Three new Shipwrecks of Lake Washington & Details on the SS Success:

This past March, as part of research & exploration sonar work I was doing with Innerspace, we discovered three more shipwrecks in Lake Washington. All three targets are in depths ranging from 190 to 210 feet, and I expect all three targets to be of significant historical value.

Some high level details of the finds:

Target 1:  Possible River Patrol type military boat, 45 feet long, 14feet wide, 9-10feet tall.  I believe this one could be the Coast Guard picket boat which sank in 1958

Target 2:  50ft long boat, 14-16feet wide, 9ft tall.  This boat appears to have sustained heavy stern damage.  Cabin still intact.

Target 3:  approx 40ft long boat, 8ft tall.   Appears to be a fully intact (including boiler and stack) cabin-forward passenger steamer. 

I’ll discuss Target # 1 and Target # 3 at a later date, but for this post:

Target # 2
From reports of its sinking (general location), as well it’s dimensions & architecture, I believe Target # 2 is the remains of the SS Success.

The sonar for Target #2 is included below. While the image I include here does not capture the target’s shadow – which often reveals the most about a target – what you can clearly see with this image is that the stern is badly damaged, the wreck has cabin structure and it appears in the sonar that the front of the cabin is somewhat rounded. The wave in the image at the bow is caused by just that: a wave on the surface as we were scanning the target.

We made dives on Target # 2 this past Sunday. She is sitting in 195ft of water, bottom temp was a cool 44 degrees and visibility was surprisingly poor for this time of year. That said, we were still able to get good video of this wreck and we’ll make it available for viewing at 5th Dimension.

As is obvious from the sonar image, a significant portion of the stern has sustained heavy damage. Though from the dive, and later reviewing the video, there is no indication this damage was caused by fire or even collision. Instead it appears the wreck sank stern first and broke apart on impact with the bottom of the lake.

The round nosed pilot house, the stepped cabin roof and the first room behind the pilot house are the remaining undamaged portions of the Success. The space behind the pilot house still contains a bunk – the room likely serving as sleeping quarters for the Pilot and/or crew.

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SNV-2 Valiant

I made a dive on a Vultee SNV-2 Valiant aircraft on Sunday. This is one of Lake Washington’s little known aircraft wrecks. The Valiant was a basic trainer during WWII. There were some 11,000 produced between September 1939 and August 1944 to meet the training needs of the Army/Navy.

Valiant Vital Stats:
Manufacturer: Vultee
Designation: SNV-2 Valiant
Aircraft Type: Trainer
Wing Span: 42ft, 2in
Height:12ft, 5in
Length: 28ft, 9in
Top Speed: 166mph
Range: 516 miles
Empty Weight: 4360 pounds
Crew: Student pilot and instructor
Service Ceiling: 16,500ft
Engine(s): one 450 hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 Junior Wasp radial engine

The story on this particular wreck was that the pilot came in high on an emergency landing due to engine trouble. He overshot the runway then attempted to come around again when the engine cut out entirely. This forced a water landing which ultimately left the Valiant where it remains today (60+ years later): 130ft below the surface of Lake Washington.

The wreck lies horizontally on the bottom and it is extremely fragile. As supplies of strategic metals became prioritized during WWII, later models of the SNV incorporated wooden structural elements, including plywood panel skins. This aircraft was one of those later models and the underwater environment has not been kind. It’s BF Goodwrench tires jut upwards from the fuselage, the bent propeller and engine sit nicely out in front, and the gem of the wreck, the data case, is resting just inside the torn and jagged fuselage, still clearly marked, ‘DATA CASE.’ On the wings the White Navy star is visible as well as the, ‘US NAVY’ lettering.

Included with this post are some underwater photos and a sidescan sonar image.



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After a long break between wreck dives I was back in the water again on Saturday with friends.  

This time we were out in Lake Washington and diving the ‘Falcon’ – an early 1900’s passenger steamer that sunk in Lake Washington under unknown circumstances.  The Falcon was built in Bellingham in 1908 and used by the Island Transportation Company for service between Bellingham and Anacortes. The Falcon was sold to the Kitsap County Transportation Company in 1913 and later retired from KCTC’s service in 1919.  

How the Falcon made it to Lake Washington is unknown.  It is likely that after 1919 it was transferred to Lake Washington as part of Captain John Anderson’s passenger ferry fleet.  Around 1920 Captain Anderson (of Anderson’s Shipyard) was named superintendent of ferries by the county – he had been operating a number of passenger steamers on the lake for nearly 20 years (and would continue to do so as the I-90 Bridge was not completed until 1940).

The Falcon now sits upright on the bottom of the lake in 200 feet of water, north of Hwy 520’s floating bridge.  It is in fairly good shape, though the wheel house is missing from the structure.  This may indicate the Falcon was stripped then scuttled intentionally.  The square windows of the Falcon are still framed in nicely and the bow & stern are both intact. 

I’ve included a few photos with this entry: the first couple are the Falcon above water, the third is a 3D rendering of the Falcon today (forward cabin & pilot house missing) and the fourth is a sidescan sonar image of the wreck sitting on the bottom of the lake.  Sidescan imagery courtesy of Innerspace Exploration. 

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Multi-Beam Imaging of Elliot Bay

After the February 2001 earthquake in Seattle, NOAA and the USGS teamed up in a project to map the underwater geology of the Duwamish River delta (Elliot Bay, Seattle), the Puyallup River Delta (Commencement Bay, Tacoma) and the Nisqually River delta.  The multi-beam images they created are really interesting. 

The one I will attach with this entry is of Elliot Bay, but I modified the file a bit to highlight points of interest:

The dotted line across the image is the major fault line that runs under the bay and then up through downtown Seattle.  The sharp ridges you see on the west side of the dotted line are very pronounced faults – I have seen them with my own eyes on prior dives in this area.  But until this image was created I had never known where they connected on the other side of the bay.  Turns out they line up pretty well with Pike and Pine streets in downtown Seattle.  When the ‘big one’ happens, it is going to be devastating. 

Two of the circles on the north end of the image highlight some pretty big shipwrecks, both of which are in more than 300 feet of water.  Date of sinking, names of the ships, etc all unknown.  I’ve also circled a crater which looks very large.  It seems it was likely caused by a significant amount of ordinance – maybe during WWII.  I also circled in the NW corder of the bay what appears to be an unexplored wreck in shallow water.

The circles on the south end of the image are of three wrecks I have written about on this website, the MT6, the AJ Fuller & the Astorian.

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The Fresno

Weekend following the Al-Ind-Dusk-A-Sea dive we were back in Lake Washington for a dive on the whaling ship Fresno. 

The black/white photo included below is of the Fresno on fire in Meydenbauer Bay on April 4th, 1923.  At the time, three other whaling boats were pulled safely away from the dock and away from the burning ship after the ferry boat Leschi was unable to pull the Fresno free.  Eventually a tug succeeded in towing her out to the middle of the lake but the ship was allowed to burn as no equipment was available to extinguish the flames.  The photo is from the Collections of the Eastside Heritage Center. 

Once the flames burned themselves out the Fresno was deemed a total loss.   They filled the ship with rock and sunk her in Meydenbauer Bay where she now sits on the bottom, 180 feet below the surface.  Also included below is a sidescan sonar image of what the Fresno looks like today.  The hull of the vessel is broken apart right along the spine and rests into two distinct pieces connected at the stern.  I suspect she sunk to the bottom stern first then broke apart on impact – and that is why we see separation between the hull structures.  The rudder of the ship appears as a long thin shadow in the side scan image.  Also visible in this image are the remains of the rigging (about half way down the hull on the starboard side – the section in the top half of the photo). 

For our dive on the Fresno we dove as one team of three and one team of two.  Visibility in the shallow depths was great, which meant the very limited visibility we encountered on the bottom was expected.  We had to tie a reel into our anchor line and run cave line while touring the ship.  Running the cave line was the only way to ensure we could get back to that anchor line, our “up” line, in the limited visibility. 

We planned for a long bottom time, so we carried stage gas in an 80 cu ft tank in addition to the double 104 cu ft tanks on our back and the two 40cu ft deco bottles of 50% and 100% oxygen.  We used 18/45 (oxygen/helium %) for our stage and back gas.   

After a cold 30 minutes on the bottom we headed for home which meant another 60 minutes in decompression back to the surface.

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Navy Landing Craft

Got a chance to get out on the lake this past weekend with Innerspace and we picked up a scan of what we believe is a Navy landing craft.    

36ft long, 11ft wide. Depth on this one is only about 90ft.

The wave in the side scan towards the front of the boat is caused by surface waves. It was kind of choppy out there with a significant amount of boat traffic.

The other attached images are historical photos for context.

Should be fun to get out on this one; see if we can get numbers and research its history.

Probably dive it this Saturday.

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