Friday, 14 September 2007

The Chimps Do Scapa - Part 4

[b]Day 3[/b]

Dive 5: Freesia. 40 Metres. 38 minutes Bottom Time. 40 Minutes Deco Time. 21/35 and 50%
Dive 6: Hessonite. 40 metres 20 Minutes Bottom Time. 20 Minutes Deco Time. 21/10 and Oxygen

Tuesday was our day for diving outside the flow. We wanted to explore some lesser known wrecks, and experience the visibility that the waters are famous for. The plan was to dive the Freesia, a little known wreck in approximately 40 metres of water. It was originally a 40 metre long trawler, sunk in 1922.

Now, this was a little way outside the flow and frankly, the weather was blowing its nadgers off. I guess the words "Natural protected harbour" didn't really register with us when we said to the skipper "Yeah we're happy to go out". Unfortunately, a later chat with the skipper revealed that he would go out even if a flaming horseman was riding next to the boat screaming" Doomed, you're all doomed" - the invincible will handle far more of a rough seas and the divers will usually bottle it before the boat has any issues. So, off for tha 3 hour steam we went, with the boat rocking and rolling. Remarkably few people were ill, but there were definitely a few people, including myself, who were feeling sub-optimal. One interesting point for me is that we passed right next to the Kitchener memorial, the memorial for the world war one general famous for the "England needs you!" posters, who died when the HMS hampshire he was on in the area struck a mine and sank in 68 metres of water. She is a protected wreck so diving is a no-no, but the history is fascinating, and it seems you can go nowhere in Orkney without an amazing story revealing itself

After a long three hours, I handed over my tech1 card to a disapproving GLOC, grabbed an X-Scooter and jumped in to solo it. It approximately 15 metres I could see the bottom clearly 25 metres below me. At the bottom of the shot line the viz was a good 25-30 metres, the water was blue rather than green, and the sands were white. I can't imagine anything better abroad. I fired up the X-Scooter and began to explore the wreck. It was fairly flat, but it was stunning to be able to see an entire wreck from one position, select where you want to go, fire up the scooter, and just be there. I was having a great laugh, although the other divers on the boat were having a more difficult time, as there was no real slack, and a very noticeable surge at 40 metres. Mary and Roy discovered the telegraph still on the wreck, but we were not equipped to lift it so moved on. There were big brass flanges lying around, enormous boilers, and plates lying on their side. Lots of life, with dead men's fingers, a few congers and lobbies, and a couple of edible crab. There was also a bent prop shaft, with the single blade of a propeller remaining. There were also some small pieces of pottery lying around.

I racked up 30 minutes on the bottom at about 39 metres, which gave me 20 minutes to do. As Gareth and Wilbo had dropped in about the same time as me, I scootered over to them, stowed the scooters, and began the ascent. Deep stops at 27 and 24 metres were followed by a gas switch at 21 metres. I also fired a bag up from 20 minutes of uneventful deco before all three of us broke the surface at the same time. Howard and David had managed to miss the wreck despite having scooters to move them around, and had done a minimum gas ascent 15 minutes earlier, so were available to help everyone get back on the boat.

Everyone was amazed by the light and the visibility, but everyone was also a little tired when they got back own the boat - apart from me. Lesson of the day was that in good visibility, a scooter is definitely a valuable and useful tool. In poor visibility, they are just a waste of time. However, when you can see for a distance on the wreck, and use the scooter as a tool to get you to a point you have already identified, they are superb. They also greatly reduce the working level when you are diving outside slack. I can see the attraction, but I just don't do enough diving in good visibility to warrant getting one.

On to the second dive.....

The second dive was a known wreck in 30-40 metres of water, which had never been located. The wreck was the Hessonite, a fishing trawler sank 80 years ago believed to be in that area, but the precise site of the wreck has never been located. We were happy to do a scenic dive, with the possibility of diving a new wreck. The teams were re-arranged for the second dive, as Gareth and Wilbo wanted to use the scooters. This left Howard and I to dive together. Howard was feeling a little tired after the first dive, so we were going to do excess amounts of O2 deco to clean him up a little at the end of the dive. I got into position at the exit, with Howard just behind me. Unfortunately, he misinterpreted a signal from the skipper and we jumped in for 20 minutes on HMS seabed. Sigh. We descended quickly, again in absolutely stunning visibility. At 35 metres of depth, with a good 6-7 metres below us clearly visible to the seabed, I levelled out - I was breathing 32% and the mix was getting a little hot for going any deeper. Howard levelled out next to me and we had about 20 minutes of drifting over a fairly bland sea. This was completely excess for the type for the dive we did, but it gave Howard some O2 time to liven him up, and I always enjoy O2 deco as it makes me feel all nice :)

Back on the surface we were first up, and in the end we were the lucky ones. All the divers who had been dropped in the right location were swept close the cliffs in quite a swell, and Invincible struggled to get close enough to them to pick them up without them swimming out a little. This meant everyone was pretty wasted by the time they were picked up, with us on the verge of jumping in and towing them out from the cliffs with the scooters. In the end everyone was safely picked up, and to our delight Fiona had cooked up a storm for us to eat. I managed to munch my way through a huge plate of food, and then, as Invincible started the 3 hour steam through a raging sea back to the flow, I said goodnight to everyone, crashed into my pit, and slept like a baby. I woke up three hours later when Ian turned the engine off :)

Plan for the next day was two deco dives, the Koenig and the Koln, another two cracking wrecks. The obligatory fettling began.....