The bank holiday, that time when I usually plan to go diving on JasonP’s trip and get blown out at least on one day. Not this time!
The initial plan was to do the Iolanthe on Saturday, Empress Of India on Sunday and then the Grane on the Monday. As predictable for the bank holiday, the Saturday isn’t looking too good but it is doable, so I take a spare twinset filled with 32% just in case we end up doing something closer inshore.
Heading out the sea state is “lumpy” but diveable and so we punch out and eventually arrive on site. Shot in and kitted up I jump in and descend. Going down the line the wreck comes into view around 30 – 35m, which is very good as the seabed is around 44m! A quick flow check and my usual couple of breaths on my back up regulator to ensure it is where I expect it to be and is working okay and then off to explore.
This wreck has collapsed down and spread open, making it easy to see all the engine, boiler and deck machinery. I think that it still is pretty close to the Wreck Tours (Wreck Tour 101) description, not having changed much since the article was written in 2007. After 25min my bottom stage is nearly empty so I switch to backgas and stow the reg. Another 10min of poking around and then it’s time to bag off. Ascent and gas switch to my 50% go fine, but I notice there is quite a bit of movement on the line – it looks like it’s getting quite bouncy up there .
On the surface, sure enough, the wind has picked up so once all are back on board we run for home.
Tomorrow is looking better but still not great for doing the long run out to the Empress Of India so we elect to do something else.
The wind has dropped but there is still enough to make it a bit bouncy on the run out. We are headed for a little dived wreck that was known for a long time as the Start, near the Aeolian Sky. However the actual Start is further East and the wreck is now listed as either Unknown or “Hartburn” (though the Hartburn is also listed as being elsewhere).
We were expecting around 40m but the wreck came into view around 25m and the top of the wreck was around 33m . The shot was next to two large boilers that sat side by side with a smaller donkey boiler close by. A lovely two cylinder compound engine lies behind the boilers on its side exposing the cranks and shafts and a drive shaft leads to the stern, which is quite broken.
After a little exploration around here, I noticed that the sea bed dropped away and something “didn’t quite look right” so I got my reel out and lined off from the side of the wreck. Unfortunately it turned out that the seabed just formed a hollow or bowl and there were quite a few fish above it which had given it a “not quite right” look from distance. Since there was nothing to see I returned, meeting Jason and Swampy who were coming along my line, so I indicated that there was nothing to see and we returned to the wreck.
Around the 30min mark I came off my bottom stage and went back to backgas and then worked forwards. At the bow there were three anchors, two large ones (about 6’ from tip to tip of the flukes) and one smaller. The bow itself also stands up quite a way, though many of the plates have fallen away giving it a “skeletal” look.
By this time the current had picked up and I was pulling myself over the wreck and at 45min it was definitely time to go. Ascent and deco passed without any issues.
Back on board I found to my chagrin that I’d managed to loose my Salvo Pathfinder , I don’t know if I’d not clipped it off properly when restowing or managed to unclip it when I’d unclipped my Kent Tooling reel to launch my dSMB. Either way I need to go back some time and have a look for it. We had of bit of a surface interval and some of the guys went for a scallop run, but I didn’t bother with that.
This was the rescheduled Empress Of India, a Royal Sovereign class battleship that was sunk while being used as a gunnery target in 1913.
The sea was nice and flat and the run out was quite comfortable with the sun making it warm but not too hot. Today I was joined by my buddy, Jack, and we planned on exploring inside. Needless to say, after the loss of my reel yesterday, Jack got the job of lining in .
As with most (all?) battleships, the Empress Of India is upside down, but this does not mean that you have to spend all the time at sea bed level as there are holes from where she was hit plus a large hole where they went in to salvage the condensers.
We came across a hole part way up the side and Jack tied off. Inside the space was amazing, for quite a bit of the time we were able to swim side by side, mainly having to go single file though the bulkheads. Portholes were still evident, though all the ones I saw were *very* firmly attached. In about half an hour we’d explored just a tiny part of just one deck. You could spend a week on this wreck diving it every day and still not see it all.
Coming out we ascended up the bow and then bagged off from the top of the wreck after a total bottom time of 35min.
After a longish surface interval I swapped over my twinsets and did a scallop run and quickly filled the bag.
So all in all a very successful and enjoyable bank holiday weekend. Many thanks to everyone on board for making it a great trip and special thanks to Jason for organising it and to Woody for being a great skipper.
I can only hope that next years is just as good.