History Channel Britannic Expedition

I made joined two different expeditions to the wreck of the HMS Britannic. In both expeditions the call went out some of the top technical divers and underwater imaging experts in the world, and I was honored to work and dive alongside such talented people.

In 2006 John Chatterton and I assembled a team for the History Channel and this would be my first time to Britannic. John had been there once before in 1998 and was coincidently the first diver to explore the wreck on a closed circuit re-breather (CCR).

Britannic Courtesy of Ken Marschall

Britannic Courtesy of Ken Marschall

2006 History Channel Britannic Expedition

A dive trip to Britannic is by every definition of the word, an “expedition”. For those who have not taken part in such an event, it is by no means assemble your gear and “go diving”.  Time, preparation, proper tools/equipment and team work is what is essential for success and a safe return.  The 2006 History Channel expedition brought together fifteen world class ship wreck divers, with one common goal………to explore and document Britannic.  The dive team consisted of myself and John Chatterton as expedition leaders, Martin Parker, Mike Etheridge. Leigh Bishop, Carl Spencer and Mark Bullen (UK), Edwardo Pavia, (Italy), Mike Fowler, (Canada), Evan Kovacs, Frankie Pellegrino, Mike Pizzio, Mike Barnette, and  two shallow support divers Heeth Grantham and Joe Porter all from the USA.

With loss of her more famous sister Titanic, the launching of Britannic was delayed until finally on February 26, 1914, the White Star Line announced the newest Olympic Class liner would soon begin service between South Hampton and New York the following spring.  The outbreak of the Great War (WWI) intervened, and the Britannic’s planned luxurious interior was never completed, but instead turned into military hospital complete with operating rooms, and large Red Crosses were painted on her sides to protect her from belligerents. She served dutifully in this capacity, ferrying wounded soldiers back and forth until on November 21, 1916, while steaming into the Kea Channel, Britannic was rocked by an explosion.  Mercifully she had already deposited her cargo of sick and wounded earlier that day otherwise the death toll of 30 would have been even greater. Britannic now lies at a depth of 400 ft. in clear Aegean water and is considered by many to be the new Mt Everest for technical wreck divers around the world.

 It took 3 days to convert this greek fishing boat into a technical dive platform and included making platforms to be able to climb over the railing, dressing benchs and a ladder.

It took 3 days to convert this greek fishing boat into a technical dive platform and included making platforms to be able to climb over the railing, dressing benchs and a ladder.

Before the History Channel team could get wet, Frankie Pellegrino and Mark Bullen used their appreciable carpentry skills to turn the Greek fishing boat “APOLLAN” into a technical dive platform, constructing benches, platforms and ladders. Since there is no dive shop to be found on the island of Kea, stage bottles and compressors had to be brought over by the UK and European contingent.  Leigh Bishop and Carl Spencer not only drove across Europe in a truck packed with equipment and spares, but then helped assemble a technical dive center in a “lean to” shack on the island, no easy task under the best of circumstance. The majority of diving cylinders for both the rebreathers and emergency bail out were driven to Greece from Italy by Eduardo Pavio, when it was discovered that the aluminum cylinders we had rented from the Greek mainland dive operator were not fit to be used. Martin Parker of Ambient Pressure Diving and Mike Fowler of Silent Diving Systems were instrumental in providing loaner Inspiration and Evolutions rebreathers to the expedition leaders and film crew, in addition to providing an enormous supply of sofnalime (CO2 absorbant) for the entire dive team.