Sunday, 19 June 2011

1st Day (19th June)

What a difference 2 days make, 48 little hours.

Well after having rubbish weather on the drive up, Lochaline today was a cracker, sunshine, flat seas, even the vis wasn't that bad (2-3 meters), as I understand it the South and East coasts didn't fare quite so well today, at least those who got blown out now know where all their sun went.

First dive was an orientation dive on the Wreck, dropping down the shot into the gloom me and Daniel (my buddy) spied the keel first, we swam up it towards the bows before doubling back and investigating some of the other features (see my intro course wasn't all wasted),although some of them were tagged I couldn't make out the writting on the map that we had taped to our slates so it was only once on the surface that we could confirm that where we thought we were, we then swam towards the stern, finding this time somethign that looked like it might be part of the wreck but it was untagged and my buddy was getting low on air (I was on a twinset so I had loads) so we decided to head back, after about 35 minutes or so we started our ascent.

After a quick return to the dive centre for some lunch we had a briefing on the first set of tasks we had to do, putting in the permanent control points, or at least dropping them near the site, they are made from 25l yellow tubs filled with scrap iron and concrete and take 2 to comfortably lift them on the surface, so hopefully once in place they shouldn't move.
The previous dive one of the teams had placed a "baby" shot using a reel and a small lift bag a short way from the rest of the wreck where the falling control points wouldn't land on anything that we were there to study/preserve!
After much manoeuvring by the boast each of the heavy yellow tubs were pushed over the side at the "baby" shot point, and we prepared to dive.

After a briefing on using lift bags (a few of ushad never used them before) me and
"the other Stephen" kitted up to jump in first, we looked a little like the "Evolution of diving" him in his ABLJ (including suicide bottle - I resisted the urge to play Dive Buddy Polaris), drysuit without a dump valve and regs older than me (well maybe), Me in twinset + wing with HID canister torch, but all of our kit got the job done with is the important bit.

We ascended down the main shot with the current running a fair bit carrying the lift bag and a 12l with an airgun for inflating the lift bag then fought against the current and made our way to the baby shot. "Bugger where the hell are the control points?", after a second or 2 of scratching heads we realised that that the current must have moved the liftbag on the end on the baby shot a fair ways from the weight at the bottom so dropped the cylinder and headed off in the direction of the current, this was the last bit of easy finning we got!

After some swimming in circles (and almost climbing up the cliff out of the water) we eventually spied one of the big yellow shapes coming out of the gloom, great, ok how many have we got here, 1, 2, 3, 4, erm 5, excellent all 6, all in a neat group. (The other) Stephen swims off towards where we think the baby shot (and the inflation cylinder) must be.

Once there he picked up the cylinder swam off to set-up the lift bag on the first control point whilst I proceed to slowly drag the "baby" shot to the location of the pile of control points to make the life a bit easier for the following divers (whilst the reel and liftbag at the end where quite baby, the shot itself wasn't).

After some trouble with the valve on the lift bag we finally managed to slowly "walk" first control point into place, with all the searching and dragging of stuff about against the current we were both on minimum gas and so we swam back to the shot for our ascent.

After we were up and we briefed the next pair of divers (Rich and Daniel) about what they would find down there they jumped in, unfortunately because of some problems with a mask and getting the lift bag filled, they didn't manage to get anymore in place (me and the other Stephen having already bagsied the closest one already ;-).

So the third and final pair went in, Claire and Peter, of course having a women on the team meant that they managed to get 2 control points in their correct places (although apparently not in the places that Claire thought they were), having been slightly disorientated due to the silt kicked up moving the heavy concrete and iron points, they sent up an SMB and ascended on that, as an indication of the strength of the current they were probably 50m away from the wreck they eventually surfaced after their safety stop!

So then back to the Dive Centre for tea and medals!

2 dives on tyre gas one of which involved lugging heavy things around and the fantastic dinner at the centre I'll certainly sleep well tonight!

Stephen Elves

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