Of all the diving areas in Southern California, our Northern Channel Islands hold many of the most sought after diving locations. Yellow Banks, Fraser Point, Wyckoff Ledge and Point Bennett all provide incredible diving. But many divers argue, and with good reason, that Talcott Shoal provides the best diving in the area. The rocky reefs and ledges throughout Talcott support a wonderful diversity of sea life, and the dense, healthy kelp forests of the shoal are amazing to behold. As a lobster hunting ground, Talcott has no peer. But beyond the vast range of sea life and teeming forests of Macrocystes, there is one other reason that Talcott is number one with many divers: the wreck of the Aggi.
Built in 1894 in Govan, Scotland, the Aggi was launched under the name Aspice. She was a three-masted, ship-rigged vessel 265-feet long, and nearly 40-feet wide. She was a solid, well build vessel, and she received the highest rating from the marine insurer, Lloyds of London. Aspice embarked on a career as a general cargo hauler and was known at far-flung ports around the world.
She was sold several times during her career, receiving name changes with nearly every sale. Aspice next became Sant Erasmo when she was sold to an Italian company in 1900, and five years later she received her penultimate name, Seerose when purchased by German owners. Coming under Norwegian ownership four years later, she became the Aggi. It was under this name that she would meet her fate off Santa Rosa Island.
The Aggi was very much a casualty of war. Called into service nearly a year after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, the Aggi was under charter to carry a cargo of barley and beans to Europe to help feed those already displaced by the fighting. She departed San Francisco, under tow of the steamer Edgar H. Vance for a quick trip to the Panama Canal (which had opened less than a year earlier), from where she would hoist sail and continue her journey to Europe. Unfortunately, for the crew of the Aggi, this was not to be. Soon after clearing the Golden Gate, the Vance with Aggi in tow was struck by one of the most powerful storms ever seen along the Pacific Coast. The Vance suffered storm damage and the towline broke. The Vance abandoned Aggi and made her way back to San Francisco. Aggi and her crew were left to fend for themselves. After drifting down the coast for three days, the storm-battered Aggi was driven aground on the highest pinnacle of Talcott Shoal. Her crew was rescued, unharmed, but the beautiful square-rigger had reached her last port of call.
Today the remains of the Aggi lay strewn between 15 and 60 feet, and her remains give visiting divers a chance to glimpse the structure and technology of 19th-century sailing vessels.
A large section of the Aggi’s hull is draped across the reef that destroyed her, providing shelter for calico bass, perch, and rockfish of all kinds. Lobster—some of bragging size—are often seen and sometimes captured in this area as well. Moving down the reef, you’ll come across the crescent-shaped stern of the vessel, not far from sections of immense iron “pipes” that are, in fact, the remains of Aggi’s masts. Nearby, the boiler from the steam donkey engine that Aggi’s crew used to hoist sails and move cargo nearly a century ago, now provides shelter to the local inhabitants. In the sand at the base of the reef, divers can see the graceful sweep of the old windjammer’s bow and cutwater that was torn from the hull after the vessel wrecked, along with more sections of mast and spars. Machinery and fittings like capstans, bollards and anchors are scattered throughout the area.
For Southern California divers, the Aggi provides interest and excitement to the already spectacular diving that’s found at Talcott Shoal.
A reminder: Talcott lies within Channel Islands National Park and visiting the Aggi and other submerged cultural sites for hunting and photography are encouraged; however, the collection of artifacts from the site or damaging the remaining ship structures is not allowed, and the penalties for such actions can be severe.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: On the North side of Sandy Point, at the Northwest edge of Santa Rosa Island.
Access: Boat only, this spot is dived by Southern California charter boats when conditions permit.
Skill Level: Intermediate or better.
Depths: 10 to 70 feet.
Visibility: Good, 30-70 feet.
Water temperature: Similar to the other Channel Islands; Expect temperatures of low 60s in summer, lower through the rest of the year.
Photography: Interesting possibilities on the wreck along with great opportunities to photograph moderate to large fish, as well as impressive reef structure and kelp forest. Also, a great place to shoot nudibranchs and other colorful small reef creatures.
Hunting: Most of the northwest side of Santa Rosa Island, including Talcott offers excellent hunting opportunities. Lobster, in season, record-sized halibut, white sea bass, rockfish and other species are commonly found on and around Talcott.
Hazards: Watch for surge, at time even at considerable depth. Currents can be substantial, and northwest winds can come up quickly at any time..