Diving the Pacific Gas – Lying as it does on the slope of the Sunken Barrier Reef, with its stern in 43m of water, the logical way of diving the Pacific Gas wreck is to descend using the mooring line on to the bow, which is in 18m of water.
There is a lot to see around the bow, but it’s best to bypass this area and save it for the end, as there are some far more interesting things to see down deeper around the bridge area and down at the stern!
The mid-section of the wreck is where the large LPG storage tanks used to be and they have left some very large holes. I am pretty sure that if you had the time to explore this area there would be quite a lot to see, critter wise, but I have never had the time and/or air to do this…
There used to be a line running from the bow to the bridge which would allow you to find it even in the worst visibility, but that disappeared around 2007…
The advantage of the line was that it allowed you to stay relatively “shallow” on the way down, so as to conserve air & bottom time for the best part of the wreck, plus on the way back when remaining air & deco time are becoming a real issue, it got you straight to the bow and mooring line for your extended (in my experience) deco stop before surfacing.
The bridge is a great area to explore because all the glass in the wheelhouse was removed prior to the sinking, which allows the resident population of snapper, sweetlips, puffer & angel fish to roam around at will.
Plus it’s easy and relatively safe to squeeze in through the open doorways and enter the wheelhouse itself as there are no doors to worry about closing on you once inside.
The area to the rear of the wheelhouse has much to see, with it’s derricks and handrails rich in soft corals and the Tubastrea hard coral, but by now you are in around 30m of water and your bottom time & air supply have to be monitored carefully as the best bit is still to come.
Descending further towards the stern presents a superb view back up the whole length of the ship and if you swim past the stern in open water at about 40m you can take in the tremendous vista of the wreck.
Franco (AKA Francis Tolewa) my incredibly patient Loloata dive guide was the perfect model, even to the point of somehow making his dreadlocks stand up so that they were silhouetted against the sunlight!
This was “the image” I really wanted as it captures the ethos of the Pacific Gas wreck and it’s location on the slope near Horseshoe Reef.
Capturing the actual image required both us to do two deep dives and as I had to be below the stern to get the view upwards I ended up at 43m and it was quite a challenge to force my nitrogen muddled brain to work out the right balance of ambient & strobe light to achieve the correct exposure.
I am not sure how Franco managed to hover so perfectly in position for so long, but he must been politely wondering what on earth I was doing…
The angle that the wreck lies at makes the descent fairly easy once the depths around the stern have been sampled, as you simply head back up to the wheelhouse and then up to the bow.
If you have enough air left it’s well worth exploring around the coral encrusted winch & hatches at the bow, as there is quite a variety of critters such as ghost pipefish and leaf scorpion fish to be found there.
Its still about 22m around the bow, so whilst your bottom time may have expanded your remaining air has not and I am always anxious to ensure I have enough left to complete the extended safety stop on the mooring line.
Once I am at 5m and know that all I have to do is wait out my stop, I can relax and settle down to look back down on the wreck and watch the schooling jacks, snapper & sweetlips reclaim it again after the temporary visitors have departed