The "City of Athens" is one of those wrecks I've been wanting to dive for some time. The fact that it is in South Jersey, and 20 miles off-shore, makes it a bit tough, especially since there are few (if any) charters from Cape May. I got lucky recently when a group of divers "met" on a New Jersey dive website, and a diver with a boat in Cape May offered up to host us.
A little history on this wreck. The "City of Athens" was a passenger liner built in 1911, and was 330 feet long. She was a steaming along on May 1st, 1918, when she was rammed by the French warship "La Glorie". This collision resulted in 65 deaths. Today, she sits in about 100-105' of water, 20 miles east of Hereford Inlet.
The weather report called for rain, but we decided to forge ahead anyway. We got lucky and found the day begin with clouds, and not a drop of rain. The ocean was calm, with 1-2 foot waves along with rolling swells that were pretty far apart (for now). We arrived on-site and the hook was quickly set for dive one by Sean and Kevin. Jeremiah and Tony followed on their rEvo rebreathers. Anthony and I stayed on the boat until Sean and Kevin came back up. Once they surfaced, Anthony and I splashed and made our way down the line. The vizability was fairly mucky on the way down, but did open up to about 10 feet at depth (100'). There was not much to see on our first dive, since the anchor was off the wreck and there was only one piece of wreckage to see. We poked around, passing Jeremiah and Tony, and had a pretty uneventful dive. I would have to say that this dive was on the disappointing side, but not to worry, since dive two would make up for that.
We chose to move the anchor for dive two. Since it was calm with little or no surface current, Sean and Kevin went down for dive #2 and moved the anchor to the real wreck. This area is where the HUGE engine is along with four massive boilers. They came up to give us a report of 50 feet of viz, and the wreck was visible from the 70' mark on the anchor line. Anthony and I splashed and began the descent. Sure enough, at about 70', I could clearly see the engine and four boilers. Jeremiah and Tony were also seen swimming around these parts, as they were catching (many) lobster.
As I approached the top of the engine, at about 80', I saw a monster Blackfish (Tog). I loaded my JBL 38 special speargun and began hunting him. As I was, I saw an Atlantic Spade swimming at the top of the wreck. I picked him off with a well placed shot and put him in my bag. I've never had one, but it sure looked delicious. I tried finding that tog, but he didn't get that big by being dumb. There were some nice sized black seabass all around the wreck, but they were out of season by a few days, so I had to pass on them. On the bottom were some doormat sized flatties (fluke/flounder), but I left them alone while I was hunting for bugs. After about 40 minutes, my NDL was down to 4 minutes and I called it a day. I got Anthony's attention, and he also was close to his NDL limit. We both ascended, ending what would be one of the better dives of the season.
When it was all said and done, we ended up with fifteen lobster, all between two and five pounds, a black fish, and the Atlantic spade fish (which I sauteed the next day for lunch with a lemon butter caper sauce).
On the way in, while resting in the v-berth, I was awakened by a small bird landing on my leg. We had a stow-away! A green (or yellow) finch made the trip with us. It was friendly to the point that Jeremiah caught it and it fell asleep on his chest. Later, I would pick it up from the floor and it fell asleep in my hands as I was gently holding it. I held onto it until we arrived back in port, where I was able to safely place it on solid ground.
Here is the Youtube video from this dive.