August 19 SS Tahoe Dive

New Millennium Makes its 12th Visit to the SteamShip (SS) Tahoe; Karim Hamza the 6th diver to visit the ship with NMDE.

Karim and Martin all smiles after a great experience at 13 Atmospheres in Lake Tahoe

On Saturday 19 August, New Millennium’s Martin McClellan introduced Karim Hamza,  GUE Instructor & Diver, Co-Owner of Hollywood Divers  and Member of LA Underwater Explorers (LAUE),  to the excitement of diving the SS Tahoe; Mr. Hamza is now the 6th diver to successfully visit the SS Tahoe with NMDE.

As NMDE continues the prep work for the forthcoming 2018 Photogrammetry project, Karim’s visit was  a vital step in future planning as he will be leading the photogrammetry planning of the project.   Karim is one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and educated divers Globally conducting Photogrammetry dives and projects.

Up to this point we really did not know how many dives it would take to complete a HD Photogrammetry image of the SS Tahoe but following our dive this past Saturday, Karim feels that probably 20-24 dives will be what it will take to properly image the 170’ steamer sitting at an average depth in Tahoe of 400’/120m”, Martin reports.

First, we have to send a quick note of THANKS to Peter and Trevor Fulks, also GUE divers, for doing a set-up dive for us the previous weekend.  This set-up placed some of our bail-out decompression gas at 70’/21m and 120’/36m as well as placing several lift bags and lift bag gas at the 70’/21m station for our “self” clean-up tasks upon completion of our dive this past Saturday.  Peter and Trevor, representing their company, Partial Pressure Productions, are the Media Team for NMDE and the forthcoming 2018 Photogrammetry project.

Operating the boat were Marc Briseno, NMDE Supervisor of Boat Operations and Founding Member of NMDE and again, Ben Brodie visiting from New Zealand taking his valuable time to volunteer his time in supporting these dives as Divemaster.  Thanks go out to both Marc and Ben as this would not be possible without their surface support.

Descending at 8:30am, Martin and Karim, using modern Suex scooters, arrived at the SS Tahoe 16 minutes later and approaching the depths of the stern at 470’/142m, spent 11 minutes between there and the bow at 350’/105m.  All equipment worked flawlessly save the camera system Karim was transporting atop of his Suex XK.  For some reason, at depth, it simply would not respond to the commands given it via the levers and buttons engineered into his 500’/150m camera housing;  very frustrating but…it happens.  During NMDE’s 4th dive on the ship in 2002, the camera system of that year also failed so…”lets get the bugs out now”, both Karim and Martin joked.

Again, the main goal of the dive was simply to introduce Karim to the wrecksite and to the infrastructure in place allowing the dive teams to safely and efficiently execute these high altitude technical dives in a mission objective focused manner.  An important introduction so that Karim can begin the planning stages for the actual project.  As Karim has indicated, “doing photogrammetry on a ship like this at these depth will require synchronized diving skills specifically focused upon the photogrammetry objective.  There will be no time to think about “how” to execute the dive, that has to be from muscle memory; the brain being the main muscle”.

A sub goal of this dive was to gather water samples from 400’,300’,200’,100’/120m.90m,60m,30m for the University of Nevada in Reno (UNR).  This year due to the intense winter experienced in Northern Nevada and the 60 some feet (18m) of snow fall in the Sierras, the lake water column is full of interesting and voluminous  particulate matter;  algae, sediment, who-knows-what and zooplankton.  This situation was communicated to one of our Principal Investigators  at UNR and he requested we gather some samples.


Martin taking a H2O sample at 300’/90m – wisking a Playtpus 1L water bottle back and forth in order to fill its compressed state.  
Photo: Karim Hamza – The camera worked shallower for some reason!


Upon departing the SS Tahoe after 27 minutes of submersion, Karim and Martin ascended into the 3.5 hours of decompression required prior to surfacing.  As they ascended, they had to recover all the spare tanks of gas that were positioned underwater for safety.  The divers were using JJ Rebreathers and the extra gas was necessary just in case a rebreather failed; the rebreathers as mentioned worked flawlessly so lugging these tanks back, 6 in total, was quite laborious!


Martin gives the camera a glance before he sends the 6 spare safety tanks back to the surface from the 70’/21m station.
Photo Credit: Karim Hamza…Camera still working just fine at the shallow depths.  

It was a great dive.  Great experience and knowledge was gathered.  Diving techniques for managing these types of “exceptional exposures” were refined, discussed and put into the knowledge bank.  “The SS Tahoe is a magnificent wrecksite”, as Karim noted.  “It is sitting perfectly on its keel and resting on an incredible slope, a fun dive!”.  Thanks Karim and Martin for continuing the necessary work and documentation on the State of Nevada’s first Submerged Cultural Resource.


A parting shot of the SS Tahoe…


A shot of the forward facing “air-dams” – image taken at 390’/110m – looking down the ship: smokestack in background.  Photo: Martin McClellan