The inaugural Newbury Scuba Diving Club ‘Scuba Olympics’ event was held at Mary Hare school pool in November to the sounds of much laughter and the occasional shout of “cheating”. The event was the brainchild of Andy who had put a lot of work into preparing the underwater ‘Its a knockout’ type events.
The three teams of three divers were expertly scrutinised by the shore team to make sure that any ‘inventive interpretation of the rules’ (aka cheating) was kept to a minimum!
The games included traditional favourites such as the egg and spoon race, or rather, the ping pong ball and teaspoon race, and a variant of the three legged race involving two divers with only two fins between them.
The most complex game was spread over two heats and involved raising 4 x 1 Kg weights using an inverted bucket and a relay race with a beaker filled with air to float the bucket!
All in all a great evening and we are sure it will become a regular winter event. Thanks to Cathy for the pics and to Andy for organising it.
Saturday 26th October 2019 dawned a typical grey, damp and breezy Autumn morning in the UK, but this did not dampen the spirits of the 18 members (including a few family and friends) of Newbury Scuba Diving Club as they arrived at Gatwick. As in a few hours time they would be arriving at Hurghada, Egypt for a fabulous, week’s Scuba diving in the Red Sea aboard Whirlwind, Scuba Travel’s live-aboard, on their ‘Wrecks and Reefs of the Northern Red Sea’ itinerary. The journey to Hurghada went smoothly, even though one member accidentally left their regulator bag in the departure gate – but luckily their partner was on the ball and the regs were restored to one very relieved owner, but oh boy does he owe her! Whirlwind is a nice size boat and can accommodate 20 divers in comfort. It is based in Hurghada marina, so the transfer from the airport to the boat took less than 20 minutes. First up was the requisite admin and an introductory briefing by Hamada and Moussa, our two dive guides for the week. We also got to meet up with the other two guests, Lou and Jason, who luckily already knew Andy from a previous trip, and then it was time for dinner and bed.
Blue skies, a gentle breeze and 30°c weather started the day with a smile. The shake down dive on the Sunday morning was at Abu Nugar and after the customary adding more and more weight to compensate for the Aluminium cylinders and the high salinity of the Red Sea, we all went for a nice little dive along the reef.
Whirlwind then sailed on to Gobal Island to dive The Barge for both the second and also the night dive. The barge is quite shallow (15m), but it is like diving in an aquarium packed full of life; from Moray Eels to Crocodile fish. The dive wasn’t without incident though, first when Barry’s weight pounch preceded him to the bottom, which curtailed his dive, followed soon after when Alan’s O ring blew just 10 mins into the dive and he had to surface, thus dispelling the myth that he has gills! The night dive on The Barge was a bit challenging to say the least, as the cross current was running the best part of 2 knots, which made getting back to the boat interesting! This was made harder for Barry as someone (who must remain anonymous for now as they are potentially a contender for a ‘special’ award!) had accidentally taken his prescription mask just before entering the water!
The 05.30 wake-up call did raise a few comments, but once we were in the water for the dawn dive, it was grins all round as the sights and sounds of the prolific marine life having their own breakfast was simply magic. A gentle drift down towards Bluff Point and then the RIBs came to pick us up. The second dive, at Ras Mohamed, Shark Reef and Yolanda, was a superb wall dive with excellent viz and masses of life. Pick up though was a bit like organised chaos with strong winds and numerous dive boats milling around, but we all returned safely. Barry’s run of bad luck continued when his second stage disintegrated during a stride entry, but luckily Phil had a spare Reg that he could use. Ras Ghozlani made a great drift dive followed by a lovely night dive at The Temple. The Lionfish were particularly interested in pursuing prey fish accidentally illuminated by the divers’ torches.
The dawn dive at Rass Umm Cid was another stunning drift above a steep drop off, it was easy to see where the prevailing current hit the wall at the end of the point as there was a forest of huge Gorgonian Fans with their branches spread across the flow.
But the high point of the dive was a white tipped reef shark hunting at 30m in the morning light. Rass Zator is a fabulous, shear wall drift dive, made all the more special by a fly-by of a beautiful Green Sea turtle that came straight through our group of divers, almost bumping into Aimee who was filming it throughout.
David joined the growing list of kit failures when his weight pouch was dislodged getting back on-board Whirlwind and it disappeared in 100m of water. The third dive of the day was at Jack Fish alley, an exquisite wall dive starting with a short cave swim through, marred only by a bunch of trainee techies who were determined to force they way through against the flow of divers coming single file through the cave! The finale of the dive was a drift along an idyllic coral garden lined canyon with over 25m viz.
The day finished at Beacon rock, another quite challenging night dive due to the poor viz and strong current. Tuesday was officially accident day, as we had three minor injuries; one from a slip on the ladder getting back onboard the boat, one from slipping down the stairs (no alcohol involved) and the third was a face plant on the dive deck, but it did go to show how easy it is to lose your balance on a moving boat.
The group’s first negative entry from the RIBs was somewhat chaotic to start with, but most divers made it down to the wreck of the Dunraven, an 80m long 19th century inverted wreck with a great swim through at 25m. This was the first proper wreck for some of the group and a great intro to Red Sea wreck diving.
Then the iconic wreck of the Thistlegorm was to be the site for the next four dives, including one night dive. The first dive was in low current and fabulous viz which was a great way to see all of the wreck, however once the tide turned the viz dropped and the current picked up, so there was a flag of divers hanging off the mooring line on the way back up to the boat surrounded by shoals of hunting Jacks and Fusiliers. Come sunset there were only four boats moored up ready for the night and dawn dives. The Thistlegorm claimed some more equipment from Barry as his weight pouch was pulled out on the rope on the way back up. The Thistlegorm really does have something for everyone, a great depth for Nitrox, lots of fish, especially around the bow and extensive penetration opportunities throughout the holds, which is probably why it holds the title of being in the top ten dive sites in the world.
Now three days into the holiday the inevitable water fights started onboard Whirlwind, usually when dekitting after a dive and by pure coincidence(?) the same person featured in every one, didn’t it Kathy? It wasn’t just our group though, but also an increasing number of the crew were drawn into the water fight, usually targeting Moussa, one of our two dive guides.
An amazing almost deserted dawn dive on the Thistlegorm was followed by a gorgeous dive on the Kingston and adjacent reef. This 100 year old wreck is now more reef than wreck and is surrounded by pristine reef and an extensive coral garden. The open shell of the wreck is literally wall-to-wall fish of all shapes and sizes and nearby two Green Sea Turtles were spotted, one feeding in the shallows, a truly magical dive loved by all the scenic divers.
The Carnatic lies alongside the Abu Nuhas reef that she hit. She is also a 100 year old wreck and this picturesque wreck was only marred by two other boat loads of divers dropping in on us, including three DPV divers who showed little consideration for others. But another great dive enjoyed by all. Barry decided to stick with traditional as yet another lead weight plummeted to the sea bed, but this time it was easily retrieved mid-dive. Whirlwind then moored at Abu Nuhas which was also to be the site for the night dive, a gentle drift along the reef and our new marine life convert, Barry even spotted a feeding Octopus.
Friday 1st Nov
Due to the considerable swell against the reef, half of our group decided to do a sheltered drift dive through a coral encrusted channel near to where the boat was moored as this was where some of the Dolphin scenes from Blue Planet II were filmed recently. Alas though there were no dolphins that day, but still masses to see. The second half of our group dived the Giannis D, a large intact wreck suitable for safe entry into the engine room and surrounded by a lovely coral garden and masses of fish to look at during the safety stop. Though getting off and then back on the RIBs was made ‘fun’ due to the big swell hitting against the reef. The holiday diving finished with Abu Nugar Small, which was a disappointing last dive on the way back to Hurghada marina. Much of the coral reef had died off and there were only small pockets of life, coupled with quite poor viz. A real shame as it looked beautiful from the surface and we had experienced so many other gorgeous dives that week.
The last night was spent in the marina allowing many of the group time to get off the boat and eat in Hurghada. A very lively evening was had and then after one last sleep on the boat it as time to say our goodbyes to the crew and head off for a few hours at the local Hilton Resort until it was time for the coach to take us once more to the airport for the flight home. Security at Hurghada airport is understandably strict with multiple security checks. This caught out one member who chose to leave their Reg bag in security on the way through – yes you guessed it, the same person who left the same bag at Gatwick on the way out (hmmn, it was almost as if he wanted to lose the regs so he could buy a new set!).
The week was a great success and Scuba Travel’s Wrecks and Reefs itinerary had something for everyone; wall-to-wall Egyptian sun with a cooling breeze, 27 degree water, 30+ metre viz, drift dives, wall dives, reef dives, wreck dives, night dives, a great boat and an excellent crew. I think there is a very good chance that Newbury Scuba Diving Club will be back in the Red Sea very soon. Photos and videos courtesy of Aimee, Sarah, Hilda, Jason and Richard B. To see more fabulous images from the Red Sea holiday go to our Overseas Diving Photo Gallery
Our home for the next week would be the “Hondius” of the 170 passengers on board there were 7 crazy divers of 5 different nationalities being looked after by Henrik and Catherine. After a day of steaming north we finally arrived at Scorseby Sund on the south eastern corner of Greenland. It was now time to put on several layers of undersuit, climb into the Zodiac and find somewhere suitable for the check out dive. This turned out to be on a rocky slope, covered in little Queen scallops and brittle stars. We also spotted some big feather stars and huge common starfish. The water was also so full of comb jellies and sea gooseberries it was a bit like swimming through jellyfish soup!
There isn’t much wildlife in Greenland (Don’t be fooled into going there on a wildlife spotting trip – there isn’t any!) underwater is different, what we saw was similar to what you could see in the UK (well in the North anyway) scallops, starfish, anenomies and jellyfish.
Our next dives were what we were hoping to do, dive an iceberg! Firstly choose your iceberg carefully, we are looking for one that’s quite flat, a tall one will be less stable and is likely to have big chunks fall off it. We are also looking for a smooth surface, this indicates our iceberg has more recently rolled over so is less likely to do it again whilst we are underneath (this would be a deeply unpleasant experience). As a final check we can dive, a quick whizz around our chosen ‘berg in the zodiac just to make sure the wake doesn’t cause it to roll. All stable? good! off we go!
We dived 2 icebergs, the first had grounded the second floating. For both dives we slowly circled the ‘berg looking at the different shapes, patterns and colours in the ice. Yes I did say colours, most of the ice is white but where it has melted and re-frozen the ice is clear and the sun shines through as the most beautiful shades of deep blue. Although the surface is scalloped its really smooth (yes the first thing we did was to touch it – well you have to don’t you?) Swimming that close to a big lump of ice has its own hazards, melting ice produces fresh water so with the changing salinity of the water this can affect your buoyancy and with some of the fjords being 800m deep you do need to be careful!
Our second ‘berg had a surprising amount of life surrounding it. As well as the ever present jellies there were sea butterflies (black blobs with cillia “wings”) tiny shrimp like creatures living in cracks in the ice and something yet to be identified (a transparent thimble with a “skirt” around the base). Our first ever dive on an iceberg finished with hot chocolate (Gerard – take note) on the zodiac and a landing on our chosen piece of ice.
All too soon it came to our last dive, this was in Turner Sund, an area never dived before. Once below the kelp line we found the usual colourful algae, starfish, anenomies and sea squirts. Again there were unidentified things including what looked like a round orange sea squirt on a stalk – just weird! It was an amazing week of diving, stunning scenery, good food and Northern lights which I can highly recommend to anyone not afraid of the cold!
Well, like all good adventures it seemed like a good idea at the time. We are not warm water pretty reef type divers so we decided it was time for a cold water destination. September found us getting on a plane and heading north to Iceland. When people think about diving in Iceland they always think Silfra, the crack where the American tectonic plate meets the European one. You can dive the crack, the water is crystal clear and you can touch both plates at the same time. We, however, would not be diving Silfra, over 50,000 people a year visit Silfra, some dive, most snorkel and diving somewhere where you have to queue to get in and out of the water just isn’t us, we had a plan! We did take a quick look at Silfra on the way past, and the sight of a queue of snorkelers all in their badly fitting drysuits waiting to go down the shiny metal steps into the water convinced us we had made the right decision. So we got into our 4wd hire car and headed north to Akureyri, it was an interesting journey but that’s another story.
The next morning Erlendur picked us up at our hotel, we collected tanks and weights and headed to Nesgja. This is part of the same crack as Silfra, but without all the people, the carpark full of dive centre vans or the shiny metal steps. Instead there was a muddy track heading across a field, so we got kitted up and set off. Nesgja is a crack 1-3m wide, 5m deep 150m long and full of gin clear water. As it was impossible to get lost, Erlendur stayed on the shore and left us to it. Nesgja is stunning, the visibility is around 100m, its like floating in air rather than water.
Once we had scrambled up the bank out of the water we climbed into the van and headed to Litla A. Litla A was a normal river until an earthquake, now it’s a warm river. We grabbed our snorkels (and yes we do remember how to use them!) and set off expecting a normal river, but we got much, much more! Again the water is crystal clear, the bottom is covered in weed, algae and amazingly, bubbling sand! The different coloured sand patches seem to flow as they bubble out warm water, one of the most surreal snorkelling experiences I have ever had.
The following day Erlendur picked us up and we took the dive centre rhib across the fjord to little Strytan where we met lots of cod and some very friendly ,but scary looking wolf fish. Little Strytan is a 10m tall cone shaped stack covered in life and warm vents.
The second dive was on the main 55m tall magnesium-silicate chimney, we started at 30m and gradually worked our way up to the top in about 15m. WOW! The various vents pump out a total of 100 litres/second of 72oc fresh water it is an amazing sight, the only other geothermal vents are between 2 and 6km deep, a little out of our depth range!
The snorkelling and diving here has been really impressive, I wish we had longer but it was time to pack up the wet kit and board the ship “Hondius” for part 2 of our arctic adventure.
Read the concluding part of the blog from members of Newbury Scuba Diving Club who spent a week diving in Scapa Flow
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.
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!
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.
Read this second blog from Members of Newbury Scuba Diving Club who spent a week diving in Scapa Flow.
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.
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.
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.
We are excited to have two new active Assistant Diving Instructors (ADIs) in our club following Sylvie and Simon’s completion of the BSAC Instructor Foundation Course (IFC) last year. The ability to provide instruction within the club is critical, as the future of our club (and ability to dive self-sufficiently) depends on our experienced members passing on their knowledge and skills to newer members. I got together with Sylvie and Simon to find out what they think of it all.
What was the Instructor Foundation Course like?
“Straight away, it felt welcoming and we were relaxed. On the first day we learned the structure and steps to building lessons, then for our homework we had to prepare theory and practical lessons following the processes that we had been taught that day. On the second day we had to deliver the lessons, which meant spending time in the pool demonstrating skills underwater and teaching our colleagues a theory lesson in the classroom. It was challenging and we learned a lot in a short time, but it was a really rewarding and enjoyable weekend. And as a bonus, the teaching and presentation skills taught in the course are also eminently transferable to the workplace to help in passing on ideas and skills to work colleagues.”
What made you want to do it?
“We both felt that one of the best ways to learn and remember skills is to teach them regularly. Teaching demands that you know theory and skills well enough that you can be challenged and answer questions about how and why we do them.
We have benefited from our club instructors giving a lot of time and effort and excellent quality teaching from them. Not only do we want to give back to the club in the same way we have benefited, we also want to achieve the same high standards that our instructors have. We are very aware that as a self-sufficient club, our future depends on more experienced people being able to pass on their experience to newer members”.
What have you been doing since you qualified?
“Within a few weeks of doing the course we were in the classroom training new Ocean Divers. We quickly realised how much preparation and attention to detail goes into making a good lesson. One thing we have done a lot of is Try-Dives for younger people such as Scouts and Girl Guides. This is a unique experience for them and they really enjoy it. It has been very rewarding seeing how excited they are and how much they enjoy themselves.
In September the club organised a Sport Diver rescue skills day. It was a great opportunity to practice critical skills that could save a life. As new Assistant Diving Instructors we were given the opportunity to lead our own group of trainees. Whilst on the one hand we were allowed to teach independently, we also had close support from our senior instructors”.
“Before we can go on to become full instructors, we need to pass our Dive Leader, which is a natural progression from Sport Diver. We started in February this year and are well into it now, hoping to complete it this dive season. We both want to build our personal experience and skills as divers, as well as teaching skills as instructors. Simon would also like to complete his cave diver course this year”.
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.
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.