On Sunday, our plan was to dive the wreck of the F/V North Star, which is a small wooden eastern rig fishing vessel that sank in 2003 after capsizing. The wreck has become a disperse debris field, but over the area of wreckage, a tremendous amount of the class Stellwagen marine life came to call this wreck home. We’ve been diving the wreck since 2012, shortly after it’s discovery by the NOAA staff. In that time, we placed a subsea mooring system at the site that facilitated access. Over time, we have also monitored the site to see how it was changing over time. For sure, the typical Stellwagen pattern of dynamic/live sand played out with the wreck becoming more sanded in at times or less at others. However, beginning last year, we noticed more fishing gear impacts from most likely scallop dredging. The stern section was dragged some distance and some of the other sections of wreckage seemed thinner. However, it was more or less the same site.
In July of this year we received a report that a sanctuary survey showed significant impact to the site. Large scallop vessels from outside this area have been concentrating on Stellwagen Bank given changes to management of other areas. The result is that these vessels have basically been hammering on the bank and the North Star suffered as a result. The side scan shows that the site has become more disperse and spotty, certainly the result of multiple gear contacts. Anyway, with a trip on the books for this weekend, we decided to investigate. We loaded up Sunday morning and headed out. It was a perfect summer day, unlike the day before that felt more fall like at times, and we had good conditions for diving.
When we arrived on the North Star, we had trouble locating wreckage on the bottom and could not locate the mooring ball which rises up 10′ from the sea floor. We dropped the shot line on the location of the mooring on the GPS and sent 1 team in to investigate and decide whether or not we should dive the site. Dave and Tony splashed on the shot line and unfortunately, they were back within about 15 min. Not only was there no mooring system at all, but the wreck was more or less gone, with only a few crumpled pieces of wreckage observed. Certainly, there is nothing to dive for all intents and purposes. It was very disappointing to see a dive site the dive community enjoyed destroyed without any care by commercial fisherman. Some have said that if the position was available, they could avoid it. But the fact is, the position to this wreck is available and posted on the NOAA website. The issue is they don’t care because no regulations in the sanctuary require them to care.
Anyway, we cruised the short distance over to the Heroic, which is less than 1 mile away (at one point I had aspirations to scooter from the Heroic to the North Star). We dropped Dave and Tony back in and they tied into the mooring on the Heroic. Everyone got to diving. When they returned, they reported the wreck was in good shape for the most part, but the visibility was very murky/cloudy on the bottom, and there was a decent current. Nevertheless, Scott x 2 and I suited up for our dive. There was an annoying current on the way down, and a mild one on the bottom. Sometimes the slack windows just aren’t that slack. Visibility was murky, but we swam a few laps around the wreck, took a few photos, and Scott Z bagged up some scallops since there were tons around. We saw a few dogfish, a wolffish and unbeknownst to us, a baby seal was swimming around the boat. Fortunately we did not see Cisco, the great white shark hanging out in the area.
At the end of our dive, we pulled the line and headed up. A snafu with the shot line while it was being retrieved required Scott and I to bounce back down and unfoul it, so I got to dive the Heroic twice! Once that was sorted, we wrapped it up and enjoyed a nice ride back in great summer conditions. It is a shame about the North Star, it was a fun dive.