Divers head for S.S. Tahoe on Saturday
Weather permitting, a team from Reno is planning its second dive on a steamer that sits more than 350 feet beneath the surface of Lake Tahoe on Saturday morning.
The sunken steamer, the S.S. Tahoe, circled the lake daily in the early 1900s delivering mail, supplies and people to their destinations. Now it’s monumental test for divers that requires breathing complex mix of gases and 80 minutes of decompression for a visit that can last minutes at the most.
Once cars became the dominant form of transportation at Lake Tahoe Basin, the steamer was retired and beached near Tahoe City. Vandalism motivated the owner to scuttle the ship 100 feet in Glenbrook Bay in 1940 so it could be seen in the clear water yet remain out of reach.
The plan went awry when the Tahoe slid from a bank sinking 300 feet deeper into the lake. The location of the ship remained a mystery until fisherman rediscovered her in 1970.
On June 29, Martin McClellan, an expert diver and financial advisor, and Brian Morris, an expert diver who is also an attorney, reached the bow of the ship with the help of large support team. The dive and training dives that preceded it have cost about $50,000.
Because the vessel sits on a sandy shelf deep in a lake with elevation of more than 6,200 feet, they could only stay beside her for about 60 seconds before they had to embark on a nearly two-hour ascent.
“People say diving on the Andrea Doria is the Mount Everest of diving,” McClellan said. “If that’s the case, then this dive is a moonshot or like a shuttle launch.”
The Andrea Doria sits about 250 feet deep in the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island, N.Y. It sunk in 1956 when it collided with another ocean liner.
As long as Tahoe isn’t too choppy, McClellan expects to dive early Saturday morning from the Prophet, a Tahoe Sport Fishing boat being loaned out for the expedition.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to slip under the weather,” McClellan said. “It’d be real crappy to be in a two-hour decompression and all of the sudden a lightning bolt strikes the lake.”
McClellan is on a mission to shoot 60 to 90 minutes of video of the steamer. He hopes at least five dives before he calls it quits for the season mid-September.