The USS Oriskany is an Essex-class aircraft carrier that was commissioned on September 25, 1950 and March 7, 1959. Its final decommission was on September 30, 1976. The Oriskany was originally designed as a long-hulled Essex-class carrier, sometimes referred to as a Ticonderoga-class.
The Oriskany was primarily assigned to the Pacific Ocean from its first commission and into the 1970s, taking part in the Korean War, where she earned 2 battle stars, and the Vietnam War, where she earned 5 battle stars.
The Oriskany sat for several years before being sold for scrap. However, due to contractor default, she was repossessed. In 1998, she was used as a setting in the movie What Dreams May Come. In 2004, a decision was made to sink her as an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico. She made her last trip in May 2006 to be put into her final resting place about 21 miles off the coast of Florida.
Currently, the USS Oriskany sits upright on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in 225 fsw. The Flight Deck sits at 150 fsw with the top of the Island starting around 90 fsw. Originally, the top of the Island stated at around 70 fsw with the Flight Deck at 135 fsw, but in 2008 Hurricane Gustav shifted her to her current position.
While many recreational charters continue to make dive trips to the Oriskany with recreational divers, this isn’t really a recreational dive site due to the depths. Per NOAA No Decompression Dive tables, the no decompression limit at 130 fsw is 10 minutes and at 100 fsw is 25 minutes. A diver with a respiratory minute volume of 0.7 would go through 70 cubic feet of air at 100 fsw in 25 minutes, leaving less than 10 cubic feet for the ascent and safety stop. To safely conduct a dive to 100 fsw, a scuba diver using a single aluminum 80 cylinder would only have 10 minutes of bottom time.
That all being said, the USS Oriskany is a great dive site for decompression diving. Just watch for the currents because they can be strong! There is plenty to see and do above the Flight Deck, making it a perfect place to conduct Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures training dives. And there is also a lot to see below the Flight Deck in the 150-180 fsw range making it a great location for NormoxicTrimix training dives. There isn’t much growth on the Oriskany at this time, but that should change in the next few years. There is already a decent amount of life on her, including sea cucumbers, sharks, barracuda, and more. The USS Oriskany will definitely be a great artificial reef in the years to come!