Friday, June 03, 2005


It's official: New deep wreck diving world record is 193 meters (633 feet)


May 29, 2005

DD-695 USS Cooper.

ORMOC, Philippines -- A nine-man technical diver team has set a new deep wreck scuba diving world record of 193 meters (633 feet).

Lead diver Rob Lalumiere reached the deck of the USS Cooper this morning at 8:22am, seven minutes after starting his descent, and placed a memorial plaque on the shipwreck to honor the 191 officers and crew who went down with the ship when it was torpedoed by the Japanese during the Battle of Ormoc Bay on December 3, 1944.

Over five hours later, as Lalumiere was completing his last required decompression stop at a depth of three meters, surviving USS Cooper crew 81-year-old Henry "Hank" Wagener asked to be taken from the surface support vessel to the top of the descent line which was connected to the ship he served aboard 60 years ago.

There Wagener waited for Lalumiere to surface as he held the descent line to "touch the souls" of his fallen comrades.

At 1:45pm, exactly five and a half hours after the dive started, Lalumiere resurfaced and shared an emotional embrace with Hank Wagener followed by high-fives and handshakes from the many tired but elated team members who worked for many months planning and preparing for the dive.

World record dive
Lalumiere, the eight other members of the technical diving team and the surface support crew downplayed the record.

"While world records attract a lot of attention, that's not what this dive was about...we just wanted to pay our respects to the brave men who came before us and made the ultimate sacrifice at Ormoc Bay in 1944," said surface support team manager Roscoe Thompson of Action Divers in Puerto Galera.

"On the technical side, deep dives are always extremely demanding and this one more so because it was deeper than any previous wreck dive on open circuit scuba," Thompson added. "But again, the true significance of the depth of the dive is not the's the fact that we are gradually expanding the envelope so that research and wreck divers throughout the world scuba diving community can safely explore sites that have always been considered too deep even for the most proficient technical divers."

Search for the missing destroyer
USS CooperFor decades, the exact location of the USS Cooper remained a mystery. Official documents seemed to indicate the destroyer was in relatively shallow water but despite many dives in the area, the wreck had never been found.

Enter deep wreck technical diver and World War Two history buff Rob Lalumiere. Determined to find the missing destroyer, Lalumiere teamed up with Ron Babuka, the son of William Babuka, a crew aboard the USS Sumner during the Battle of Ormoc Bay.

Babuka plotted the track the three destroyers took as they entered Ormoc Bay and engaged the enemy in battle.

Using Babuka's work, official logs, and action reports from the surviving USS Sumner and Moale, Lalumiere targeted probably locations, mapped them from the surface with a depth sounder and then started a series of deep dives.

In early 2004, nearly 60 years after the USS Cooper sank, Lalumiere found the wreck at a depth of 220 meters (720 feet) and immediately started planning the world-record dive that would honor the 191 officers and crew who went down with the ship.

Related story: Deep, dark, cold: World record dive to the USS Coooper


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