U.S.S. Oriskany, McCain’s old stomping ground, now a diving destination in Florida

Erik Olsen, former Gadling blogger extraordinaire (he topped 4,000 posts) has a recent article in the New York Times about the U.S.S. Oriskany, a battleship that was turned into an artificial reef off the coast of Florida near Pensacola.

This “great carrier reef,” Olsen reports, is one of the best places to dive in the United States and has put Pensacola in the money. Dive shops have done a booming business and the ship has generated a considerable sum for the county besides.

Along with divers, military buffs and those who served on the ship back when have come to see it.

John McCain, though, has yet to make an appearance. McCain’s plane took off from the ship’s deck almost 31 years ago on his last mission before he was shot down during the Vietnam conflict and found himself in the “Hanoi Hilton” aka, Hoa Lo Prison, most definitely not enjoying the city’s charm like I have.

As Olsen points out, there are some environmental concerns regarding sinking ships, however the Environmental Protection Agency helped to ensure the ship was cleaned up enough to be turned into an ocean life haven. Studies are being done to see what adverse environmental footprints are being made, if any. The fear is that PCBs are being released.

Regardless of the possible downside, barnacles, sea urchins and 38 fish species now call the Mighty O–the ship’s nickname, home. Also, it can’t be denied that sunken ships make great diving spots for folks who know what they are doing. Two people did die while diving at the Oriskany. One person died after getting the bends from diving down too far and coming up too fast, and the other one had a heart attack. The guy with the heart attack would have died regardless of what he was doing–even knitting.

Diving at the ship sounds fascinating–and I have a fear of drowning. Reading Olsen’s description gave me the inkling that learning to scuba dive needs to be bumped up on my things-to-learn list. Actually, I’m not sure scuba diving has been on my things-to-learn-list. I’ve penciled it in.

For a slide show of the ship, click here. Also, check out Olsen’s article. The guy can write. He can also scuba dive. This video was taken during his dive of the Mighty O. Plus, he can take pictures. The photo, as you might notice, is by him. Jeez, what can’t he do?