World-renowned wreck diver John Chatterton spoke to members of the University of Miami’s Scuba Club about some of his most infamous dives, as well as his contributions to Robert Kurson’s New York Times bestseller “Shadow Divers,” which chronicled Chatterton’s discovery of a sunken WWII German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey.
One of Chatterton’s famous dives was his 400-foot descent to the wreckage of the HMHS Britannic, a sunken sister ship of the Titanic, close to the island of Kea in Greece. He embarked on the journey with a group of British technical divers. He was the only one to dive to the wreck using a rebreather, a device that avoids producing bubbles, allowing Chatterton to enter the wreck without disturbing the delicate environment inside.
In 2005, Chatterton and his partners collectively raised $350,000 to fund their 12,500-foot descent to the Titanic shipwreck. Using Mir submersibles, self-propelled underwater vehicles aboard a Russian research ship, Chatterton recounted the two-and-a-half-hour descent into complete darkness before settling at the bottom of the ocean to begin his work.
“We actually found the bottom of where Titanic broke apart,” Chatterton said.
Chatterton and his team documented more than 100 feet of the ship’s hull, which allowed scientists to better understand how the vessel sank following its collision with an iceberg.
The Scuba Club participates in similar dives as well, with about half of its advanced open water dives involving some form of wreck diving. Co-president and recreational diver Daniel Tirado has been on quite a few South Florida wreck dives.
“Divers have this really passionate need to go diving and experience the beauty of scuba diving in general,” Tirado said. “I totally connected with that, it’s exactly how I feel.”
Chatterton’s experiences resonated with members of the Scuba Club and educated them about potential experiences they could have in the future. Although they may be just beginning their exposure to diving, the students received plenty of advice to improve and refine their skills.
Co-president Patrick Lally said he thinks Chatterton’s discussion with the students is a great way to get them excited about scuba diving.
“I hope students get some kind of further interest in continuing their dive education, maybe getting another certification, or just trying to continue their underwater experience in a more in-depth way,” Lally said.
UM Scuba Club meets at 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday in Cox Science Building Rm. 126.