|Pied Piper of Scapa Flow - Martin Robson|
The morning after the story telling nightmare I was tired. The pure craziness had obviously taken it out of me. However, in a bizarre twist of fate I was granted a proper lie in as the on board compressor was being fixed. The repair was a bit noisy, and I had considered asking Hazel to keep it down a bit; but thought better of it. After struggling a couple more hours in bed, I embraced the galley for breakfast and then attended to the dive kit in preparation for the first dive; SMS Cöln.
"SMS Cöln is the most intact of the four cruisers remaining in the depths of Scapa Flow. She now rests on her starboard side, but it is easy to imagine the wreck turned 90 degrees and grandly floating on the surface as the formidable warship she once was. SMS Cöln is a light cruiser of the Cöln class. Sister ship SMS Dresden was also scuttled in Scapa Flow and never raised by the salvagers.
Today SMS Cöln lies in 36 metres of water but extends up to 22 metres at the shallowest point. Unlike some of the warships, SMS Cöln is not a complex wreck to navigate and, combined with her depth, is well within the grasp of competent sport divers. The imposing stem and Armoured Control Tower are just two of the intact features that help to make such a memorable wreck." [source: scapaflowwrecks.com]
At 36m the dive was among one of the shallower wrecks, which was great as we were able to squeeze a longer bottom time. It was one of our more successful dives, in that we found most of the good stuff Hazel chatted about in yet another thorough dive brief. As per usual Kerri found a hole, to which Dave and I promptly followed her into, and found some very cool swim-throughs. Back in open water we continued to investigate the control tower, I recognised more guns (amazingly), and just before minimum gas Kerri found yet another hole. Dive done, Kerri initiated the ascent and ran the deco, I shot the bag, and Dave ... well, Dave watched.
Helen served up some post dive chilli, and most of us enjoyed a little nap before the V83 afternoon dive. I also decided I should see if my flooded strobe still worked. Having zero electrical or camera knowledge I decided I’d ask Darren for advice; being a photographer himself and somewhat intelligent.
"Would it be ok to put the batteries back in the strobe I flooded and turn it on? You know, to see if it works and shit?"
"No mate. Don't do that. Best get a professional to look at it."
"Aye, figured that was the best option, just checking."
I promptly hid in my cabin and turned it on anyway - it worked! It was a faux celebration as I stupidly put it back together and left it that way until I got home, by which stage it had turned into a salty-crusty mess and I couldn't get the battery door off
until I used vice grips that broke if entirely
. Lesson learned: if you flood something, take it apart; keep it apart, and then rinse.
'Scuttled in 1919 with rest of German High Seas Fleet, V83 was boarded before she sank, and beached on the east side of Rysa Little. During the 1920s, Ernest Cox put her to use in the salvage of SMS Hindenburg. Her own salvage failed and now she lies in two sections surrounded by debris and rubbish, including the 4.1 inch guns, the rudder and the anchor.' [source: scapaflow]
The V83 was more of a rubble wreck, similar to the Seydlitz
dive. As our team sat on the bench Hazel approached and asked if we would tie in the shot line, on a semi-permanent type basis. It was a simple request:
"Hi guys, do you mind tying in the shot?"
I responded, and watched in awe as Hazel tied a shepherds loop, or something, with a piece of rope.
"Aye, no problem."
Now, as many of you know I’m not a member of a dive club, I’m not a sailor, I’m not a fisherman, and I’m not into rope fetish (which many of you should not know); as a result I know nothing of knots.
Kerri glanced my direction:
"You don't know how to tie in a shot."
"Aye, I know."
"What are you gonna do?"
"Tie a big fucking knot."
I have yet to receive an angry Facebook message from Hazel, so I presume it worked.
The dive was great fun. We checked out the gun, wheelhouse, boilers, and an hour later ascended my rather fabulous shot line, meeting Robin along the way.
|Kerri searches for holes|
|Kerri thinking where the holes would be|
|Robin going full retard on the ascent|
That night we wandered into the city of Orkney to visit the infamous Scapa Scuba
dive shop. It was excellent - dive kit everywhere! I even treated myself to a hoodie. Kerri bought a t-shirt, a hoodie, a hat ... I stopped watching after a while. Credit card suitably abused, I fancied a pint.
As we climbed the stairs to reach the level with the beer on it, Kerri suddenly stopped. I enquired:
Kerri didn't speak, merely pointed...
"Oh mother of Christ."
The storyteller ... he was in the pub.
We moved with caution, but our attempt was futile as I suddenly came face to face with a man in a body warmer...
"Hello there. Again. Are you coming to the show?"
"Em, eh, em, no ... we hadn't realised it was on tonight ... em, ... and we haven't time I’m afraid. I'm also allergic..."
He knew. He had too. We ran back to the ship and hid in our beds until morning.
|'You must come and see my floor.'|
Day six of the great Scapa adventure was an early start, and we set out to dive SMS König.
'All three of the scuttled battleships remaining in Scapa Flow belong to the König class. This stately warship was the namesake of her class. She lies nearly overturned in 38 metres of water and extensively broken up. The salvage teams, although causing considerable damage, exposed areas that remain hidden on the other battleships. The engine room alone is worth a dive as so many of its component parts remain.
König was a formidable force in her day and was the leading ship in the German line at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.' [source: scapaflowwrecks.com]
A max depth of 40m or so meant another 21/35 trimix fill to add to the big bill; I do so enjoy trimix dives. Milky Joe with his tumble dryer was recruited back into the team, and we set off. We found the barbette, rudder and an SOV.
Unlike an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), an SOV consisted of one of our GUE buddies accompanied by her GoPro - Steph Operated Video. Joe managed to reverse into the SOV just as we began our ascent, and was back on bag duty.
I ran the deco, allowing Kerri to join Dave on holiday.
The surface interval before SMS Dresden dive involved a two hour walk around The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Naval Museum
. It was amazing, and I highly recommend having a mooch around if you're ever in the area.
SMS Dresden is a unique dive within Scapa Flow thanks to the ship coming to rest both on its port side and on an incline. The northward-facing bow sits at a depth of 25 metres and the ship slopes south towards the stern at 38 metres. There are enough hidden gems to please veteran divers but for many it is the human touches shining through which provide the most reward. SMS Dresden was launched in 1917 and commissioned into service with the High Seas Fleet in 1918. Her sister ship SMS Cöln also lies in the depths of Scapa Flow. [source: scapaflowwrecks.com]
The Dresden dive was marred unfortunately by really bad visibility. The water was murky at the best of times, but the fact ten divers descended at once amplified it. That said, we reached the bridge and worked our way along the wreck to the salvage break for an enjoyable dive.
|Poor viz on SMS Dresden|
|Lighting for pic provided by the SOV|
I also managed to get myself entangled in an old shot line, even after Kerri had attempted to warn me. It was rather unnerving, but no big deal and Kerri got me free. We also bumped into Martin Robson on the dive, who later explained he wanted us to follow him into the wreck where the visibility was better. Follow Martin Robson ... hmmmmm ...
Dinner that night was phenomenal. Helen had managed to create two enormous pots of venison pie; venison that Hazel had killed with her own hands apparently.
It was a wonderful feast, and set me up well for an evening watching TED.
The final day on the Valkyrie was as depressing as I expected. There was no particular itinerary for the day and Hazel asked Kerri what the group wanted to dive. We decided upon SMS Cöln and SMS Carlsberg again, as they were two very enjoyable dives.
We prepared a dive plan for the Cöln, which consisted of 'drop down and look about until we hit minimum gas,' when Martin Robson approached us.
"Would you guys like to accompany me on the dive? We could go inside a bit."
For those who don't know Martin Robson
, he is a cave explorer and likes to go far inside caves and wrecks - like hundreds of metres inside. Kerri answered:
"Oh yes! That would be great!"
I was slightly less enthused.
"How far is a bit?"
"Oh, not much; but stay close"
After a few minutes the word had spread; 'Martin is taking Andy, Kerri and Dave into the Cöln
.' Moments later Martin had become the pied piper, and pretty much everyone was intent on following him inside 'a bit.'
The dive was amazing. We tailed Martin to one end of the wreck and slowly navigated an entrance through the hull. It was basically a big conga train: Martin, me, Kerri, Dave, Steph, Bell Johnchamber, and possibly more.
The words "stay close
,” echoed in my mind; I didn't let the crazy bastard out of my sight. The interior sections were amazing, and did have better visibility as promised. At one point I became slightly nervous as Martin shuffled through a narrow gap. I quickly followed, fearing the viz would get stirred up and I'd lose him, but just as I caught up he back-kicked out; later stating it was maybe a bit tight and didn't want me freaking out - good call Martin, good call.
Backing out was a fine idea, but it was soon apparent everyone else had the same 'stay-as-fucking-close-to-Martin-as-humanly-possible' plan, and comically we all collided on top of one another.
A few minutes later the dive-conga exited through another tear, at the other end of the wreck. Martin waved goodbye and squirrelled off under something else.
|Martin post dive|
|Steph (SOV) - glad to be alive!|
SMS KARLSUHE - part II
Karlsuhe was as equally enjoyable as the first time; aside from Rob conducting the dive brief:
'Ye diving Karlsuhe. It hasn't changed since Tuesday.'
And promptly walked out. Classic.
Alas, the dive time was shorter than I would have liked as I had less O2 in my Ali 40 than I thought. After only 35 mins bottom time we gave the final thumb of the week and ascended.
We waved goodbye at the huge chunk of steel and vowed to return soon. It was a sad moment.
Back aboard the ship, it was clear everyone felt the same.
Diving done, the only thing left to do was tidy up. Our merry band of divers quickly had the deck cleared, bags packed, gear dissembled, dried, and the cylinders piled up ready to go. Everyone worked together, making the task a little less arduous. After that we just had to settle the bill. It was nowhere near Maurizio’s Big Bill
, but diving helium is an expensive enough affair; but worth every penny.
All accounts settled we headed for the pub for a great nights fun, although the tiredness got the better of most and it was an earlier climax than anticipated. We also had to fend off Martin Robson's black market items...
|'You GUE? - need any snaps?'|
The final morning on The Valkyrie was sombre and short. We had said our goodbyes to the crew the night before, but Helen had left a final gesture of lunch bags for everyone - it was a nice touch. Then it was into the Ford Boring and onto the ferry, which was particularly rough. From personal experience I advise not to eat a full fry up before that crossing. I suffered, as did most of us.
|Andy - ill |
|Joe - ill|
We used the crossing to say our goodbyes, after which our Scapa group meandered to the car deck, and everyone began their own personal journey home.
CONCLUSION & THANKS
Scapa Flow was an amazing experience. The diving is incredible; it is impossible to comprehend how enormous those wrecks are until you see them in the flesh - breathtaking.
With a maximum depth of 46m and calm conditions, it is a perfect place for new and experienced tech divers alike; or recreational if you don't mind limited bottom times.
If anyone reading this fancies a trip to Scapa, I whole-heartedly recommend The Valkyrie
as your ship. The boat itself is extremely well kitted out, the food is glorious, and the skipper is first class; not once during the week did I have to swim for a shot line, or the boat.
The crew were very friendly, helpful and good fun - sincere thanks to Hazel, Helen and Rob for a wonderful experience. It was SO awesome Kerri and I booked a return trip for Nov 2014 there and then.
|Rob and his tasty helium|
|Home from Home|
Last but not least, a trip is only as good as those on it. Thanks to Wifebuddy (for chartering the boat and arranging the trip- as always
), Dave (hope you had a good holiday
), Milky Joe (welcome to team Irish
), Darren (we will never accompany your family again
), Robin (wreck spotter
), John Bellchamber (Bell Johnchamber
), Steph (SOV
), Linda & Bruce (the inspo folk
), Tara (sick note
), and Martin Robson (I’d follow you anywhere boss
|Scapa Folks 2013|
And remember this; beware of any man in a body warmer who really likes his floor.