Épave Amoco Cadiz
© Nicolas Job / Heos Marine

Memories of A Dive on The Amoco Cadiz Wreck

  Between Two Journeys

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

In 2003, I plunged into theAmoco Cadiz, in Brittany. At the time Facebook and Twitter did not exist ... My report was published only on paper, on the last page of the newspaper Ouest-France.

Bitter birthday

This 16th of March 2018 is the 40th anniversary of the disastrous sinking of theAmoco Cadiz, an oil tanker that caused a huge oil spill on the Brittany coast in 1978.

Le 16 mars 1978, le naufrage du supertanker libérien Amoco Cadiz a causé en Bretagne ce qu'on a appelé "la marée noire" du siècle. (Carte : Ouest-France)
On March 16, 1978, the sinking of the Liberian supertanker Amoco Cadiz caused in Brittany what was called "the oil spill of the century". (Map: West-France)

This sad anniversary made me want to find this article I wrote in Ouest-France, fifteen years ago (already & #160 ;!), recounting my discovery, from a depth of 30 meters, of the wreck of the supertanker. A wreck of sinister memory, which has since become a mythical dive site. So I rummaged through the newspaper's archives and got my hands on my 2003 text, which I had accompanied by a short interview with the cameraman and underwater photographer Yves Gladu.

At the time, I was not doing underwater photography yet. I use here for the blog, with his permission, an image of Nicolas Job of Heos Marine, whose the evening edition digitalOuest-France published a series of photos that I invite you to discover here:
→ The wreck of theAmoco Cadiz in 10 fascinating images

For the junkies of scrap, Nicolas Job is also the author of a book on the wrecks of Brittany, from Brest to Saint-Malo:

Livre : 65 épaves en Bretagne

My report from fifteen years ago (when I was young and courageous and that I was still diving in cold Breton waters & #x1f604;) had been published on August 19, 2003. Time passed and Aber- Benoît, the club with which I dived no longer exists, but today there are other local clubs in activity (such as Aber-Wrach Diving, Koréjou Diving, Madeo Diving) who organize regular trips to the wreck.

This very special dive impressed me a lot. I republish below this story from the newspaper archives Ouest-France.

Fascinating diving on the wreck
of the'Amoco Cadiz

Oil tanker fanning itself March 16, 1978, off Portsall, in Finistère, causing the oil spill of the century, there remains only an immense dislocated carcass, lying by 30 meters deep. Local diving clubs, such as that of Aber-Benoît, in Saint-Pabu, organize supervised outings on this legendary wreck. Our reporter lived the experience.

Épave Amoco Cadiz
Diving on the wreck of theAmoco Cadiz. (Photo: Nicolas Job / Heos Marine)

9 a.m. Preparations

Quai du Stellach, Saint-Pabu (Finistere-North). In front of the premises of the Aber-Benoît dive club, about fifteen people in black suits are working around the air bottles, the stabilizing vests and the regulators. Christophe Lecoq and François Leroy, the leaders of the club, sign us ...

9:30 am Briefing

Explore a wreck is already a trivial adventure, even for scuba diving enthusiasts. And theAmoco Cadiz is really a wreck apart. "The tanker was 330 meters long: it's the biggest wreck in the world, says Christophe drawing on the board a diagram of the supertanker engulfed. We will go down on the stern. That's all that's left of the ship. The rest has been blasted and the debris is scattered on the bottom, several hundred meters. "

"The wreck lies on a sandbar 30-32 meters deep. The highest part is 7-8 meters from the surface, he said pointing to the top of the stern, stuck in the sand. There is already a lot to see here, so avoid getting away on the exploded part of the wreck. We quickly get lost among laminaria. " It recalls the main difficulty of this dive: swell and currents, very strong at this place.

10 a.m. We embark

Two big Zodiacs are waiting for us. The wreck, there are those "& #160; who have already done it & #160; " and the others ... Marc, a club instructor, remembers his "& #160; first time & #160; " on theAmoco  : "& #160; I had a fairly oppressive feeling. I do not know if it is because of the tragic history of this ship, or because I was not very well that day & #8230; Maybe a bit of both. What is certain is that it is really not a dive like the others. The atmosphere is unique, a bit magical. & #160; " No visible anxiety, in any case, among those who have never had it “& #160; done & #160; ”. Dreamy looks, rather, turned towards the horizon.

"& #160; This tanker, says Christophe who holds the helm, it did a lot of harm to the region twenty-five years ago. Today, it has become a mythical wreck, a destination that attracts diving enthusiasts. Finally, there is at least that positive in this story. & #160; " About fifteen minutes after leaving Saint-Pabu, we are on the site.

10:30 am We dive & #160 ;!

Everyone has finished equipping & #160;: fins, lead belt, BCD and bottle, hood, mask, regulator in the mouth. Hey hop & #160 ;! Rear rocker for launching. "& #160; Meet at the mooring, we will descend along the end. & #160; "

You have to palm, hard, there is power. The most impatient are already putting their head in the water, to try to see something. Not easy. The divers sink, one behind the other, holding a hand to the mooring. Underwater, the swell subsides.

10.35 am Arrival on the wreck

A few meters below, in the green fog of the water, emerges a dark, gigantic mass, at the top of which roll laminaria, those long brown algae resembling ribbons. We are on the back deck. The hull forms at this place a vertiginous drop. The bubbles of the first divers, descended below to see the saffron buried in the sand, go up along this wall of rust, dress him with quicksilver pearls. Fairy show.

Annette, the instructor, beckons us to follow her, bridge side & #160;: in front of a huge cylinder, where we can still see coiled cables, corroded by sea water, she makes a crank gesture. A winch & #160 ;! We continue the descent, recognizing along the way a piece of railing, bollards (mooring bitts) & #8230; Strange feeling of being in a fantasy film, of floating above a ghost ship.

Even lower, other less identifiable vestiges, with strange shapes, tortured. There, a hole reveals the fracture of a double steel floor, broken, despite its thickness. Surprisingly, the very white sand, on which other debris clearly stand out & #160 ;: tanks, pipes, bent pieces of scrap metal & #8230;

We go up slow palm blows, devouring each detail with eyes, testing the scrap metal crumbling and leaves rust scales on the fingertips. We stop for a moment in front of a manhole, inside which the bars of a ladder disappear in the darkness, sinking into the bowels of the monster. But Annette points to the surface. It's time to go back up.

11 a.m. Back to the surface

The exclamations fuse. "& #160; Fantastic & #160 ;! & #160; "" & #160; Amazing & #160 ;! & #160; "" & #160; Huge & #160 ;! & #160; "" & #160; And the saffron & #160 ;! Have you seen the saffron & #160 ;? & #160; " And then, once the material is tidy, the first impressions exchanged, everyone falls back into silence. Savoring this dive so beautiful. Cape on Saint-Pabu. The Zodiac file, hitting the sea hard, without regard for the dull and tired divers, whose eyes, however, still shine with happiness.


The advice of an experienced diver

Yves Gladu, cameraman and independent underwater photographer, lives in Brest. He is familiar with the wreck of theAmoco Cadiz, on which he plunged nearly a hundred times, from 1978, the year of the sinking, to today.

Why was the wreckage prohibited for divers for twenty years, until 1998 & #160 ;?
The wreck had been cracked, to allow the evacuation of oil from the bunkers. And one of the grenades sent had not, it seems, exploded. The site was therefore forbidden to amateur divers for safety reasons. And then, there was also a trial going on. Apparently, the grenade exploded with another, or was carried away by the current. The ban has therefore been lifted.

Has the wreck changed much since the sinking & #160 ;?
Very much, because of the currents, very violent. The bow, for example, has been gone for twenty years, and we do not really know where it is. She drifted, no doubt, with the current. The wreck has also turned a little on itself, and we no longer see the propeller, which we saw before. The saffron, it has quickly sank in the sand, which it exceeds only two meters. The place is very exposed to the northwest swell, and I myself was very surprised to see how a building like that could have deteriorated so quickly, just with the force of the sea. first months, the highest parts were destroyed.

What advice would you give to diving enthusiasts who would like to visit theAmoco Cadiz  ?
Already, have at least the level 2 diver certificate. Then always go with one of the local dive clubs. The people who run them know the site very well, as well as the weather and sea conditions required to dive safely.

Collected by CB

And also…

To see (and see again), the docu The children of the Amoco, directed by Olivier Chasle, for the show Littoral on France 3, broadcast on March 11, 2018:

→ Wreck diving: see all my articles

  Between Two Journeys