Members of Newbury Scuba Diving Club spent a week diving from the Valhalla liveaboard in Scapa Flow.
The fun started before we even arrived with a beautiful drive to the ferry through the North of Scotland, along open winding roads, through picturesque little villages and looking out across the ocean. We all managed to arrive in plenty of time for the ferry (despite the de Lara’s having to stop in Thurso for a new tyre) Much to Doug’s relief we were all allowed on the ferry, it remains to be seen whether they let us off at the other end!
The ferry sails close to the islands with lovely views of the barren landscape. Following our arrival in Orkney we unloaded all the cars and loaded it all onto Valhalla.
Hazel gave us a boat brief and answered all our questions, including whether we should be doing a forward roll entry! Then we had plenty of time to sort out the kit explosion that seemed to have happened on the dive deck.
The meal at the ferry inn was amazing, it has been a long time since I have had a steak that was cooked to perfection and the lobster was amazing, the garlic sauce was a wonderful compliment to the meal. I did also ask for a side of chips to ensure full satisfaction, the ales on offer are lovely and I would recommend the Scapa Special. Service was great and they actually seemed to care if we were happy. I’ll be there again soon. A couple of pints later and we were all getting into the holiday spirit.
BRIEFING! Shouted Hazel… we all “rushed” to the lounge for the customary history and topside tour of the wreck. We were given the highlights of the brass bridge and the fighting light iris laying off to the side, working down to the stern with the salvage break and the four guns noted. With that done the faff of divers kitting up started in earnest. Johno, Cathy, Ian M and Matt were ready first and we heaved ourselves up ready to enter the gloomy looking water. 1,2,3 DROP! And we jumped in and gently floated over to the shot. The four divers started to descend being joined by a bunch of others at which point a small amount of chaos ensued as people jostled for position and their buddies. It soon worked itself out as we descended into the semi murk and hit the wreck making our way over the side and down the deck laying at 70 degrees.
We made our way steadily down the mangled wreck trying to discern what each bit was and how it related to what Hazel had briefed us on. It is funny to think that this lump of metal was once a German warship with so much power and destruction on board. We all surfaced, chilled but happy to have made the dive and looking forwards to the next one of many for the week.
After the first dive on the Brummer, Doug spent the surface interval making up the dive log for the group, having forgotten to take any details before the dive. The most accurate elements of this fictional record showed max depth as “the bottom”, gas in as “yes”, or “some” and gas out as “less than at the start”. Getting details from the rebreather divers was, as always, a total waste of time and effort. All in all, the dive log was a figment of the collective imagination. All with the full approval of the D.O. Then it was time for our “light” lunch, their idea of a light lunch is a little different to mine….Soup, rolls, cold meats, cheese, hummus and salad.
Our afternoon dive was on the F2 and YC21. Time to get the scooters out. These are great fun and easy to master, just one dive with a good instructor to get the hang of it. They are ideal for this dive because it is actually two wrecks that rest close to each other. The YC21 was lost in a gale whilst doing salvage work on the F2.
The F2 is well broken and a pretty wreck with plenty of interest. We were able to head further out from the wreck to check out the debris field and found a boiler and pipework still intact. On to full power to cover the journey along the guideline to the YC21, then backing off a little to cover a lap of it to check it out. We headed into the YC21 after checking out the AA guns that were loaded into the barge. There are some nice swim-throughs on this wreck and plenty of wildlife. It complements the F2 nicely. Evening meal: Pate ‘n biscuits, shepherd’s pie, strawberries ‘n cream. Not going to go hungry on this trip! Quick visit to the Ferry inn for some refreshment……
Monday 10.06.19 – SMS Dresden II. Wow!
Lost my buddies before we got in the water, so carried on without them. Shot was right on the stern, so started there and headed forward. Saw big guns. Found a pile of bricks which used to surround the boilers to keep them warm. Looked in holes where the funnels used to be, then found another 150mm gun. Also a lovely Armoured Control, glass still in the little windows. Looked inside. Then on to my favourite part of SMS Dresden II, the bow. So much to see here. Found the anchor chains, and traced one up, through the hawser, to the anchor capstan. Followed the capstan post down, through the ship, and out through a hole on the other side. Back in and up, just for the fun of it. Then up and onto the Hull to look for the Shield, representing the City of Dresden and marking it as the first ship of Dresden Class vessels. Finally, along the hull, found two German flags waving in the current. Very appropriate.
A lovely dive, in good viz. Really good fun!
Another “light” lunch, Bacon/sausage/lorne sausage/black pudding/haggis/ hash browns/beans/tomatoes/mushrooms/eggs, I don’t think I missed anything!
Mask got fogged up once I reached the bottom of the shot, which was located on the bow, so I had very clear visibility of dive computer but everything else was a bit blurred, I was still able to enjoy the 50 min dive with a visibility that was in excess of 5 metres and we saw the midship 150mm gun behind the armoured control and the small boiler of the pinnace before heading along the deck towards the stern along the way we found a German flag on this site. Certainly would like to do this site again with a clearer mask.
Evening meal, soup, Chicken curry (or lentil dhal) & rice and pineapple upside-down cake & cream.
Some of us went for a stroll around the Ring of Brodgar whilst others watched a movie on board.
To be continued in Parts 2 and 3