Steamer rests intact
Deep in the cold water of Lake Tahoe a small remote camera fell on the hull of a steamer that has rested silently at the bottom for 60 years like a promise of adventure.
A group of men are planning to dive on the wreck of the S.S. Tahoe in August and used the remote operated vehicle, ROV, on Saturday to help plan their “death-defying dive.”
Only the sound of waves and hum of the engine broke the silence on the surface as 20 people crowded in and around a room meant for five to watch the submarine move about the ship 400 feet below. Thrilled whispers spread across the deck as the ROV moved through debris that fell from the ship as it sank, and members of the New Millennium Dive Team cheered when its lights illuminated the ship’s bow.
“This is monumental for us,” Project Coordinator Martin McClellan said. “It has been such an exciting day.”
Pictures of the ship have been captured before, but the data gained on this operation will be invaluable to the team. McClellan said they now know the exact depth of the steamer, which rests between 370 and 450 feet below the water’s surface.
The ROV, which was operated by Gray Trimble of Lockheed Martin Perry, did not record the sonar data McClellan hoped it would, but Trimble said the ROV will be sent down again in August.
“We are not the first to go down there with an ROV but we are the first with the intent to go down on a dive,” McClellan said.
The dive will be extremely dangerous and will be the deepest dive ever attempted at high elevation. The low air pressure at Lake Tahoe, which is 6,229 feet above sea level, will make the dive equal to one of 550 feet at sea level.
Using revolutionary technology, the divers will breath a combination of oxygen, helium and nitrogen, and will be able to spend 10 minutes at the bottom. The dive will take a great toll on their bodies and they will need to spend more than two hours in the 39-degree water rising to the surface.
The divers need to surface slowly to avoid decompression sickness which causes severe pain and convulsions.
“It will be great,” said Dr. Mitch Marken, an underwater archeologist for the state of Nevada.
The state has asked the New Millennium Dive team to conduct preservation test on the hull “because it is important to see what condition it is in,” Marken said.
Looking at the wreck it is easy to see that there has been little damage.
“Between the temperature, the fresh water, and the pressure, there is almost no degradation of this wreck,” Trimble said.
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