Isla Ballena - Fang Ming - C59 wrecks

underwater caverns - Isla BallenaThere are three islands off the east coast of Isla Espiritu Santo, Isla Ballena, Isla Gallo and Isla Gallina. All three have dive sites but for most divers Isla Ballena is the most interesting. It is possible to dive anywhere along the cost of the island but the most interesting areas are the western and eastern points. The north-eastern tip of Isla Ballena is ringed with large boulders which slope to a depth of 18m/60ft and as you swim east there is a large sandy plateau, home to a large colony of Cortez garden eels (think garden eels on steroids) which can grow to over 2ft long. The sand is also a good place to spot rays which can be seen feeding here quite regularly. In among the boulders you will find lobsters, a few different species of moray eels and large schools of Cortez barracuda and grunts. The underwater topography is quite interesting with numerous shallow caverns to explore and a unique ambience as you swim among massive boulders under the shadow of the island. The Western tip makes for a good drift dive, there is a shallow sandy basin which leads to a steeper wall than those found on the east side.

In 1995, 88 Chinese citizens boarded the Fang Ming in an attempt to Emigrate from their home country. On April 18th, 1995 they were discovered by the Mexican Navy after two months at sea. The confiscated vessel was moored at Puerto San Carlos soon to be joined by the Lapas N03, a similar vessel with 79 Chinese emigrants aboard. After a few years of study and preparation the boats were sunk as artificial reefs near Isla Ballena, on the western side of Isla Espiritu Santo. The wreck of the Fang Ming lies in 70ft of water in an upright position. It was sunk on the 18th of November, 1999 and was the first wreck to be sunk in la Paz as an artificial reef. The wreck is 56 meters long, with bow and stern intact, including the propellers. It has been prepared for divers with numerous large holes cut into the floors and walls to allow for penetration. Many routes exist that will allow divers to explore a large amount of the interior of the ship. The ship itself has been colonized by a few different coral species, most notably the black coral species (Antipathes galapagensis) and in the interior of the ship by the darker, bushier black corals.

USS Diploma in World War TwoThe C-59 wreck is actually the USS Diploma (AM221), an Admirable class-minesweeper which was awarded three battle stars for her service in the Pacific during World War Two. She was actively involved in mine-sweeping and escort activities from January through July 1945 in Okinawa, Guam, Saipan and the Japanese mainland. In 1962 she was sold to the Mexican navy and renamed the ARM DM-17 and than later in 1994 renamed ARM Cadete Francisco Márquez (C59). In 2004 she was sunk as an artificial reef here in La Paz. She lies on her port side, ranging in depth from 70ft/20m to 30ft/9m.