Friday, 14 September 2007

The Chimps Do Scapa - Part 6

Dive 9. SMS Markgraf. 42 Metres. 45 Minutes Bottom Time. 30 Minutes Decompression Time. 21/35 and 50%
Dive 10. SMS Karlsruhe. 25 Metres. 40 Minutes Bottom Time. 8 Minutes Decompression Time. 32% and Oxygen

The visibility on the Markgraf had dropped to about 5 metres, so we took the descent carefully. Gareth led the dive, and located the hole we were after almost immediately. However, Howard felt uncomfortable with the dive and called it immediately. As it was just a min deco ascent, we let him ascend on his own, and Gareth and I, as we felt ok, decided to continue with the dive. I tied off primary and secondary ties on the outside of the hole, and we made our way into the wreck. We past the point we had gone to the other day, and turned right deeper into the wreck. It opened up into a fairly large compartment, with several entrances, so we continued tying off and made our way out of the initial entrance and deeper into the wreck. We were now swimming parrallel to the keel of the wreck, and perhaps to decks in. Passing a hatch, we emerged into a corridor which went on for perhaps ten metres before coming to an area covered in cables and broken steel. It had taken us about ten minutes to reach this point, and although we were well within the rule of thirds we had set out when making the primary tie-off, I decided enough was enough and I turned the dive. Gareth collected the tie offs for me as he swam ahead and I reeled back. We exited the wreck three minutes later and stowed away the reel with no dramas. I felt at this point the wreck no longer held any fear for me, and I had really enjoyed penetrating it, seeing areas I had not seen before. It also gave me a healthy respect for the escape we made last year - turning the wrong way would obviously had been fatal.

Outside the wreck, we swam the small distance to the bows, at which point Gareth indicated he wanted to take a couple of shots with his camera. I did the posing thing over the bows whilst he took the pictures, but these did not come out well. We decided to do a swimming ascent, so swim very slowly up the keel of the wreck, which took us from 43 metres all the way to 24 metres, giving you a real image of the scale of these battleships. At 24 metres, we called the dive, and ascended just three metres above the wreck to switch gas to 50% and shoot the bag. Talk about an easy ascent. The deco was uneventful, and back on the surface, we could see Howard on the Invincible keeping an eye out for us, so all was well. Everyone seemed to enjoy their dive, although Mary had one surreal moment when, whilst swimming INSIDE the Markgraf, she came across a green Morphy Richards Hoover. Complete with plug. Despite the jokes about deep air that were made all day she insists it was there, next to an open porthole! Cue plenty of jokes about the cleaner leaving the window open when Hoovering, thus bringing about the demise of the high seas fleet.

Back on the boat for a hearty breakfast, and Ian was having problems with the compressor. He decided to head back into Stromness where a mechanic was waiting for him. We were on tenterhooks as to whether there would be further diving for the day, but the compressor was duly fixed and Ian steamed back out to the Karlsruhe. This is a much shallower wreck, a light cruiser well broken up. I had enjoyed it was one of my favourite dives of 2005, and was looking forward to seeing it again. The Karlsruhe was another light cruiser, slightly smaller than the Dresden and Koln, and now lying shallower than the other cruisers in about 25 metres of water. This makes for a lighter dive, and is perfect for a combination of 32% and Oxygen for a really long dive.

Once again, the teams had been moved about, to give everyone experience of diving with one another. I was diving with Howard, and Gareth was diving with Wilbo. Gareth and Wilbo were going to take the scooters in and do circuits of the wreck whilst Howard and I located a suitable entrance and did the usual ferreting. Howard excelled himself, finding a couple of great entrances, that we dutifully explored, although we did not go deep into the wreck as I decided it was a little too broken up and unstable. It definitely seemed to have flattened in the last couple of years since I had first visited, which was very sad. There were several sprung plates that were whole the last time, and the bows had a distinct sag to them which were absent in 2005. This is a real shame. These fantastic wrecks will not be there for ever, and it will be a sad day indeed when they lose their distinctive shapes and start to become flattened piles of plates. Guess that's a while away yet, but it is sad to see it happening.

Gareth and Wilbo managed about 6 circuits of the wreck, having a great time on the scooters, before stowing the scooters and doing their ascent. Howard and I had a slightly different story. Howard's p valve failed, causing a massive suit flood and resulting in him calling the dive immediately. We began an immediate ascent and Howard boogied up to the shallows a little faster than me, in order to get into warmer water. As we were decoing on Oxygen anyway and only had a few minutes’ stops, this was no real drama, but I could see his hands shaking on the ascent, and we if the deco had been any longer we would have cut it short in order to get him to the surface. Back on the surface he practically leapt out of his dry suit and into some dry clothes, and much humour was derived from the cause of the failure :)

Everyone else surfaced with no issues, and everyone had enjoyed themselves. The visibility had dropped to about 5 metres, but it was fairly light in the shallows, a complete contrast to the dark, moody wreck of the Markgraf.

We had a fairly quiet evening, with the final day's diving ahead of us. There was no helium left on the boat, but luckily Just about everyone had a fill left, so we were good to go for the James Barrie. Despite Roy and Mark trying to talk me into deep-airing the Barrie as they had also enjoyed how wasted I became on it, I had decided to do it on mix so I could use ratio deco, and also because I was interested in seeing the wreck with a clear head.

There was a sneaky helium rustling run organised this evening. As the skipper had told us he had run out of Helium, Gareth threw on a twin set and walked over to the MV Valkyrie, where Hazel give him a fill. Sneaking back, he was lumbered by a non-plussed skipper who groaned that he could have done the fill for him as he had 80 bar remaining in one of the J's. In Gareth's defence, the entire boat did hear the skipper say "That's it, no more helium" earlier in the day. Hey ho.

With the plans and teams all organised for the morning, the mixes checked and kit assembled, one half of TFT headed down the pub, whilst the other had an early night. hic.