Day Four Log
Day 4, August 5, 1998
Author: Brent Rudmann
Activities: Visibility at 15-20ft today, surge was very strong, which has been attributed to typhoon off of Baja California.
Teams started at stern and worked up to forward. Note: Forward is now the actual bow, past the wash rock. The former area called forward was the engine area, but further discovery has placed the engine area amidships.
Project was visited today by Ranger Bill Walton, Chuck Honek. All three made professional note of the biological species at the site, as well as identifying and analyzing objects in situ (coat-hook). Shard and brick found yesterday were cleaned for easier identification. A list of questions to bring to the S.F. Maritime Museum is being drafted.
The coat hook in the bow area was brought to the surface. 2 bollards, hawser hole, and ship's cut water noted. Bow tip mostly pushing down into the sand, where it fell off the washrock around 1908. The forward hatch that was originally covered with canvas and the vehicle being brought to Vancouver was found. Apparently it was used to load the mail, all of which was destroyed in 1908.
It is even more probable that the possible generator found off the engine area is indeed a generator. When the ship was purchased by The Pacific Steamship Co., the vessel was probably outfitted with electric lights. This was confirmed when the salvage log was read, with note to the engineer's reference: Turned engine off after crash, but left all lights on.'
Today a harbor seal was spotted, and "Ranger Woody" treated licensed team members to an abalone hunt in the afternoon. Ivan brought up his with supreme gusto. The ranger also treated the team with fresh elk, lamb, and wild pig.
Bill Walton will place a marking buoy over site today. Much discussion was had this evening as to the biological diversity of area (only slightly limited by recent El Niño).
Among species noted so far by team members:
Many varieties of star fish, sea trout, kelp. Trout will hide in territorial niches, including areas of shipwrecks. Blue/black rockfish, and jelly fish. The rock fish will eat the jellyfish, and will hang out in the upper water. Shore birds will circle the shore and eat the rockfish.
Abalone are very prosperous in the area, the ones the team members noted were on average 25 years old.
Harbor seals and a few harbor porpoises occasionally show in this area. Spear fishing and abalone diving is a lucrative hobby and trade here.
On the site live large clusters of Strawberry anenome, especially on the boilers. Many juvenile rockfish seem to use the inside of the boilers as a breeding habitat. Shipwreck is definitely an ideal place for sea life breeding.
Today, large schools of fish passed through the area.
Rangers of the area would like to sea the site protected, perhaps brought within the present marine boundary. Future impact of over hunting and motor vehicles is a concern, if site is to maintain its integrity. According to rangers, upwards of 25 boats anchor on Pomona site for salmon fishing.
Should Pomona be marked as a site, it is a problem that fishers will clean the ship off, as it is in easy free diving range. Only way to make it a safe area for marine and historical minds is to make it a preserve and a historic mark.
Concept of site as a historic park is an accepted one by local park. Marking buoys would be dropped on site, and visiting divers would be given laminated maps to help them enjoy the site and learn the history of the ship.
As I descended down the anchor line, dozens of thoughts raced through my head: were my buddies behind me, would we accomplish our assignment, how bad would the surge be, and how many home runs had McGuire hit since I've been gone? The visibility had improved since we started four days ago, twenty-feet at best. Closer to the ocean bottom the kelp reared its ugly head. Stringy vines of mustard yellow shoe-laces weaved intricate patterns through the visible light. The first identifiable feature, a large boiler, came into view. It's as big as a Volkswagen Bug and as corroded as one would expect a boiler to be after sitting under thirty-feet of salt water for ninety years. The drive shaft and engine components sit directly adjacent to the boiler and provide a linear impression of the S.S. Pomona's final resting place. Three days ago the wreck site had no form I could imagine in my head. Today, after three days of mapping and recording individual features and sections of debris, the Pomona is now carving an impressionable picture in my mind.
My experience recording ship wrecks is minimal compared to that of my colleagues on this trip. Mistakes have triggered a barrage of friendly and constructive criticisms from a group that I would not replace if asked. Time is essential as we have seven days of diving to record a ship that is over 220-feet long and previously dynamited, which, needless to say, makes our job that much harder. The picturesque scene of wrecked ships sitting upright on the ocean floor, in pristine condition, except for a large hole where a strategically placed charge has gone off, is at the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to the Pomona. She rests at a 380 and contains a hull which has blossomed much like an opened flower. The lower portions of the hull are easily associated with the drive shaft. Beyond that, debris stretches past the discernable hull edges and scatters in a random fashion.
Our assignment for today consisted of mapping in the I-beams and hull features on the port side of boiler one. The surge was the worst I have experienced since we began four days ago. Releasing the excess air in my BCD sank me to the bottom where I attempted to escape the rushing flow of water. Unfortunately, this tactic failed as myself and buddies were scooped up and involuntarily repositioned thirty feet down the wreck's drive shaft.
Regardless of the environmental constraints, we accomplished what we set out to do. I feel that each new dive will expose different perspectives of the wreck, giving me a better understanding of the Pomona's remains.
Sonoma State University
Cultural Resources Management Program