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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Part 1 - Simmer Dim

I hadn't considered Shetland before as a dive location, it's not one that is heavily advertised or pushed. It came to my attention at the London Festival of Diving late last year, where Kevin Pickering and Teresa Telus gave a short presentation about diving in the area. It looked fantastic and after being messed about by skipper over a trip to Ireland, decided to go to Shetland instead.

A quick search on the internet found four spaces on a trip being organised by Hazel, skipper of the MV Valkyrie on the web forum Yorkshire Divers (YD). The very next day, Karl, Rowena, Rob and myself were booked on the trip. We were going to Shetland!

July, 2007

It's 4:50am on a damp Friday in July and Rob and I are loading enough dive kit to stock a small dive shop into the back of the car. Ahead of us is the 670 mile journey to Scrabster, just about as far north as you can get on the UK's mainland. The journey passed without incident and we arrived at the Ferry Inn where we met up with Karl and Rowena for a couple of beers and a meal.

Early the next morning we loaded our kit into the NorthLink containers and left the cars in the long-stay carpark. We travelled as foot passengers on the MV Hamnavoe to Stromness, Orkney where after a bit of searching, found the Valkyrie hiding behind the ferry. As previously mentioned, the Valkyrie is skippered by Hazel, who is ably assisted by Helen. This is their first season with the Valkyrie, previously running the boat Stormdrift out of Stromness. This was also the first trip they'd run to the Shetland Islands, so it was going to be an adventure for all of us. The boat is a converted fishing trawler, now a liveaboard for 12 guests. It's one of the few Orkney based charter boats that has a diver lift, making diver retrieval very easy, for the divers, at least!



Onboard we met Hazel and Helen, plus the other divers on the trip, Jo, Alun, Ray, Sandra, Tony and Alex. The boat has been fitted out to a high standard and offered comfortable accomodation for the week. Here is the galley, where Helen prepared more good food than we could possibly eat (although, admittedly, we did eat it all) and the eating area. The urn in the corner is on from the time Helen gets up to the time she goes to bed (or after she's gone to bed and then got up again to turn it off, apparently) and tea, coffee and chocolate is available on a help yourself basis, which is nice as I find most skippers don't offer enough cups of tea.





Here is the lounge area which has a TV/DVD and stereo, along with a collection of DVDs. I don't think these were turned on all week, though as we seemed to be a group of readers (There is also a small library of books). Not visible is the bowl of snacks and sweeties. Probably because it was empty, Helen was fighting a loosing battle trying to keep that constantly filled with goodies! Off to the right hand side of the picture are a number of electrical sockets for charging cameras and torches.



Below decks there are 6 twin berth cabins. The bunks are comfortable and warm. Things were a bit creaky when underway, but it is a wooden boat and this is to be expected. There was a sink tucked away in the corner, along with some storage and electrical sockets.



One of the showers is on this level, the other is up on deck level along with the two heads.

Last but not least, there is the spacious dive deck. The benches are at a nice height and there's storage underneath. There isn't too much of a slope on the deck, so it's easy to balance once kitted up.



Hazel was happy to have people come up to the wheel house, as long as it wasn't during tricky maneuvers, like picking up divers or docking. At least, she never threw me out when I was up there asking daft questions or getting north and south mixed up.

The Bloody Weather

The weather forecast was not particularly good for the planned overnight journey to Lerwick. Plan B was put into action, with a journey up to Kirkwall during the afternoon, getting a dive in in the north of Orkney in the morning. Then another decision would be made as to whether we go for it and make the crossing or not. We all knew this trip was at the mercy of the weather and let's face it, Scapa Flow is hardly a poor second choice, is it? However, we were all keen to get to Shetland and we were disappointed that the weather was not looking good. It was a somewhat rough journey up to Kirkwall, the boat handling the large seas well, but still experiencing a fair amount of roll. We arrived in Kirkwall late evening and checked the dive kit over to make sure it hadn't abandoned ship during the previous few hours.

There looked to be no improvement in the weather on Sunday, but we managed to get the first dive of the trip in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
HM Loch Garry

Part 2 - HM Loch Garry (Previously known as Disperser)

J. B Graham Trawer, on lease to the Admiralty and converted to armed patrol vessel, foundered at moorings 13/09/1916. Built 1903 by Alexander Hall. Length 106', Beam 21', Draught 12'. 176 grt. Master Trueman.


(from Aberdeen Built Ships)

Hazel originally thought this wreck was of the Disperser, however, this seemed unlikely as while she did originally sink in this area (all crew lost), Shipwrecks of the North of Scotland (R. N. Baird) lists this as having been refloated. It now seems that this may be the wreck of the HM Loch Garry, a trawler leased to the Admiralty and converted to an armed patrol vessel during WWI.

She is located in 23m of water in a quite sheltered area known as The String and we descended the shotline to find absolutely cracking viz and a slight amount of current. Despite the current, it was good to be back in the water following the dive desert on the south coast that was June. The wreck was laying with a list to starboard, with the port side fairly intact, while the starboard side was quite broken. The most noticable thing about this wreck was the number of engines, there seems to be two forward of the single boiler (approx 4m diameter) and one larger tripple expansion unit aft. The smaller engines forward are presumably part of the vessel's machinery, rather than propulsion. The propshaft is visable and leads to a 4 bladed prop, the single rudder turned to port.



Sadly I didn't get a good look at the bow, if someone has a better idea of the shape and condition of the bow (or any other details, I only managed to get around the rest of it once) then please update the picture and send it to me please!

Lots of life on the wreck, including Ballan and Cuckoo Wrasse (I got bitten by one of each), some Saithe, too (which didn't bite, but then I didn't wiggle my finger at them). Plenty of crabs dotted around, including a little yellow one that Rob found hiding in a sponge. A conger was lurking at the back of the main engine. I didn't spot him until I was almost nose to nose with him, so it was a bit of a shock and I backed out from under the engine quite quickly!


Photo Karl - Ballan Wrasse

We managed one quick circuit of the wreck before the current really started picking up. We'd run out of no stop time as well and as we hadn't told Helen that we'd be more than an hour, we headed up for a nice cup of tea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Shetland or Bust!

Part 3 - Shetland or Bust

As we sat around drinking tea and munching on the plentiful supply of biscuits, Hazel popped her head through the doorway and simply said "We're going". There was much rejoicing, but it was probably not going to be the most pleasant of passages. The basic plan was that we would stick our nose out and have a look. That's the kind of plan that I like.

It was a little rolly on the way up, but no where near as bad as the journey up the Pentland Firth. We got a good view of the Fair Isle before retiring to our cabins, leaving Hazel and Helen to get us into Lerwick in the wee hours (about 3am).



It has to be said, getting to sleep took an act of faith. I'd elected to go for the top bunk. However, I was wondering about the wisdom of this decision as the boat rocked and rolled. The FEAR set in and I was convinced I was going to fall out of bed. After an hour or so of not falling out of bed, I managed to get to sleep and lo and behold, continued to not fall out of bed!

When I awoke there was no engine noise, not rocking and rolling and when I went up on deck, the rather fantastic view of...Shetland!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Lunokhods-1

Part 4 - Lunokhods-1

Klondiker (Russian fish factory ship), dragged anchor and ran aground 09/11/93. Length 277', Beam 46', Draught 19'. 2774 grt. All 156 crew and ships cat rescued.

The wreck on the Lunokhods-1 lies at a steep angle on a rock wall below the Kirkabister Lighthouse. The stern is in around 5m and the bow somewhere around 45m. The hull is broken and there is a gap between the stern section and the bow section.

We dived the Lunokhods-1 twice. On the first dive, Rob and I were to tie the shot in. We got to the bottom of the shot and no wreck in sight, despite excellent viz. Rob and I dragged the shot in what we thought was the direction of the wreck. We were soon joined by Karl and Row who joined in the battle to move the shot. By the time we found some wreck the line was very tight and we were not able to tie it in, so we wedged it under some wreckage.

We meandered around some random wreckage, but could not find the bow section which was supposed to be in 40-45m. We gave up and headed up the rockface following the debris trail, hoping to find the stern that lies in about 5-24m. At 16m still no sign of the wreck, so decided to follow the wall along, but which direction? We decided to go right, which turned out to be a good plan as we soon happened across the wreck.

The stern section is quite intact, but covered in kelp. In the swell this can be quite disorientating and gives an optical illusion of the wreck swaying below you! There is quite a bit of damage and I found it hard to orientate myself on this wreck. Zig zagged up the the wreck, finding hundreds of small nudibranchs in the kelp. Large numbers of crabs on the wreck, in some cases wedged into small holes, in other cases they were brazenly out in the open. These animals were not used to divers!


Photo Karl - Urchins

On our second dive on the Lunokhods-1, later in the week, we stayed on the shallow section of the wreck. In one room we found a monster lobster, who was showing no fear of Rob who was getting closer and closer with his camera.


Photo Rob - Lobster

Again we found plenty more life on the wreck, including some nice pipefish, complete with eggs (they are related to the seahorse and the male also carries the eggs).


Photo Rob - Pipefish

As we were finishing our second dive on the shallowest section (about 5m or so), a grey shape darted down from above. "SEAL!" I shouted, pointing at it excitedly. It probably would have been more prudent to point with the hand that didn't have a torch connected to it. Sadly I scared the poor wee beastie away.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Pionersk

Part 5 - Pionersk

Klondiker (Russian fish factory ship), Ran aground 31/10/1994. Length 546', Beam 70', Draught 27'. 10035 grt. All 137 crew saved. No mention of ships cat.

The Pionersk also lies against a rock wall, with the bow above the waterline. As with the Lunokhods-1, we made two dives on the Pionersk. She is much more broken than the Lunokhods, making navigation on the wreck even harder. I have no idea where we went on the first dive, on the second dive we seemed to end up in the canning area.

Since the bow of this one actually sticks out of the water, so it is fairly easy to find. We dropped in at about 12m and worked our way down to the deepest section. Found the massive engines, six(?) cylinder diesels(?) near the deepest point. A few boilers dotted around, which could have been for a number of tasks, from steam cleaning the machinery to working deck equipment.

On one of the boilers there is a very nice brass maker's plate. However, it wasn't going to come off with my excuse for a dive knife (I lost my dive knife, so I just picked up a knife from my kitchen...)

There are can tops and stainless steel trays strewn all over this wreck. As it's very broken there are lots of crevices to get in and out of. We certainly came back from our dives covered in rust :)


Photo Karl - Dan and a Vodka bottle, made in the USSR

We found some nice pipefish on this one, plus lots of small fish, but very few larger fish, although we did find an angler fish.


Photo Rob - Angler fish
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Glenisla

Part 6 - Glenisla

James Mitchell & Son Steamship, sank following collision with Glenelg on 24/11/1917. All 23 crew rescued. Carrying cargo of coal, on route from the Tyne to Norway. Built 1878 by W.B. Thompson. Length 251', Beam 33', Draught 20'. 1263 grt.

This was probably my favourite wreck of the week and I was pleased that weather conditions meant we got two dives on her as I hadn't managed to get to the stern section on our first dive.

She sits upright in 44m of water, her superstructure gone and the hull damanged. The Glenisla had not been a lucky ship and this was not the first time she had been sat on the seabed, having been scuttled twice before. She had also been involved in two previous collisions. The third and final collision and subsequent sinking happend while the Glenisla was at anchor. The Glenelg was under tow after being torpedoed when the collision occurred.

On the first dive, the shot was on one of the few bits of deck that remained in place, next to the engine. A quick look up and down the deck revealed absolutely stunning vis. Estimates later put it at 25m, but how can you really tell when it is this good! We dropped into the engine room and had a circle of the compound steam engine before taking a quick nosey aft. Here there was a lot of damage, so we headed forward instead, cruising over the wreck at deck level. Two large boilers and smaller condersers(?) sit ahead of the engine. Ahead of this is a low pressure boiler. Gently finning across the damaged area near the bow, Rob pointed out the spare propellor. Tangled in the wreckage (probably from a dragged Klondiker anchor) was the broken mast and a couple of winches. The bow itself is in fairly good condition and it's from here that we made our ascent, the wreck visible below us for quite some time.



On our second dive, Rob and I had hoped to use the X-Scooters that are kept on board so that we could get to all the bits of the wreck that we wanted on one dive. Unfortunately there was a slight technical problem (an exploding prop) and we had to do with good old fashioned finning. The shot was just off starboard side of the wreck. While Rob moved the shot weight closer to the wreck, I kept an eye on the largest hermit crab I've ever seen. However, I was at 44m on air, so it might just have been a small shell. From the shot I could see a damaged area and guessing this was the stern end, headed in that direction. We rounded the stern, where the propellor has been salvaged and the rudder is missing. A quick scan of the seabed showed no signs of the rudder. We ascended on the keel line and finned over the deck.

Here we dipped down into the wreckage and swam the length of the hull below the main deck, passing the engines and rising only to pass over the boilers. Below decks the wreck was filled with small fish, which parted as we swam forward, filling the void behind us as we passed through.

The ascent was quite noisey as a large container ship passed nearby while we were on our 6m stop. Helen later told us of how Hazel had to fend off a yacht that seemed intent on running us all down!

Photo Karl - Helen waits to pick up Rowena

The Glenisla had spent some time working as a Q-Ship and there is a gun laying on the seabed off the wreck near the stern somewhere. Unfortunately we didn't spot it. Maybe next time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Gwladmena

Part 7 - Gwladmena

Stone & Co Steamship, sank following collision with Flora on 02/01/1918. All 22 crew rescued. Carrying cargo of coal from Methil. Built 1878 by R. Irvine. Length 221', Beam 30', Draught 16'. 928 grt. Master F. Wood.

The Gwladmena was at anchor when the Danish steamship Flora collided with her as she made her way to join a convoy in the darkness of the early hours of January 2nd, 1918. The wreck now lies upright in 40m of water.

The shotline was on the engine head, which originally confused me as it was ahead of the boilers. However, a quick inspection aft of the boilers found the base of the engine, so the block must have been dragged forward at some point. A Divernet article indicates that this may have happened when the wreck was wire swept to make it safe for passing shipping.

Lots of tangled wreckage around and no decking or superstructure present. The bow is still intact and Rob and I went in for a mosey. It's very pretty and atmospheric inside, lots of coiled rope still in place, light shining in through missing plates and decking. Hiding in the rope and wreckage were squat lobsters, the only time I saw them this week.


This drawing is rubbish. I will redraw it soon! The internal layout is right, but the hull does not come that high and is not that wide in relation to length! Gah.

We made our way aft to the stern where the propellor has been salvaged and the rudder is missing. Again, lots of tangled wreckage aft of the boilers, but the prop shaft tunnel is clearly visible.


Photo Karl - Rob and Dan on the boilers

Plenty of hermit crabs and small squat lobsters all over this wreck, but missing larger fish that we have seen on other wrecks in the area. It was a shame to only get the one dive on the Gwladmena as it was too big to really get a feel for in one dive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Samba

Part 8 - Samba (and things that are not bells)

Motor vessel. Ran aground 28/12/1956 in ballast on route from Rotterdam to Odda (Sweden). All 6 crew saved. Built 1940 by Hall Russell. Length 152', Beam 26', Draught ?'. 663 grt. Master Bloomberg

It was on Christmas day, 1956 that the Samba broke down in the North Sea. What followed was a truely heroic rescue mission to first try and save the ship and when that failed, the crew. The RNLI Coxwain, John Sales was decorated because of his actions during this rescue.

Now the Samba lies very broken on a rock wall, reaching a maximum depth of 35m. We jumped in at the deepest point and worked our way up the debris trail to about 10m. There are pieces of wreckage that are recognisable (the mast, for instance) but mostly it is just tangled bits of wreckage.

There are quite a lot of fish about on this one and we found another angler fish and some nice flatties. However, Helen had already started preparing dinner, so we left them alone.


Photo Rob - Flattie


Photo Rob - Angler fish

Once we got up to about 10m and into the kelp, we headed off into some gullies to see what we could find. Plenty of fish and nudibranchs around, plus various bits of wreckage, possibly from the Samba, but it's hard to tell.

A shiny plate caught my eye and I went to investigate. It was deeply concreted in and didn't want to move. As I looked down, a familiar shape could be seen below me. Could it be true? It's hard to say, I've never seen a ship's bell underwater before!

I excitedly got Rob's attention and showed him what I'd stumbled across. What it a bell? I wasn't sure and neither was Rob. We dug at it for a bit with dive knives, but it was well concreted in. A bit more hacking and we had exposed some brass!

It was obvious we were going to need some bigger tools. I sent up an SMB and we tied it to some rocks nearby. Then we ascended and headed back to the Valkyrie.

Hazel and Helen provided us with a hammer, crowbar, screwdrivers and goodie bag. I had a lifting bag in my box of bits. Loaded up with tools we jumped back in and descended down the line that we'd left marking the spot.

Half an hour of digging and hammering and we were no closer to getting it out. Rob gave it a bloody great smack with the hammer and managed to break through the concretion, but the bell shaped bit of the object was not brass! Instead it was badly corroded steel.



A brief conversation by wetnote and we decided to call it a day, surfacing to a boat full of expectant faces. It was then and there that we concocted the story of it being guarded by a ferocious squid...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Bits and bobs

Part 9 - Getting out and about in Shetland, the trip home, dolphins, and something that resembles a conclusion...


It would be a shame to go all that way and not see something of the islands themselves. To that end, Karl, Rowena, Rob and myself hired a car one day and before we went diving headed towards the southern part of the island. Rob had put together a fantastic itinery for us, which would have worked better if we hadn't have lost it...

We headed first to St Ninian Island, which is accessable via a strip of golden sand from the mainland.



Here there are relics of an ancient church.



Heading further south, we visited Jarlshof, a settlement dating back to 4,500 years ago and like Skara Brae on Orkney, burried under sand until the 19th century. It was very interesting and we spent a good couple of hours here before retiring for a nice cup of tea at a nearby hotel.



From here it was off for a bit of wildlife spotting. However, the Puffins had all flown to the northern end of the island. We did spot a couple, plus some seals. And of course, no trip to Shetland would be complete without seeing some of these fine fellows!



Possibly the most scary part of this journey was the section of road that crossed the runway of the local airport.



Hazel had organised for us to visit the Coastguard station in Lerwick. Unfortunately this had to be postponed due to a visit from an high ranking coastguard official and it was reorganised for the day we had the car. Helen has written about it in her blog, so take a look there for details.

Lerwick itself was very pretty and had an excellent bookshop, much to my bank manager's disgust. Overlooking the town is Fort Charlotte.



Around the harbour are some very pretty houses. This one appeared on a few postcards.



Sadly for us, the trip had to come to an end and we bid farewell to Shetland by sneaking in a couple more beers from the local brewery before heading back to Orkney. The journey back was calm and uneventful, although we did have some company for some of the trip home.


Photo Karl - Dolphin

We arrived back in Stromness to find it was Shopping Week. I'm not sure I can adequately describe what was going on!

All in all it was an excellent week. The weather wasn't as kind as it could have been and did limit the diving somewhat, but the diving we had was excellent, the wrecks good and interesting, pretty wildlife and fantastic viz. The water temperature was better than I was expecting, too, at 11c.

The MV Valkyrie works well as a diving platform and liveaboard. Hazel and Helen looked after us well and the standard of accommodation is great. Helen's cooking was fantastic, she performs miracles in that little galley of hers as far as I'm concerned. Plates were thrust forward each time it was announced there were seconds. Team seagull could be relied upon to empty any saucepan of food :)

My only complaint was a lack of information on the diving in that area. A couple of wreck books covering the area in the library would put that right.

Brilliant, I can't wait to go back.

References:
Shipwrecks of the North of Scotland, R. N. Baird
Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam, C. Hocking

Divernet Wreck Tours

Thanks to Kevin Heath for the information provided on the Loch Garry.
 

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the kind of human wreckage that you love
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Great trip/boat report thus far. Brill pics and just what I wanted to see :thumbsup:
I'm assuming you're saving your slots for the sequels :teeth: Best work very hard on Shetland III as the third is often a disappointment ;)

Roll on the rest, especially the hunt for otters, or was that beaver ;)
 

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Part 2 - Loch Garry? (Previously known as Disperser)

Trawer?, sank how? Length ?, Beam ?, Draught ?. ? Tons.

Thats funny :) I only told Hazel it was Loch Garry a few days ago?

Trawler on Navy duty, sank 13/09/1916

106.1 21.1 11.7 ft 176 tons built by Alexander Hall in 1903 a lot more details if you pm me email address

Kevin:)
 

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Part 2 - Loch Garry? (Previously known as Disperser)

Trawer?, sank how? Length ?, Beam ?, Draught ?. ? Tons.

Thats funny :) I only told Hazel it was Loch Garry a few days ago?

Trawler on Navy duty, sank 13/09/1916

106.1 21.1 11.7 ft 176 tons built by Alexander Hall in 1903 a lot more details if you pm me email address

Kevin:)
The tip-ex is still wet on the page in our little black book of marks :D

Great trip report Dan.

Cant wait for the rest of it, esp the explanation of the bell episode *snigger*

:D
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Part 2 - Loch Garry? (Previously known as Disperser)

Trawer?, sank how? Length ?, Beam ?, Draught ?. ? Tons.

Thats funny :) I only told Hazel it was Loch Garry a few days ago?

Trawler on Navy duty, sank 13/09/1916

106.1 21.1 11.7 ft 176 tons built by Alexander Hall in 1903 a lot more details if you pm me email address

Kevin:)
Cool. Is it this one?

http://www.aberdeenships.com/single.asp?searchFor=loch+garry&index=100320
http://www.aberdeenships.com/related.asp?searchFor=loch+garry&index=737&shipid=100320

It looks about right in terms of size and GA.

I'll PM my details.

Cheers,
dan :)
 

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Like we explained on the boat, it was a bell, it's just it was being protected by a giant, man eating, very hungry looking, killer death squid. From Hell.
My uncle got the message then :p Sounds like he sent my cousin up from Wimbledon way, Vinnie Squid :D
 
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