Dive Report

Scapa 2019 blog – Part Three

Read the concluding part of the blog from members of Newbury Scuba Diving Club who spent a week diving in Scapa Flow

Thursday 13.06.19

Ian’s undersuit is now dry, Kev’s nuts are on and tight, Jonathan’s reel is present and accounted for, so all ready to go……SMS König

König is the class name ship for the German battleships, as the Markgraf and Kron Prinze these ships are massive and after the scuttling, upside down. So the focus of this dive was the stern section looking for the steering quadrants and rudders. We are all kitted up in time with the usual kit faff getting 11 divers ready. Ready, Ready and Drop, Drop, Drop and we’re off.

The shot was on the rear of the “castle”. This is a secure section of the ship where officers and men plotted the firing solutions to inflict maximum damage to the intended target with the flying smart car. 

The super-efficient turbine was there along with the rudders and German flags. Swimming aft the single upright rudder is visible. Then swimming past the shot line a shoal of herring was seen. The shoal then parted and a seal appeared after its breakfast.

An hour later all the divers were back on board with no buddy swapping on the line happening. Jon did find an SMB at 20m just on the bilge keel all ready to go. Later it was found to be Doug juniors one, who will now be investing in bolt snaps rather than the more traditional carabiner.

A mac and cheese lunch followed thus enabling the dive team to sleep soundly prior to diving on the …… SMS Karlsruhe

More muppetry, this time it was Simon, who jumped in, got back out, put on his weight belt and jumped back in. Unknown to everyone else, Matt fortunately was spared this ridicule as he remembered to put his weight harness on…after he had already climbed into his kit with suit feed connected and buckles all tight ready to go!

Vasco joined us for the second dive of the day, which was changed at the last minute to the Karlsruhe due to another dive boat already on the sub, and it is not big enough for the both of us. Still we have that to look forward to tomorrow instead.

This was the second dive on this ship and again the viz was well in excess of 5m (as before) and as it is not too deep there was plenty of time to explore. So, this meant experience of this particular wreck means a bit more detail for buddies dive planning – Matt set a textbook example of a dive plan with his buddy – pointing at the wreck diagram… “go down look at cool s**t, swim along and look at more cool s**t then come up”. From the bottom of the shot we headed towards the bow to get up close and personal with the big guns, and another visit to the flag.

From here we kept fairly close to the seabed heading towards to the stern, I was keeping an eye open in case the octopus I saw on the first dive just happened to be hanging around still, but no luck. Once we reached the stern we went around it and headed back along the other side until we reached salvaging break where we moved onto the top the wreck and followed this back taking in a nice swim through before coming across the shot line at about the right time to come up. Such an interesting dive in good viz that it would have been nice to stay for longer but we had an hour already and we were starting to get cold.

It was chucking it down by the time we got back, but it didn’t stop most of us wandering into “town” and spending some money (you can never bring back too much fudge!). For the first time this week no one went to the shiny shop for suit repairs or replacement kit!

Evening meal: Puff pastry tartlets, lamb casserole with boiled spuds n veg and an amazing chocolate tart (nothing left over!)

Just for a change we paid a visit to the Stromness Hotel.

Friday 14.06.19

Started the day with an s.o.s. call to Hazel for milk. Quote of the day about the egg boiler “you need to apply quite a bit of pressure, the eggs won’t break……” closely followed by splat. “Oh”.

The Dresden was full of other boats so we decided to do the UB116 instead. Slightly longer journey out but that left plenty of time for faffing (and for Kevin to check his nuts) I think we all managed to get our kit on without forgetting anything major (Zips/weight belts/buddies/nuts/reels etc) it’s only taken a week 😉

The UB116 is well broken, something to do with the Royal Navy blowing up the torpedo that was still in the tube and ending up blowing up all 7 torpedo’s, as a result the sub is really quite flat, but still cigar tube shaped. She was quite a small sub so I think everyone managed to see or bump into everyone else, we even saw our buddy Annie for part of the dive!

Had a really enjoyable time poking into all of the holes and trying to work out what all the bits were. The hydroplanes at the stern were quite obvious, as were some gas cylinders, but the rest of it a little less so, more like a giant jigsaw puzzle!

There were big shoals of really tiny fish all over the wreck, made photography quite hard as they got in the way! Towards the end when everyone else had left the wreck we did see a couple of seabirds diving for fish (it meant we got to try out a new signal –“bird”!) another new signal was “cheese” as there was some high explosives (torpex) left on the wreck which looked like bright yellow cheese. Hazel had threatened us with all sorts if we even so much as touched it! Tempting……. Best viz of the week.

Following the dive, Vasco gave us marks for the rigidity of our sausages, it’s always good to have a full sausage, something flaccid is no good to anyone.

“Light lunch” of chilli and Doritos.

To close the account on Scapa 2019 the decision was made to dive on the AATCPP’s. These are not a bad 70’s disco song but a 1940’s way of protecting battleships when moored up.

They are Anti Airborne Torpedo Close Protection Pontoon’s and 14 were placed at the stern and bow of battleships with steel nets suspended from them.

Unfortunately on paper they were a good idea , in practice they were too slow to deploy and were of limited value. So after 11 months the Navy scrapped all but 1 set.

This final set was in Scapa flow and is now broken up with some pontoons on the beach and broken this being the most intact and at 20m.

The dive was very interesting as there are 2 pontoons one on-top of the other. This still enabled you to see the mooring bollards and winch gear that was used to suspend the nets.

The nets are also present, these are metal with 2 different sizes of link. The large ones for torpedo’s from Subs and the smaller one for the airborne ones. As with all this metal there are steel buoys to make them float.

After the war the Navy found a new way to dispose of these, shoot them. So these large buoys have a small hole in one side and large exit hole in the other. (oh and there was lots of non-wreck, non-food on these pontoons as well). Once the dive was finished and the hot chocolate with all the trimmings had been drunk, mass showering and packing began whilst we steamed back in. Loading the cars after pie and sticky toffee pudding resulted in finding most of the lost items, except Kevin’s nuts.

Finally the crew all ended up in the Flattie bar (where we were joined by Vasco and Paddy) where local brew was sampled in preparation for a 05:00 wakeup. It was a great evening even if Jon did xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  but then he wasn’t the only one!

Saturday 15.06.19

05:00 came around far too soon but we did manage to get up and join the queue for the ferry in plenty of time. Amazingly they let us all back on the ferry and we were soon in the restaurant working our way through the all-you-can-eat breakfast, even if Ian N was trying to eat his with 2 forks! After a smooth crossing it was time to get back into the cars and start the long journey back to Newbury.

Massive thanks to Doug for organising, Hazel for the skippering and briefings, Vasco for the gas and looking after us on the dive deck and Paddy for the fab food! Thanks also to a great dive team for making it such a fun trip: Simon, Ian Mac, Matt, Ian N, Doug Junior, Andrew senior, Annie, Ross, Kevin, Jonathan, Johno and Cathy.

Dive Report

Scapa 2019 part 2

Read this second blog from Members of Newbury Scuba Diving Club who spent a week diving in Scapa Flow.

Tuesday 11.06.19

Jonathan managed to break two buddies, one before he even got into the water, the second before we got to the bottom of the shot, nice one Jon!! Kevin managed to lose his nuts (we are worried about sabotage, Personally I suspect xxxxxxxxxxxxxx)

SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm, a great as usual briefing, meant that navigating to the gun we were aiming to see was easy, it also helped that Matt and I were the last ones on the wreck so could just cheat and follow everyone else. Considering we were the last ones to venture into the very silty area to view the gun, the vis wasn’t that bad. It was a little nerve wracking to venture into somewhere that could easily become stirred up, but it was very enjoyable and we didn’t kick up too much. I was glad to see the gun and as a bit of a bonus I also enjoyed watching a couple of crabs seeming have a bit of a scrap. According to the brief the guns are big enough to fire a Smart car + 2 people and their shopping 8 miles (making it the fastest, and possibly deadliest Smart car in the world!!).

After seeing the gun and angry crabs, we decided to go up slightly and take a look along the side of the wreck. In total we spent 30 minutes looking in portholes and areas that had come away or been damaged and being continuously surprised by the size of her. I’m sure you could spend a few hours swimming around and through her, but the temperature got the better of me and we made our ascent. As we were ascending we noticed we had company in the shape of two other pairs of divers.

Another “light” lunch, burger n chips (oh and salad too) and we were back in the action. Me (Matt) and Ian N were 2nd pair in this time and down we descended into the beautiful turquoise coloured water-just like the Caribbean… we descended some more and it was no longer like the Caribbean. The Cöln is in great condition, laying on its side the features are recognisable down to 33m ish and along the side of the ship at approx 20m there are plenty of port holes to peer in to. The torch beams of other divers peering in from further down illuminated the inside which made a nice effect. We didn’t see the torpedo tube, though-next time!

Plenty of wildlife to see, brittle and feather stars a plenty, a flat bottom fish (plaice?) was chilling out on some scrap metal, shoals of various sized fish swimming around and the rest of the squidges and other anemones were doing what squidges and anemones do. So after 30 or so mins it was time to go up, Ian sent his DSMB up and up we went. The sun came out and it was bright and clear at 6m. After we were back on board de-kitted washed and so forth, we enjoyed some vegetarian, vegan or whatever they call themselves cupcakes-lemon drizzle flavoured and were very nice indeed.

…Annie, one of Jonathan’s broken buddies, also broke herself on the Cöln, lost a glove and will have to donate to RNLI if she wants it back…apparently the wrecks of the UK are also littered with Annie’s kit…(The Cöln also claimed Jonathan’s shiny Kent tooling reel) Kevin’s nuts are still missing but he has managed to borrow some.

Quick visit to the Ferry inn for some refreshment whilst Hazel offloaded some gas cylinders.

Evening meal: Chorizo quiche, Sausage casserole, Cheesecake (Matt “3 portions”) Walters really, really liked the cheesecake! [note: in my defence, everyone else had heafty portions of quiche for starter, and I did not]) then it was time for more kit faffing and another quick visit to the Ferry.

Wednesday 12.06.19

Bit grey this morning.

Kevin has checked his nuts and they are still attached.

SMS Markgraf. König class battleship and the deepest remaining at Scapa. Kevin joined me (Jonathan) again today after his desertion yesterday. With trimix in our diluent and deep & shallow bailouts we headed down the stern line following Johno and Cathy. We came down on to the keel just forward of the rudders. These stick up 3.5m towards the surface and are a very impressive sight. We leave Johno & Cathy taking photos between the rudders and head down to the stern. For such a large ship the Markgraf has a small stern which almost looks like a sailing yacht from the 1920s. From the stern we turn forwards going with the slight current. We see some of the portholes from the officers cabin before we come across the main salvage break where the condensers were taken out. Staying on the outside in the debris field to make sure we don’t go inside by mistake we keep heading forward. Visibility has improved a bit on the bottom and is around 5-6m.

The Markgraf has 7 Casemate guns on each side and we start to pass by them. I see 4 for certain before we reach the anchor chain which is wrapped around the hull from where she rotated as she sank back in 1919. We agree to keep going to take a look at the bow. The bow is the deepest part of the wreck and so with lots of deco already incurred we reached 44m as we got to the bow. Even in the limited visibility it is a very impressive sight heading straight up before curving round to the keel line. We return to the anchor chain as the forward shotline is tied into this and we start to head up. We’ve been down for 40 minutes now and have 25 minutes to go before we can surface. We work through our decompression stops at 12, 9 and 6m and once it has all cleared we return to a now fairly choppy surface to get picked up. It has been a lovely dive and my deepest for some time.

Lunch was bread and meatballs in tomato sauce with salad.

So Matt went in with Ian N, and they both got out so Matt went back in with Doug and Andrew and Cathy went in with Johno. Johno then got out so Doug continued on with Cathy and Matt continued on with Andrew. Annie jumped ship in the morning so didn’t dive with anyone! (Johns ears made a miraculous recovery so he went in later)

Muppet of the day: (an individual who will remain nameless) for leaving the last 3 inches of his zip open, DOH!

The second dive of the day was a return to the SMS Cöln. After we had all swapped around our buddies on the shot line we descended to the wreck, starting at the lifeboat davits. The four of us (Andrew, Matt, Cathy, & Doug) followed along the deck of the wreck, stopping to do a short swim through. The impressive high elevation gun and torpedo tube were a highlight from the initial briefing so we all spent plenty of time checking those out. Despite having already dived the wreck there was plenty more detail to see. Matt and I (Andrew) left Doug and Cathy to explore the salvaged area of the wreck, whilst we went in search of more guns, which I had missed on the first dive.

We managed to find the two aft guns which sit on top of and in front of what was the officer’s quarters. The Cöln was as impressive and interesting on the second dive as it was the first.

Jonathan and Kevin spent their dive searching for Jonathan’s missing reel, they didn’t find it, mainly because it was already on board Huskyn waiting for its owner to exchange it for beer! There was more broken kit for Jonathan, as he came up with a rather dangly stage cylinder, I think it needs some new string.

Once back on shore most of went for a stroll up to Stromness museum (some of us went via Scapa scuba for yet more suit repairs)

Evening meal: Lasagne and apple crumble, followed by ritual kit faffing and a visit to the Ferry.

Read the rest of the story in Part 3.

Dive Report

Scapa 2019 – Part 1

Members of Newbury Scuba Diving Club spent a week diving from the Valhalla liveaboard in Scapa Flow.

Saturday 08.06.19

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.

Sunday 09.06.19

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!

SMS Karlsruhe

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

Dive Report

Diving Bikini by Cathy and Johno

After hitting a rather large birthday milestone we decided it was time to go on an equally large dive trip, so off to Bikini we went (eventually after a cancellation but that’s another story).
Bikini is one of the remotest places you can dive, our 3 day journey took us to Hawaii via San Francisco, then on to the American military base at Kwajelan where we were escorted to the Ferry to Ebye. On Ebye we boarded Truk Master, our home for the next 10 days. The voyage to Bikini took 30 hours, during that time all we saw was sea and sky, no land, ships, planes or airplane trails.
We were here to dive the ships wrecked by the Americans nuclear bomb testing in the 1940’s and 50’s.
The shake down dive was the USS Saratoga, a 268m aircraft carrier, not bad as shakedown dives go! There is just one word to describe the Saratoga, BIG (or maybe HUGE) We did 6 dives on the Saratoga, and we still only just scratched the surface. Armed with the plans of the ship we went exploring and discovered the emergency radio room and the airplane catapult mechanism, oh and an old brass divers helmet.

Another of the big wrecks was the Japanese battleship the HIJMS Nagato, the Japanese flagship during the attack on Pearl Harbour. Like all battleship wrecks she is upside down, so if you want to see the big guns you have to go under the ship, but they are well worth it, at 16 inches the biggest guns I have ever seen. The stern is pretty impressive too with 2 rudders and 4 propellers, my challenge was to get it all in 1 photo (you can see the results for yourselves).

The USS Lamson was one of my favourites, totally intact down one side, on the other the damage caused by the explosion was obvious with ripples in the hull. On the deck we saw both torpedoes in their launcher and a white tip reef shark asleep on the deck (he wasn’t impressed at being disturbed!).

Despite Johns dislike of diving submarines, he didn’t object to diving the USS Apogon, she is again upright and intact, and we were able to sit on the seabed under the props and peer out through the masses of tiny glass fish that were everywhere on all the wrecks (there were so many it was really hard at times to take photos!) on the top of the sub is a gun, some shells and also rather randomly, a jug!!
Another battleship (and again upside down with huuuuge guns) is the USS Arkansas. Sitting under the immense bow looking up to the surface is really impressive, less impressive was the little school of pilot fish that insisted on following John on the deco stop.

The USS Anderson is a destroyer lying on her side with more guns, torpedo launchers and depth charges. The bow was beautiful, and much narrower than expected, there was also a telegraph just lying on the deck, something you would NEVER see on a British wreck!
The final wreck is the USS Carlisle, not a warship but an armed merchantman and she suffered a lot more damage than the other wrecks, especially on the side closest to the bomb blast. The ships wheel looks like someone had tried to fold it up.

The wrecks are all covered in long whip corals and masses of tiny glass fish. We didn’t see many of the larger reef fish which was surprising as there is a healthy population of White tip, Grey reef, Black tip and young Tiger sharks, including Scratchy who put in an appearance on most of the dives. We also saw Manta rays and Turtles.

There are only 7 people living on Bikini, they are caretakers and are swapped every few months, it’s safe to visit but just not safe to live here permanently and eat food grown on the island, although we did risk a coconut! Midway through the trip we had a tour (including one of the bunkers) and BBQ on the island. Despite the general decay of the buildings and vehicles the only really sad sight was the amount of plastic litter washed up on the beautiful beaches, fishing buoys and plastic containers, this is not from the locals but has been washed up from the Pacific ocean. One of the most remote places on Earth and there is plastic waste, heartbreaking.



Dive Report

St Lucia 2019 by Richard & Sarah

We did 7 dives in St Lucia, over 4 days. Diving was all inclusive so a huge saving. The boat is modern and all the kit in great condition, and the whole thing well run and managed. Sea temperatures were 26 but quickly cooled at depth, so a 3 mm shorty needed, but no gloves allowed, to protect the coral.

The first dive was on a wreck, and having lost some 50% of their coral the Government are trying to reverse this with a number of shallow wrecks, and they seem to be well populated and at 25m max depth, easily reached. The dive was split between expert, intermediate and beginners, for some reason BSAC divers are seen as expert, but after all the excellent training we have had we were not fazed in any sense, even when the boat was pitching 5ft and, on one occasion, the current was so strong they could only get us back on the boat by a rope.

We saw sea snake, lobsters, a sea horse (pic below but you will need expert eyes to see it!) masses of fish and flora, all in pristine conditions. We did a drift dive past the Pitons, a famous volcanic twin mountain, and this was a wall dive and one of the big ticket dives.

Each day was a great boat trip, the morning dives being the more serious one, the afternoon for learners and snorkelers. We were out by 9.00 and back by 12.30, the morning  dive being two tank. The tank are aluminium so a weighting challenge there, + the shorty + all measurements are in imperial not metric, so we had to take a while to work out what we needed! Overall I ended up with about 6kg so a bit lighter than the UK.

One final unexpected bonus, England played the West Indies in St Lucia so we went to see the 20:20 cricket match and that was quite an experience! All in all a fabulous holiday. Enjoy the video.

Dive Report

Galapagos October 2018 by Hilda Crockett

Galapagos October 2018 MY Galapagos Sky

Air Temperature 70’s, Water Temperature 19-26 degrees

We selected this boat after interrogating many companies at the Birmingham dive show 2016 (Richard Blake can testify, some companies were less than helpful). I asked all companies the same question “Can you give me three reasons I should choose your boat?” EcoVentura who own Galapagos Sky were the only company who rattled off three good reasons with no hesitation:

  1. Owned and run by a local Ecuadorian family, and have all the contacts and permits required to plan and execute both diving and land based tourist excursions. Basically one of the dive guides has to be a Galapagos National Park Guide, so allowed to conduct land based excursions.
  2. Their itinerary allows for more time at Darwin and Wolf Island, big plus point
  3. They are one of only 3 boats that operate in Galapagos that had a license to dive with Iguanas

Okay convinced so we booked. Two years to save up, pay and organise flights. We opted to travel via Madrid with BA/ Iberia which avoided the hassle of US Immigration and worked well. Had one night in Quito and then flew to San Cristobal the next day.

Want to get wet now…. joined the boat and was delighted to find there were only 11 divers, should have been 16 so, plenty of room. Due to the late arrival of some guest’s flights, the first day got a bit screwed up as we basically sat in port. This meant day two started with a walk up a hill on Bartolome Island. Over a 300 step yomp to the top, before the 3 dives, very bazar. The checkout dive was La Punta, water 21-23, some nippy thermoclines, but plenty of sharks and turtles action. No inexperienced divers on the boat, so were able to progress quickly to the better sites. As we got closer and closer to Wolf and Darwin it just got better and better. Every documentary you see on Galapagos has Darwin Balcony as the big ticket event, they are not wrong. Schooling hammerheads, whale sharks, big schools of jacks with massive tuna and you still had time for the turtles, eel gardens and the very impressive beds of massive star fish clustering together like a carpet. It’s not easy diving due to the changing currents but well work it, the life is amazing.

So how are going to top that as we head south?
The marine iguanas, diving with them was like an episode of Jurassic Park, wonderfully agile algae eating creatures, with diving cormorants and the occasion fly past by families of penguins. For me I have to say I lost my heart to the sea-lions. There are two types of sea-lions, the Fur Sea-lions from Chile which are big brutes and can be aggressive, and the Galapagos sea-lions which are related to the California sea-lions, they are ridiculously playful. Just like sea Labradors, they came and played with us on many dives, although being dive bombed at 30m by a sea-lion did give me a moment.

So was it worth all the effort?

Yes it’s a once in a lifetime trip you will always remember. Thanks to the boat crew, the well planned dives, the round the island RIB trips to see the wildlife post diving and the final land-based excursion to the lava tunnels and the Giant Tortoise reserve. A well planned itinerary and an enthusiastic boat-crew make all the difference

Thanks for the memories……

Dive Report

Night Dive At Vobster

Night dives are magical experiences and so in late October six Newbury Scuba Diving Club members went to Vobster Quay for a great way to finish off the summer.

The weather was fine, water temp was 14°C and vis was nearly 10m which all added up to a great dive. It is really quit weird to see all the perch asleep on the lake bed, only moving when you got too close and woke them. A good torch (and back up) are a must and even though we all knew the site very well it is transformed at night. 

So there were smiles all round when we surfaced for a bacon bap and cup of tea.

Click here to watch the night dive video on YouTube  

Thanks to Bernadette for supplying the video.

Dive Report

Diving in Sardinia by Richard and Sarah

For those who have not dived this Mediterranean island before, it offers some beautiful scenery both above and below the water (and coincidentally SCUBA magazine had only just run an article on diving in Sardinia).  We managed to squeeze in a couple of dives on our recent holiday to Sardinia.

I had hoped to complete my BSAC course when out in Alghero, a large town on the north west part of the island, in the Sassari region. However, despite there being 5 dive centres none were BSAC. Sarah and I went out with one company and we told them in advance what we had done and we went off as a group of 5 with two complete novices; Sarah and I went off with the instructor as a three, and the first dive was to 15m and was very colourful with barracuda, a moray eel, as well as a lone Grouper. It was ‘follow my leader’ with us following the instructor, and whilst a good experience it was without any spoken plan, and we did not have a safety stop on the return. The ‘plan’ seemed to be in the leaders head. We did experience putting on the BCD in the water, which was a lot cooler (it was 30dgs) but not too easy to see what went where, and a buddy check proved impossible. We later enjoyed snorkelling whist the novices went off – with what seemed minimal advice!

I went out again with the same centre but without Sarah. We had 8 divers, three ‘home team’ and the rest were experienced divers, apart from me. The instructor was used to varying levels of skills and people had to demonstrate they knew what they were doing. He liked BSAC and knew what I had done, so that was encouraging, but it rather went the other way as he assumed I knew it all and left me to it!

We did two dives, the first we saw an octopus, about the size of a child’s football, and our guide handled the creature and it seemed unstressed, and we all felt it’s tentacles wrap around out fingers, so much for look don’t touch. Later he said if it was stressed it would have fired off some ink, perhaps he knows the creature and they on first name terms! We saw barracuda, a multiplicity of fish, and did a wall descent to 19m and with torches saw spectacular colours including red and white coral.  The second dive, much to my surprise since, again, the plan was in the leaders head alone, we went through a cave entrance which was about the size of a tractor tyre and came out into a grotto full of colour with ferns and fish a gogo, and then popped out at the top of the grotto to continue our dive in more sedate fashion, varying from 7 to 18m. Use of my computer for the first time was very good.

I spoke at length to the guys running this centre about BSAC as they were interested in getting BSAC divers out there, if they achieve accreditation. I will send a link as members might like to go there. It is a very beautiful area and the diving centred around a marine reserve within a national park, so I did not see a single bit of plastic. It was like diving in a 3 dimensional aquarium.

Here is a view from the marina just before we headed off, and the red RIB is my ride! Sea like a millpond.

Dive Report

Red Sea Diversity – surprised even after 18 years…

M/Y Blue Fin ‘Simply the Best’ itineraries live aboard to the Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone – so the more remote sites, best enjoyed when you have a good few dives under your belt. So more chances of seeing the big Pelagic’s: hammerheads, grey reefs and oceanic sharks and a manta (the one I didn’t actually see!). But it is the photographs that really tell my story of the diversity that you can experience. Such as beautiful aquarium style dives with tons of schooling antheas and snappers.

My favourite: soft corals, Giant barracuda being cleaned by wrasse, cute Napoleon wrasse, and fearless turtles.

The highlight, or heart rising moment was the 3 dives we did with Oceanic White Tip Sharks on Big Brother. One of our dive guides Elke is a researcher with the Red Sea Shark Trust, you could call her a shark magnet and in all my years I have never seen these sharks so close for so long. When you jumped off the boat they arrived, when they heard the RIB they swam alongside, when you got back under the boat for your safety stop they were there.

Wonderful experiences to discuss with fellow divers over a G&T or a beer on deck on a hot summer evening. Did I mention the water was 28/29 degrees? Did I mention the oldest diver Dick was 69 and still going strong, fantastic achievement, we never skipped a dive. I recommend the Red Sea for all year round good diving, just remember to dress appropriately for the weather.

Dive Report

‘This brings back memories’ by Mike Beherrall

Diving on the Black Hawk on Saturday, August 4, was a pleasure in two senses. Firstly because it was such a good dive in itself and secondly because it was a nostalgic return to a dive site of many years ago. When I first joined Newbury Sub Aqua Club in the early 1980s the Black Hawk  was the first open water dive I did, diving with Dave Guardhouse and a couple of others. Then, all I remember was feeling very nervous and not really taking in what I saw, let alone appreciating and enjoying it. But this time the dive was fabulous.

The weather was good, the company was good, the vis was surprisingly good and the wreck was so much bigger and better than I remember. Massive iron ribs sticking up from the seabed 8-10 feet or more, plus lots of shoals of various fish ( I’m not going to pretend I knew what they were!).

Plus two big surprises. First a massive, and I mean really big edible crab, probably 6-7 inches across the shell and best of all, catching sight of a conger eel in the wreckage. Surprisingly, It came right out of its hole and moved off to another, so we were probably annoying  it. It was huge, probably 5-6 feet long, the thickness of an arm and steel-blue in colour. I’ve never seen anything like it and it was very, very impressive. Click here for video link 

Many thanks to Hilda and the crew for making it such a great day.