2002 Ostfriesland Photos II

All images on this page 2002 by Christina Young, unless otherwise annotated.

The WWI German battleship Ostfriesland is one of the most historically significant shipwrecks in the world.  The sinking of this ship provided the spark that dramatically changed the way warfare was waged in the 20th century.

The Ostfriesland was 546 feet long and launched in September of 1909 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.  She was heavily armed with 6 large gun turrets, each with two 12-inch barrels, many smaller 5.9-inch guns in armored encasements protruding from the hull, and torpedo tubes beneath the waterline.  She saw significant action during WWI, and was considered "unsinkable" by high-ranking naval officers in certain quarters.

After the war, she was turned over to the United States in compliance with the Treaty of Versailles.  At the time, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, the Assistant Chief of the Air Service of the United States Army, was fighting for the creation of a separate branch of the armed forces for air power, and even argued that airplanes made the navies of the time obsolete.  To test his hypothesis, June and July of 1921 he conducted bombing runs against several WWI German warships.  The last bombing run was against the Ostfriesland, sending her to the bottom on July 21st with 2000 lb. bombs delivered by Martin MB-2 bombers from Langley Field, Virginia, proving that even the most heavily armored of capital ships were vulnerable to small, fragile biplanes.  She sank approximately 60 miles off the Virginia Capes in 380 feet of water.

An extensive collection of excellent historical photos and information about the Ostfriesland can be found at http://german-navy.tripod.com/sms_bb_helgoland-ost-photos.htm.

More information on the Billy Mitchell tests can be found at the Air Force Museum at http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/history/postwwi/gbm.htm.  

This wreck also played a part in pioneering the use of mixed gas in the early 1990s for deep wreck exploration by recreational scuba divers, being far out of range for the deep air diving that was prevalent at the time (at a depth of 380 fsw, 115 msw).  An excellent account of these early dives can be found in The Lusitania Controversies, Book Two: Dangerous Descents into Shipwrecks and Law, by Gary Gentile ( 1999, Gary Gentile).

The following pictures (all images from video) are from the voyage of the Miss Lindsey out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, to the Ostfriesland on Sunday, June 23, 2002.  (Continued from Page I).  Also see Capt. JT Barker's photos of this trip.

Decaying fixtures hang down from the main deck above.
All sorts of brass things are everywhere.  This is some sort of pipe / valve combination with a hand wheel.  All of those white, spotty things in the picture are chain dogfish egg sacks.  They are everywhere.
These are various fittings from the superstructure.  Update, 10/8/2002 - Allan Jenson from Germany wrote the following to me:  

Monday, July 01, 2002 4:57 PM
Hello Christina

I've just seen your latest photos from the wreck of "Ostfriesland", maybe i can help you identify these brass objects, on the pictures in page II.

I'm very convinced that it's a torpedo tube model "open air", normally they where built-in, but some German WWI warships had them on deck. On the photo, one can see that the typical mouth cover is fallen off, this was to protect the seamen when firing the torpedo. At the "Wrackmuseum" in Cuxhaven, Germany, they have a torpedo tube that look so similar, that I believe that I'm right.

Thanks, Allan!  Feedback like yours is one of the reasons I do my website.

Ditto.  They are all brass.... they just don't  make ships like they used to!
It's time to turn our dive and head back up.
Ascending up the hull.
At the top of the hull, we hit our first VPM deco stop, at 310 feet.
Jackie does his minute.
Dave Widen come zooming by with his scooter on his way down.  We are at 250 or 260 feet at this point, and you can still see the top of the wreck.
Before long, Bill Ripley and Dave start heading up, and actually catch up with us.
Dave (right) hangs out with us around the 200 foot mark.  I actually thought his bubbles were quite pretty, if noisy.  ;-)  Jackie kept checking around for leaks, even though he had none. ;-) ;-)
Bill Ripley (top) owes Capt. JT $500 for putting him on the Ostfriesland, the result of a bet that he would never be ready to do a dive of this magnitude safely. ;-)

Tom Sawicki zooms down.

Followed by Capt. JT, the guy with the biggest light on the boat.  ;-)

I come back on board the Miss Lindsey after my Ostfriesland dive.

2002 by Charles Johnson

Here JT has lunch, while everyone hangs out during the voyage back to Virginia Beach.  We all had a great time and a safe dive.  Special thanks to the support divers who greatly enhanced the safety of this dive:

Deep support, 200': Charlie Johnson

Mid-water support, 100': Brad Beskin

Shallow support: Bob Price, Butch Zemar

I hope you have enjoyed these pictures of our Ostfriesland trip.  We hope to make it back to this awesome wreck soon!

Back to 2002 Ostfriesland Photos I

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