I received a phone call from Michael Dudas in the first quarter of the new millennium year asking about chartering Seeker to take a film crew out to the Texas Tower #4. I of course asked if they had an underwater cameraman lined up because I had received a call a few months earlier inquiring about footage and day rates. I explained to Michael the person I talked to never called back so I was wondering if they might be the same group. He said, he didn’t know, but yes, they have a cameraman, Al Giddings. I asked, “you mean Al Giddings as in, The Deep and James Bond, that Al Giddings”? “Yep!”, Mike said. It wasn’t week later before I got a phone call from Al. In his very subdued and soft spoken voice he ask about the boat’s amenities in regard to his video equipment. Receiving the the answers he was looking for Al simply said, “I’ll see you in July”.
When Al arrived he had with him the producer and his cameraman as well as two other gentlemen who were the sons of two men lost the night the tower went down. They were going along with us as part of the production and to hold a memorial for their fathers as well as the other 26 men who died that night.
This video is a director’s cut or demo of the expedition. The finished production didn’t air for over a year and was supposed to be a 90 minute special as the first Deep Sea Detectives.
July 7-8, 2001:
Late in the afternoon of July 6, 2001 we prepare the Seeker for a two-day underwater film expedition located some 77 miles off the coast of Pt. Pleasant, New Jersey to the former site of the Texas Tower # 4. The tower was part of the of the early warning radar defense system operated by the U.S. Air Force and was one of 3 constructed off the east coast. On January 15, 1961 during a fierce winter storm it collapsed taking the lives of 28 crewmembers. Our mission is that of a support crew / vessel for a production company led by famed underwater cinematographer “Al Giddings”. A documentary is planned about the history and events surrounding the collapse to be aired on “The History Channel” in late fall.
Capt. Dan Crowell, owner and skipper of the Seeker has carefully selected his crew for this important trip knowing that we will only have a small window of opportunity to get the shoot accomplished. The offshore weather conditions can change quickly. All the members are U.S. Coast Guard licensed masters and very experienced divers as well. We will be supporting a film team that has little or no North Atlantic diving experience, in area where there is little room for mistakes.
I looked forward to this trip, as this would be a new experience for me working and providing support for a notable filmmaker like Al Giddings and seeing the results on television. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet family members of those lost in the collapse. During the trip we shared stories and I discovered new information about the tower not previously known. In 2000, we learned that the tower had suffered a significant collapse in which we all were eager to see the extent of.
We were blessed with pristine surface and diving conditions for both days, for which is quite unusual for the area. Visibility averaged 70 to 80 feet with little or no current allowing the film crew to spend the maximum time allowable for shooting. On day two the plan was to film the interior of the wreckage. A high intensity light supplied from a surface cable was to be fed from its power supply mounted on the bow of the boat. This involved 5 support divers from Seeker and both Dan and I were skeptical of the plan due to the depths we would be operating in (150ft. – 180ft). As suspected the plan failed due to an electrical malfunction. When all thought the interior shots would be lost, the crew of Seeker came through. Capt. Dan Crowell, an accomplished underwater camera man himself, went in with Michael Dudas, who was enlisted by Giddings to set up the trip. With list in hand from the producer, Dan and Mike captured video of all the interior areas with Dan’s personal video equipment which saved the day.
In the end, the expedition was a success. All the necessary shots were obtained. The days were long, but in true Seeker fashion, the Captains and crew enjoyed the challenges they were faced with. Many of us established new friendships that continue today and we received an education in the making of television documentaries. The show itself, “Doomed-Tower at Sea” was overshadowed by the events of September 11, 2001 and was postponed for nearly a year and a half before it aired.
Gary P. Szabo
For more information about the Texas Tower #4 and others check out the links below