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The Bad Bent Diver Has Been Found

By: Roy Alen Miller

Date Posted: 2001-03-30

I’ve located him, I’ve found him, I, am the evil one. In the most exhilarating experience of my life, I was diving into history on a sunken WWII warship. A ship fought against overwhelming odds, fought to her death. The wreck of this vessel, a virgin wreck virtually untouched since her demise on 6 April 1945, was found. The ship has to have been the destroyer escort vessel, the USS Emmons. Yet, the Fathoms dive team could find no tangible evidence that this ship was indeed, the Emmons. There is, and was, no physical proof. There was no ship’s bell, no ship’s data plate. The Fathoms dive team was unable to distinguish any painted hull markings. I felt that I had to find confirming evidence. In my exuberance, in my desire, in my need to accomplish this task, I believed that I had to locate physical proof!

As many now know, my extreme desire and ego lead to a hyperbaric chamber visitation. Yes, I truly got mentally carried away. The ship’s bridge, that I had hoped would contain the desired evidence, was gone. The bridge was ripped off the ship, during a Kamikaze Aircraft assault. I asked myself: “Could the ship’s bell be lying in the debris field adjacent to the wreck’s starboard side?” The wreck’s starboard side was now embedded in the oceans sands at 143 FSW. I looked, I groped, and I felt my way through the sunken warship’s debris field of artifacts, avoiding exposed ordnance, vainly looking for some identifiable marked item that could only have come from the USS Emmons.

An unbelievable 40 minutes of dive time had disappeared in my underwater search. I proceeded to the anchor line and quickly examined a brass porthole located earlier. The porthole hatch had been knocked loose, perhaps during one of five direct Kamikaze aircraft hits that the USS Emmons sustained. Two pins only, held the porthole in place. I felt that this item might be substantial enough to send to Edwin Hoffman, former ship’s Quarter Master. Edwin Hoffman is currently in charge of the USS Emmons Survivors Association. Ed’s assistance in identifying the destroyer’s name and in pinpointing the last known location was essential to Rich Ruth’s 8-month long odyssey in finally determining the grave of this Naval fighting ship.

As the second, and last dive of the day commenced, I knew that my bottom time would be extremely limited. This fact was largely due to my initial prolonged deep dive. The planned extraction was to take only a few minutes. The task proved far more difficult then expected. After 20 minutes of work at 140 FSW, the porthole, attached to a lift bag and line, was on its way to the surface. No other artifacts have been removed during any subsequent wreck visits. No further removal of souvenirs has been planed during any future dives of the wreck. No helmets were removed from the Emmons wreck site by any members of the Fathoms dive team. Fathoms’ Divers are in agreement with you that this site is an underwater tomb, and as such, will be treated accordingly by all personnel associated with Fathoms Diving.

However, the GPS coordinates for the ship’s location have now been communicated all over the island. Could this have been made possible when Torii Scuba Locker upper staff determined the site location by sending an individual on a wave runner jet ski, and possessing a hand-held GPS unit, out to the Sea Fox dive boat moored on the USS Emmons on the morning of 21 March? Do visit the Torii Scuba Locker and view WWII souvenirs displayed there. Surely, these artifacts must have simply washed up on the beach. The rapidly spread half-truths, lies, and fabrications that sweep across this tiny island truly amaze me. I encourage all interested parties to get all of the facts. Or at least both sides of the story before making judgment.

In the ten plus years that I’ve known Rich Ruth, I have never known him to be at any dive site without having, in his possession, a fully charged oxygen unit, and a properly maintained first-aid kit. There was an oxygen kit on board the dive boat during every Emmons wreck visit. For my part, I totally admit, “I screwed up”. I’m eternally gratefully to the 18th Physiological Training Flight Unit (PTFU). Their support, dedication, and understanding testify as to their status as total professionals, in every aspect. The PTFU never condemned or chastised me for my error in judgment. I had already done a good bit of self-condemnation during my drive to the Emergency Room. The PTFU was horrified to discover that I had earned Decompression Sickness (DCS), while diving this newly found warship. The unit expressed justifiable concerns in regard to possible increases in the numbers of DCS visitors, possibly from over zealous divers exploring the USS Emmons wreck.

Three dives were not conducted on 21 March. Roy Miller did not “pop” to the surface, totally out of air. The dive team positioned bottles on lines at properly staged stops, and will continue to do so, during any future dives on this wreck. I totally understand, from the PTFU official report, that the unit has already experienced as a busy year with six DCS incidents requiring hyperbaric treatment. I have a bad right knee having experienced three previous surgeries. I was medically advised six years ago, that I am predisposed to pain in this knee, should I experience DCS. Extensive pain in this knee, on my return drive, was my first realization that I had blown it. Yes, after 16 successful years of safe diving, I was bent. Through massive embarrassment, I cell-phoned Capt. Allen, the OIC of the PTFU and told him that I was inbound. I completely wiped out their Friday night and Saturday morning schedules. I took two chamber rides to completely rid myself of all the excess nitrogen. I was good and bent, (NR 2 DCS joint pain usually within the larger joints, dull to worsening pain, with tissue damage possible). I did drive myself to the emergency room at the Lester Hospital. Rumors of incontinence and unconsciousness are total fabrications. The first seven hours that I spent in the hyperbaric chamber are rank as being some of the most miserable hours of my life. For anyone experiencing claustrophobia, this encapsulating experience far exceeds just being uncomfortable. I feel that unadulterated screaming terror better describes the feeling generated in anyone confined within the hyperbaric chamber.

My true friends have stood with me. Some have smacked me up side the head, called me a “big dummy”, but generally they were glad to see that I was virtually unscathed physically by this experience. It will probably take me years to recover lost self-esteem. My ego has dropped lower than the stock market. There is nothing short of this kind of experience to slam a guy back on to the planet surface.

Yes, diving USS Emmons wreck site can be considered dangerous. So is crossing Hwy 58, even when the light is green. The best vantage point of this magnificent warship is from 110 to 120 FSW. There is no reason to reconnoiter in the ships debris field. I recommend that all interested divers receive the necessary training and to live the adventure! Dive the USS Emmons safely; recall my misjudgment. Avoid letting the overwhelming silent beauty of the warship cloud thought processes. Watch bottom time! DCS is not an experience that I can recommend.

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