As you may know, club members Lisa, Jason, Steve and Bob joined with some members from St Albans Sub Aqua Club; Pete, Cat and Becky to visit Scapa Flow.
Scapa Flow is a large, shallow anchorage in the Orkney Islands, us by the Royal Navy in both world wars. We travelled there to dive the wrecks of the German Imperial navy of the First World War. We were joined by Andy, previously without a club but whom I persuaded to join BATSAC on the taxi ride from Kirkwall airport to our base in Stromness.
Steve, Andy and I flew from Heathrow airport with the flight being delayed by an hour, to Aberdeen. Here we caught our connecting flight with minimum time to spare to Kirkwall. This flight from Aberdeen, over the northeast of Scotland gave us a splendid panoramic view of the Orkneys. I have to mention that the best days of the visit, weather wise, were the day that we arrived and the day that we left. The intervening days were varying shades of overcast cloud mixed in with sunshine and blue sky. An expensive taxi ride deposited us at The Ferry Inn, Stromness, and our home for the week. We soon met up with Lisa and Jason, settled in and met our fellow divers, soon to be come friends, (as divers do). That same evening we arranged our kit on the boat, left in the open, on an unguarded boat all week, (we were not in London), settled into our rooms, met up for dinner and retired for the night.
It was common practise to mostly all meet for dinner then retire to the pub for an appropriate amount of decompression fluid before returning to our rooms. The first couple of days that we were there coincided with the Orkney Blues Festival. One has to pity those of our party who had rooms in the main hotel building above the dining room/bar. They may have gone to bed but did not sleep until the early hours of the morning.
Sunday: Our first dive of the week. After an approximate journey time of half and hour on the MV Karin, a decommissioned Norwegian trawler, Jason and I were the first pair in the water, descending the shot line, to see the SMS Karlsruhe at 28 metres. A mostly intact cruiser of WW1. It was lying on its port side with us starting our dive approximately mid ships, swimming forward above the hull, falling away to our left, with the deck effectively a wall beneath us. We came over the rear of the forward armament, a single gun to each turret, shielded to the front, sides and top but open to the rear. Proceeding further, we reached the bow then followed it down to the keel of the ship. I took a moment to reflect on the grace of its lines, reaching ahead of me into the darkness before me and rising away to me left where we had just swam from. An impressive and unforgettable sight on our first dive.
It was on this first morning that we all met Manfred and Andreas from Germany. They became firm friends over the course of the week. Naturally they both spoke excellent English, putting me to shame and both enjoyed the evenings with us in the pub at the end of the day.
Our second, shallow, dive of the day, once we had all completed an appropriate surface interval was on the Gobernador Bories, an ex whaling ship, much broken up. It had been sunk as a block ship between islands, to protect British ships in the main anchorage. Initially this seemed a boring dive but this changed when we found the machinery and other interesting parts of the ship. Two good dives in one day. This is what a holiday is all about.!
Monday: Once again Jason and I were first into the water, it was a consistently warm 12 degrees all week, this time onto the SMS Brummer, another cruiser. This ship was again very impressive but salvage work had broken up much of the ship in the mid ships area. Jason and I swam along the ship almost to the very stern to again see the intact guns and rudder. We had just gone into deco and deployed the dsmb when my right hand, primary regulator became hard to breathe on. I switched to my left hand,alternative air supply instantly enjoying full breaths of air. We ascended normally to surface fulfilling our deco obligations. Once back on the boat, we checked the valves on my manifolded twinset. I had not opened the isolating value sufficiently to allow the cylinders to equalize, although I had used this setting previously. Evidently I had been breathing down one cylinder faster than it could replenish. It was a lesson learnt but I could not recommend it at 34 metres.
Our afternoon dive was on the Tarbarka. Another block ship with no deployed shot line. The strong downwards current assisted our rapid descent. The up turned hull was covered in kelp which Jason and I slammed into, just like cartoon characters, at 6 metres. We quickly and un-ceremoniously crawled over the hull into the lee where we continued our dive. The kelp at the end of the wreck streamed six foot horizontally from it. This should have fore-warned us as when we deployed the dsmb it went away like a kite in a similar fashion. Our ascent was equally exciting.
I could continue in a similar vein of narrating our dives day by day. I think it would be boring so I will just round up and say that we dived all week on a many wrecks as we could. They were all interesting. There was something different on every one.
It was a hard week for me as I had never done so many taxing dives over a continuous period previously. One day on the boat I registered the air temperature at 7 degrees. Some of us visited the 5,000 year old village at Skara Brae. It has in-door toilets and a sewage system. This was the day that the wind made it so cold that I thought my face had fallen off. The photographers amongst us were in their element with all the new sights.
We saw seals and porpoises on our boat journeys, visited the museum at Lyness, spent our money in the two dive shops in Stromness, enjoyed some good meals and drinks in the evenings and talked a lot. All in all a very memorable week.!