That one time we salvaged a toilet for no reason…

By: Edward Kelleher

The day was December 12th, 2020. A day that will be forever remembered by all of those on board the dive boat. We left the dock before 7 am out of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, destined for the wreck of the “Algol,” a 459 foot Navy transport ship used in numerous wars between WWII and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Think of Key Largo’s Spiegel Grove but slightly smaller. She was sunk in 1991 as part of NJ’s artificial reef program and sits in 140 feet of water (starts around 60 feet, main deck at 110 feet). The Algol is one of the largest wrecks in the area, second to the Andrea Doria. This would be my first day on the Algol. Once tied in, my two buddies and I geared up and splashed.

Our first descent, the prize is spotted

We descended and landed on the highest point at around 60 feet. A short survey and we were off. After swimming toward the rear, we came to the end of the tower and dropped down a level. “This thing is massive,” I thought to myself. While being heavily fished, tons of fishing line and lures offer up plenty of entanglement opportunities for divers. I began cutting down ghost lines and poking my head inside the many different hatches and open doors. We decided to drop down another level, which put us right around the 100-foot mark, then begin swimming down the starboard side, peeking inside. That’s when I saw it. A toilet. I was diving on 28% nitrox and was running low on no-deco time, so I marked a wide-open door with a landmark and ended my dive.

“I saw a toilet”

In between dives we started talking about how impressive the wreck is and all of the exploring we could do. A few of the more experienced divers managed to find some old cage lights and copper pipe. Then I told my buddies the magic words (jokingly), “I saw a toilet.” What started out as a joke quickly became the focus of our second dive. It wasn’t bolted down; we could surely bring it out. Plan set. We’re going for it. Nobody thought we were serious. After about an hour and a half surface interval, we geared back up and hit the water. Visibility was even better with the sun up this time. I got a large piece of loose rope from the wreck and we headed toward the treasure.

The mission

The doorway was still marked, and we headed in. I went first, Kevin second, and Ron stayed back on doorway watch. It was a short swim inside and there was plenty of ambient light with the windows open along the sides. Once inside, we pushed toward the rear where I could swear I saw the toilet. At first, I was unsuccessful in spotting the target, but a few kicks further produced the treasure we were hunting for. “Now how are we going to get this thing out,” I thought to myself. I began looking around, gave it a tug and eyeballed my potential exits. Among our search, we managed to kick up a noticeable amount of silt. At this point, my concern was finding the exit once we started pulling out the item. As soon as we pull on it, visibility is going to go to zero.

The climax of our mission

Despite the efforts, I exercised caution and decided against grabbing the treasure toilet, signaled to Ron, and headed for the door. We swam out and turned around to check for Kevin. At this point, I notice something else coming from the doorway that was not our buddy. Instead, Kevin had managed to strong-arm the toilet and dragged it out! I can’t control my laughter as we help Kevin bring the toilet up one level to where we could rig it and lift-bag it. We tied it off using the rope cut from the wreck, puffed some air into the lift bag, and made the move toward the anchor line. I couldn’t believe we were really doing this. Once heading up the line, busy with other divers, we made sure we steered clear of hanging the toilet over anybody below. A few minutes later, Kevin safely surfaced with our new treasure and got it onboard. The crew of the Gypsy Blood couldn’t believe we actually brought it up. For no good reason, we salvaged a toilet and we’re proud of it! It turns out it was made right here in Trenton, NJ. The poop jokes never stopped.

Success

We accomplished what we were after. In the end, it wasn’t just about salvaging a completely worthless toilet from the 1940s (maybe). It was about comradery, applying a skill set that we’ve practiced to a real-life situation, having fun, and executing our plan. Now we have a lovely display toilet for our shop collection of misfit artifacts. Here’s to future adventures on the New Jersey Coast!

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