Final dive to steamship best yet |

Final dive to steamship best yet

The fifth and final dive of the year to the Steamship Tahoe was the longest and smoothest.

Two divers from New Millennium Dive Expeditions on Saturday swam at 400-feet in Lake Tahoe for seven minutes. Because the steamer sits in a high-altitude lake, going that deep forces a diver to breathe a mixture of gases and endure hours of decompression, which is a challenge for the most skilled deep-water diver.

“The dive was a success. Out of all dives this was the smoothest, this went just excellent,” said Brian Morris, a New Millennium diver. “The weather was perfect. Next year we’re going to plan several dives in September due to the lack of winds.”

Spending seven minutes at the steamer, instead of four or five as the divers did on previous dives, meant a 2.5-hour trip back to the surface to avoid the bends.

On their ascent, Morris, and diving partner Martin McClellan stopped to tap into four tanks, anchored at different depths, that contained varying amounts of helium, oxygen and nitrogen.

During previous dives, the pair had each experienced mild anxiety, which they believed was caused by a strenuous descent. On this dive, they made it a point to slow down, extending the trip from about five to seven minutes.

“We know the importance of having to relax all the way down,” Morris said. “We got there right when we planned.”

Each dive costs the team about $2,300. The money is spent on the breathing gases and the rental of a large fishing boat to hold all the gear and the team’s large support staff. Next summer, New Millennium plans to dive four times starting sometime in August. On each adventure, they plan to continue to shoot video for a documentary.

The S.S. Tahoe is one of four steamers that carried people, supplies and mail around Tahoe starting in 1896. Business for the steamers dried up after cars caught on in the 1930s.

The S.S. Tahoe was beached at Tahoe City until vandals persuaded its owners, the Bliss family, to sink the boat in about 80 feet of water in Glenbrook Bay. The family wanted the ship to be seen but not touched.

But at some point the 170-foot steamer slid deeper than planned and was lost. Its location was not known until Glenn Amundson, a South Lake Tahoe engineer, discovered her in 1963.

Anyone who wants more information about the dive team or wants to see underwater photos of the ship can go to

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at

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