Friday, 19 June 2009

Part 3 - Malta

Owen has an important meeting to get back for so we have an early start this morning. Meet at the dive centre at 07:15 only to find that Howard (Shaw) has been up all night because the Haskell isn’t boosting like it should do. We go with 130 bar of 02 in the 7s as that is as much as we can get. The mixes are sorted and analysed. Kit is loaded and we set off through the small backstreets of St Julians and onward to Valetta. We arrive at the boat at 09:15 and quickly load the kit on. We have scared George off and we now have Hayden, another local who this time is diving air. We were also joined by Paul Toomer who was out running some tech courses. This week was an ART course but Paul was coming for a fun dive before diving with his student on the Al Faroud this afternoon. Paul is a really good guy and got our sense of humour straight off.

We are going out to dive the 153m long “Le Polynesien” which lies in 65m. Again a small bit on the wreck

“Like her sister ships “Australian”, “Armand Behic” and “Ville De La Ciotat”, she was quickly recognizable by her length, low profile on the water and the double funnels painted black. All ships were painted white between 1895 and 1905.

- In 1891 she started operating between France and Australia,
- through the Suez Canal.
- In 1903 her route was changed and she operated between France and the Far East mainly transporting passengers to the French colonies.
- In 1914 it operated towards Australia and New Caledonia,
- before being dispatched back to Europe were she was transformed into a troop transported for the first world war.

On the 10th of August 1918 she was hit by a torpedo from the German UC22 (which also sank Luciston Collier) and sank in 35 minutes, taking 10 lives. She now lies 7 miles outside the entrance of Valetta Grand Harbour.”

The Polynesien on the surface

A massive 5 mins out to the wreck again! I was starting to see a pattern here.

Leo, Howard and I roll in off the rib together with the O2 bottles being passed down again. I lead off again and down the shot we go. There is a little current here and we can see the sag in the shotline as it drops into the lee of the wreck. I reckon we have around 40m vis by the time we get to 30m! The wreck starts to come out of the deep blue. What a huge wreck she is! I make sure that Leo and Howard are sorted and we head off to the bow to get some shots and do a little exploring.

The gun on the bow

The gun on the bow

Unfortunately I hadn’t noticed that something had happened to the housing between the dive centre where I sit the kit up and getting into the water. There is a lever on the side of the Hugyfot housing which selects the focus mode (Single Shot, Continuous Auto-Focus or Manual). The camera was in manual focus :( and this is why the shots on this dive aren’t too good. Whilst they are just passable for on-screen display, they are pretty pants for printing. Oh well. I have now modified the housing levels so that that level doesn’t come anywhere near the switch on the camera!!

We moved aftwards now over the bow winch gear and one of the huge elevator sections into which we peered into. I could hear Howard giggling at this!! Maybe…

Bow winch gear

Cavernous hold

Under the structure Howard and I swapped from stage bottles to backgas. A quick clean up and then onwards through the decking.

Howard coming through the decking.

There is a huge coil of rope/cable lying on the deck just past the remaining top-deck structure and there is also another huge hole in the deck!! Just too tempting. I signalled to Howard that I wanted him to drop down and I would get a picture looking down the shaft towards him. Little did I know he was going to do some exploring!!

The coils on the deck

Howard down the shaft!

…then onto some exploring inside the wreck…[img][/img]

Howard inside a swim-through at 65m :)

..and back outside the other side with Hayden on the right hand-side. Leo is behind me when I taking this shot.

Howard and Leo coming through the swim-through.

Bottom time is now starting to come upon us so I pop down and see Paul who has joined us with his shiny Sentinel. This is a nice looking machine and Paul is very proud of his. He has now sold both of his Inspos due to his experience of diving this!

Paul on the bottom with his Sentinel

We gradually make our way back to the shot and as I look back I see Leo sitting nicely off to the side of the wreck

Leo above the wreckage of the Le Polynesien.

As Owen has a rib without a winch, he puts an SMB near the bottom of the shot to make it easier to haul the 20kg of lead back in again when we have finished the dive. Last man up fills it up. We leave Paul and Hayden on the wreck and start our way back up the shotline with huge grins on our faces giggling gently away having had a fantastic time…

L-R Howard, Paul and Leo.

Paul at 6m chilling away. That is a nice looking unit…

After 75 mins or so we surface and all proclaim that was the best wreck dive we had ever done. Leo says that this is also the calmest he has been out with the current being very slack. Paul comments that he has seen the lead weights (2-3kg) lifted from 9m where they normally sit to 6m due to the current!!

Kit packed up and on the boat we speed back to Valetta to allow Leo to get on with his prior arrangement. We drive back via an ice-cream shop! A well earned Magnum :) At Divewise we quickly decant everything, changing the cylinders over ready for a 32% and O2 dive on the Al Faroud.