper decks (both an external and internal bridge to allow operations in heavy seas) along with the navigation and radio rooms. The sonar has been removed. The Captain and XO's quarters are located on the upper decks
The main deck contains a number of different rooms or work areas including the recompresson chambers, the rec room and toolshop. You will see an a-frame structure on the stern which supported submarines and hard hat divers, as well as the diving bell where divers would enter to return to the ship from the ocean and then be placed in the chambers for decompression.
The crews quarters, the engine room and medical facilities are located below the main deck along with , air bank storage and compressors, in addition to ammunition lockers, cold storage, barber shop and other areas. While there are now a number of big access holes both vertically and horizontally, every space on the boat was utilized while in service.
Make sure to chart your dive adequately. One approach would be to begin at the stern before entering into the vessel to get photographs near the "USS Kittiwake" logo on the stern and in addition get photographs by the screw (propeller) and rudder. For Divers that intend on penetrating the shipwreck, after you leave the stern make your way to the top of the ship and go into the funnel which is on on the Top Deck. Should you not intend on entering the shipwreck you should begin your exploration on the main deck just above the Propeller.
The entry through the funnel makes an excellent underwater photograph and I would suggest taking the photo looking up from the bottom of the funnel to the top of the funnel. I would suggest silhouetting one of your dive buddies diving down into the shipwreck. You can then exit the shaft on the first platform or in the hold. The hold does not have any exterior exits and should only be entered by advanced divers. On the first platform you will see the Engineering emblem in the Motor Room section. This area is easily accessible and can be a good location for a especially interesting underwater photo close to the "Engineering Mural". The silt may be substantial in this location so you must move slowly to prevent stirring up the sediment. For advanced wreck divers you can also explore shaft alley and the front hold areas of the ship. For other divers you can explore a variety of compartments on the first platform and then begin going up one deck at a time until finally coming to the Bridge (Pilot House) where you can do you safety stop as it is at about 5 to 6 meters or 15 to 18 feet.