In July 2012, a few Directors from Shipwreck Exploration and Conservation Society (SECS) joined divers from The Edge Diving Centre, on an epic adventure to dive one of British Columbia’s most interesting shipwrecks, the Transpac.
First, some Transpac history. Originally named Moose, she was built as a 155 foot offshore supply vessel for use in the oil fields in the Gulf of Texas. She was delivered to her owners, Petrol Marine Corp. in 1968, from Burton Shipyard in Port Arthur, Texas. Moose had numerous “Gulf” supply sister ships, all with big game names: Caribou, Waterbuck, Impala, Elk, Buffalo, Gemsbok and Eland. In her later years, Trans-Pacific Seafoods from Seattle acquired Moose and renamed her Trans Pac, for operation as a fishing trawler in Alaska.
On the night of November 22, 1986, while heading northbound for the pollack fishery in the Bering Sea, Transpac was struck in the side by the 200 foot freighter, Sunmar Sea. The collision punched a hole in her starboard side near the engine room. The captain attempted to beach the sinking vessel to no avail; the steep shoreline of Princess Royal Island did not offer salvation. Without warning, Transpac capsized, and her bow remained up and out of the water before sliding below the surface along the wall face. Tragically, one of the crew members pitched into the sea on that fateful night was never seen again. Three survivors swam to shore, a fourth was picked up by a nearby vessel.
It now rests on a ledge at an 80 degree angle vertically on the wall.
Yes, this wreck is a wall dive!
Transpac is located about 150km southeast of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. Getting there was an experience in itself. We took the fastest route, a 1,600km drive up to Prince Rupert. Along the way, we absorbed some of the splendour that British Columbia’s interior has to offer, and as we approached Rupert, the untouched beauty of fjords: green water surrounded by ridiculously steep cliffs covered with blankets of green forest, and snow capped peaks. Once there, we loaded a dive shop’s worth of dive gear, cylinders, and K bottles onto the Mamro, a 52 foot liveaboard dive charter, and its skiff. Captain Dan Ferris took over “driving” duty for the next 10 days. All we did was admire the stunning vistas, plan our dives, blend our mixes, and go dive.
In terms of dive equipment, we were a diversely mixed team. I was one of three using a sidemount setup. Two other divers were using traditional backmount double cylinders. Last but not least, we had one closed circuit rebreather diver in all his bubble-less glory. The deep nature of these dives necessitated the use of trimix gas blends and an assortment of decompression gases.
One word to describe our dives on Transpac? Majestic.
As you descend past the first 30 feet of turbid water, the visibility opens up dramatically. Although dark, it is clear, with viz in the 60 to 80 foot range. The first thing you see is the bow of the wreck, at 115 feet, with the imposing wheelhouse just behind it at 130 feet. You can still make out the white, yellow and blue trim, and read her name below all the marine growth. Once past the superstructure, Transpac is a flat deck with various machinery and fishing gear.
At 180 feet is the large drum for operating the fishing net. Below that is one of the most surreal sights I have ever seen underwater, and frankly the highlight of all my dives here: starting at 215 feet is the trawl net of the Transpac, suspended vertically in the water by buoyant, brightly coloured floats. Growing in the web of netting are cloud sponges and the other marine life attracted to these uniquely shaped habitats.
Continuing deeper, the stern is at 270 feet, with the screws and rudders at 275 and 285 feet respectively. Secured to one of the prop shafts with a bicycle cable lock is a plaque from an expedition here in 2000. A bit deeper yet at 300 feet is a collection of hardware fallen off deck, including massive trawling sleds.
There is a variety of marine life on Transpac. Vast areas of the wreck are covered in tube worms, especially in the shallower portions, and the hull sides are adorned with cloud and boot sponges. Groups of black and copper rockfish swim in the cavity between the wheelhouse and the work deck. Swimming off the wreck and onto the wall will reveal more marine life, such as hordes of brittle stars, octopus, and maybe even a wolf eel.
Transpac is simply stunning to dive, especially when there is good visibility. For photographers and videographers, it offers many unique shots – whether of the wreck itself, the creatures that now call it home, or the divers enjoying the wreck above and below you. It is a very interactive dive site; even when diving vastly different dive profiles, you just look around you to see a blur of lights, with bubbles streaming upwards, ever expanding to the size of small balloons, finally popping when they hit a camera lens or dive mask.
A little out of the way? Certainly. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
SECS Directors on the Expedition Transpac 2012 Dive Team were Wayne Lefebvre, John Nunes and Brandon Rogers. They were joined on the expedition by Kody Walley, Henry Wang and Otto Wille, divers from The Edge Diving Centre. A good time was had by all.
The Shipwreck Exploration and Conservation Society (SECS) is a group of local divers passionate about shipwrecks, whose goal is to document and communicate the importance of exploration and conservation of wrecks across British Columbia. For more information, visit http://www.secsociety.com.
The Edge Diving Centre is a PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Centre and PADI TecRec Authorized Dive Centre, conveniently located in North Vancouver, Beautiful British Columbia, Canada. In addition to having a wide range of recreational, technical and rebreather courses, gear and expert advice on hand, Edge Diving is proud to be the first dive shop in the Lower Mainland to offer recreational and technical sidemount courses. For more information, visit http://www.edgediving.com.
Special thanks to liveaboard dive charter, Mamro Adventures and Captain Dan Ferris. With over 11 years experience, there is no one else SECS would recommend to charter for a visit to the Transpac. For more information, visit http://www.mamro.com.