Friday, 14 September 2007

The Chimps Do Scapa - Part 5

[b]Day 4[/b]
Dive 7: SMS Koenig. 39 Metres. 38 minutes Bottom Time. 24 Minutes Deco Time. 21/35 and 50%
Dive 8: Koln. 36 Metres. 45 Minutes Bottom Time. 15 Minutes Deco Time. 32% and Oxygen

The Koenig is the name vessel of her type. At 580 feet long, with 14 inch plating and displacing over 25 thousand tonnes, these battleships were truly monsters of their time. They were capable of in excess of 20 knots, and carried 10 12 inch guns to impose their will. There are three of these monsters resting at the bottom of Scapa Flow. The Koenig seems to be the least popular of the three, although it rates as one of my favourite wrecks. Today was to be a team Foxturd dive, with Gareth, Howard and I diving together, Wilbo with Roy and Mary and David Soloed. We dived in and descended to 40 metres. The visibility had dropped to approximately 5 metres. The plan for this dive was to penetrate the wreck. We all took reels with us, and searched for a suitable hole. At about 35 metres, we located a blast hole into the wreck, through which we see a variety of passageways and hatches leading further into the wreck. This was precisely the sort of thing we were looking for, so we did a flow check and calculated appropriate gas restrictions before I tied off a primary and secondary tie and started lining into the wreck. We swam for about 15 minutes, tying off wherever possible, and gradually made our way further and further into the wreck. The murky viz became clearer as we reached part of the wreck that were obviously less frequently visited, although the bottom of the corridor we were in was covered in a deep layer of rust that had fallen down and settled from the levels above. All too soon, we reached our turn pressure, and I called the dive. We turned around and began to collect the tie-offs, making our way out of the wreck. This was putting the Tech1 stuff into real practice, and we all loved it :)

Back outside the wreck, we tidied up the reel and swam slowly along the wreck, past casement gun after casement gun. There were several large blast holes leading into the wreck that looked very tempting, and everything was covered with a patina of sea life, but we did not have the gas to linger too long. Having racked up about 45 minutes on the wreck, we drifted slowly upwards along the hull until we were swimming about on the top of the wreck. We called the dive and began the 25 minutes of deco I was calling. Howard whinged about the amount of deco because his magic machine told him the average depth was shallower than I had estimated it. However, I told him to quite whinging and put up with it until it was his turn to call the deco :). The deco was uneventful, and we hit the surface on schedule. Back on the boat for surface, and a hearty breakfast, and a surface interval resting off Lyness before going in for the second dive of the day, the Koln.

The Koln is s very different story to the Koenig. It is one of the smaller cruisers, although well equipped for her time. She was bristling with guns and capable of laying mines. She had thick plating for her size, and was capable of an amazing 29 knots. Unfortunately, she is now fairly well broken up, so there are plenty of opportunities for swim throughs and wreck penetration if conditions allow. The teams had been rearranged so that Howard and I were diving together. Now this is always a little dangerous. If you consider me to be the "middle" member of team Foxturd in terms of caution, Gareth is the angel on my left shoulder, and Howard is the anti-Christ on my right shoulder. When all three of us are diving together, there seems to be a natural balance between caution and adventure. Remove Gareth from the equation and it all goes horribly wrong. All of a sudden the little evil whispers in my ear from Howard seem very tempting, and things can get a little crazy.

Sooooo, Howard and I jumped din together with the intention of spending the entire dive inside the wreck. With scooters. What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, nothing. We had a stunning dive, and all the lining in was done according to Mr Kerslake's beasting, slowly and carefully, with the line tight and secure. We located an appropriate hole and secured the scooters outside the wreck. We then lined in for maybe 5 minutes before we located a hatchway that led deeper in the wreck. We were placing tie-offs every few metres, but the visibility warranted it. Lining in like this is a slow process, but we lined in for maybe 15 minutes before turning around and coming out again. We went further into any wreck than I have been before, and it was amazing to see parts of the wreck that have not seen daylight for 90 years. Deeper inside the wreck, things become a little more preserved, and ladders and companionways are more obviously recognisable. There is more rust and sediment, as it is not disturbed, and you have to be careful as a poor fin stroke can turn 5 metres of visibility into 0. We had a fantastic time, and I could hear Howard's calm slow breathing behind me, and see his torch signals in my line of sight, so everything was well with the world. The way out was much faster, with Howard pulling off the tie -ins for me and keeping the line tight as I reeled in the line as fast as possible. Back outside the wreck and Howard and I were laughing our heads off with the fun of it. We stowed the reel and got back on the scooters.

We scootered around a complete circuit of the wreck in a few minutes, passing all the other divers on the boat. We then scootered up to the top of the wreck. Scootering over the top of the hull, we could see some large holes that looked incredibly tempting, but I just did not have the gas to think about it. I called minimum gas and we ascended to do 10 minutes of O2 deco before heading for the surface. Probably the best dive of the week for me, I was smiling all the way through.

Tomorrow was to be another penetration dive, one I was really excited about. Having located, on Monday, the hole in the Markgraf I swam into last year, the three of us were going to swim directly to that hole and penetrate the wreck, to see how far it goes......