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<font color='#000F22'>Hi Everyone,

well, Kinky Divers are off to the South China Seas in September, 3 of the planned dives are the Repulse, the Prince of Wales and the Seven Skies.

Any info on them would be great.

Also, what else out there is seriously worth looking at.

Cheers
Juz
 

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Juz,

I'm intending diving Repulse and maybe POW later this year, there is a good site at Repulse & PoW I've completed Advanced Trimix course, now just need to get the time off work.

Ian
 

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Juz,
Here's the report I put together after last year's trip which is fairly complete. If you have any more questions give me a shout. Key thing I remember from the trip is that you definitely need a Jon line.
Robert.

Well, I finally get around to writing up a trip report for my trip in October to the South China Sea, and more importantly to dive the wrecks of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse. Let's hope I haven't forgotten all of the exciting bits!

The trip was organised by Jack Ingle, the BS-AC technical adviser, as a 'South China Seas Deep Wreck Expedition'. Natasha and I had trained and dived with Jack on his mid-week Channel expeditions a few times and always enjoyed his professionalism and wealth of experience to draw upon. He runs a couple of these trips per year, staying out there for a few weeks to look after different groups out for a week's diving.

We flew out to Singapore arriving on 27 September, meeting the outgoing group for dinner, than joining our dive boat (MV Mata Ikan) on Sunday morning. The two wrecks are quite a way from Singapore and in the middle of the open sea, so all of Sunday and overnight was spent steaming at a leisurely pace towards the dive sites.

We dived with twin 11 litre cylinders with a variety of interesting and mostly somewhat bodged-looking tank bands, with an 11 litre side-slung for deco gas. Air, nitrox and trimix were available, and the deco gas was usually between 70 and 90%. All of the diving was done with the boat tied in to the wreck, a deco station with bars at 9m, 6m and 3m hung under the boat with spare deco cylinders, and a transfer line running from the deco station to the anchor line. The strong currents and long deco times meant that surfacing under an SMB would have put us too far from the dive boat, so whilst the RIBs were available, every effort was made to get back to the anchor line.

Because of small stinging jellyfish (and some quite large ones that came flying past us on the deco station!) we wore 3mm long wetsuits, some with hood and gloves. Water temperature was about 28 or 29 degrees on the surface, 24 degrees at depth and visibility varied from 20m down to 5m.

Day 1
Seven Skies (Dive 1, max depth 38.1m, time 60 mins; Dive 2, max depth 39.6m, time 81 mins).
The first day's warm-up dives (at nearly 40m!). The Seven Skies sank in the 70's on her maiden voyage when she was struck by lightning, and now sits upright on the bottom. A few soft corals have formed and there was a reasonable amount of life, nothing too wild, lots of assorted reef fish and I did see my first live cowry. Open hatchways allowed us into the bridge and stern areas and there was a nice swim down off the stern to swim around the large four-bladed propellor.

More interesting for me was that my VR3 decided to play up. I'd changed the battery the night before so when the thing refused to start on the first dive I put it down to user error - no major problem as I had a slate, Vytec in gauge mode, and buddy. I changed and retightened the battery for the second dive and this time it worked down to 25m then blanked, only coming back to life when I came back up from the dive. Great - some deep dives coming up and I couldn't trust my computer (more of VR3 problems later).

HMS Repulse (a 794 ft Battle Cruiser) and HMS Prince of Wales (a 745ft Battleship) were both sunk on 10th December 1941 by Japanese bombers and torpedo planes. They both designated as 'Protected Places' and military maritime graves so we dived on a strict 'look but don't touch' policy. I think they're probably the biggest wrecks that I've dived on, and certainly the most interesting.

Day 2
HMS Repulse (Dive 1, max depth 32.0m, time 23 mins; Dive 2, max depth 37.5m, time 72 mins).
Our first dive on the Repulse is a disaster - strong currents and an incredibly long anchor line meant we gave up at 30m having already spent over 10 minutes trying to get down the line without sight of the wreck. Others get to the wreck but can't spend too much time on it having used too much air getting down. Good news though - the computer worked for the whole dive! Between dives Natasha and I help the crew pull in about 30m of excess line - makes us feel a lot better!
On the second dive our first sight of the wreck is the enormous ensign flying over the wreck in the current - a very powerful image.  The Repulse is lying on its port side and the weight of the superstructure is slowly twisting her towards the seabed. We shelter in a torpedo hole to have a think about what to do next - the currents mean that we're not going to get down to the deck and superstructure without a lot of work (and gas), so we cling to the wreck and the soft coral and make our way along the top of the hull towards the bow. On our way back we see the large turtle that lives in the torpedo hole, and who we'll see again over the next few days both on the surface and on the wreck. Coming back to the deco station we see the reason for having a Jon line as we clip in and all stream out from the bars - bubbles are going almost horizontally!

Day 3
HMS Repulse (Dive 1, max depth 51.5m, time 67 mins).
An interesting night! In the middle of it a fishing boat hits the wreck with its trawl nets and swings in to nearly collide with us. As a result we lose the mooring line and the morning is spent tying back into the wreck - only one dive can be made, but it's excellent. This time we pull our way down the wreck and work our way along the starboard gangways and superstructure bouncing along a thermocline. Just under the thermocline  the water looks strangely milky and the vis drops from 15-20m to about 5m. It also feels cold so Natasha mostly stays above it! Clearly visible is the aircraft launching track, some auxiliary guns, and as we get to the forward main gun turrets it's time to head back to the anchor line. As we work our way back to the top of the hull we see about 20 long grey shapes circling above the torpedo hole and anchor line - attracted by a net full of dead fish left by the fishing boat. Turns out they're not sharks but cobia, who are very curious and swim all around us. They're joined by an enormous marbled ray and the turtle who is thankfully still there in the torpedo hole.

Day 4
HMS Prince of Wales (Dive 1, max depth 65m, time 92 mins; Dive 2 max depth 50.3m, time 71 mins).
Almost no current for a change and we drop 49m to the top of the hull which is teaming with fish-life. The Prince of Wales is upside down (common with battleships as the weight of the armour means they turn turtle when sinking),  and we have to make our way down the starboard side of the hull and underneath it to get to the large secondary turrets and guns at 65m - deep, dark and very spooky with all that rotting metal above us, so it's not a long dive.
HMS Repulse
Another good dive similar to that on Day 3. Some of the group choose to go to the stern and the props and shafts, Natasha and I choose to drop down into the superstructure and look through all of the articles strewn across the bottom - shell cases, pots from the galley, anti-aircraft guns and assorted junk. Very strong currents make life interesting on the deco station when I realise I've left my Jon line on the boat, after about 30 mins I'm glad to get out of the water!

Day 5
Maritime Fidelity (Dive 1, max depth 41.5m, time 80 mins; Dive 2, max depth 36m, time 82 mins).
Our last day's diving and we opt to dive a shallower wreck on the way back to Singapore. The Maritime Fidelity sank in a collision not long ago and the bridge superstructure has been swept. Strong currents and 5-6m visibility mean that it's not unlike diving in the UK, just the water's a bit warmer at 28 degrees. Again lots of fishlife (large grouper, sweetlips etc) and lots of entry points around the stern area. Inside the wreck the visibility improves drastically and we head for the bridge area and engine room. Plenty of places to poke about inside the wreck - at one point Natasha's torch falls on a 'Danger - Sewage' sign whereupon we make a quick u-turn, down another corridor where a 'Keep Out' sign proves irresistible! Around the bridge area it's clear that this is quite a modern wreck as we uncover video tapes, a telephone, bowls, and some out-of-date tins of Fosters.

All in all some excellent diving, but we were glad to get back to Singapore for a beer (the boat had been dry all week!). Natasha and I went on to Borneo from Singapore - but this is a diving web-site so you don't want to read about rainforests, orang utans, proboscis monkeys and elephants!
 

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<font color='#000F22'>Robert,

Thanks for that.

Just out of interest, were there more probs with the VR3 after the first day? did you find what the problem was? Any issues since? etc etc etc

What was the food like? (I'm not keen on fish - am I going to need loads of kit kats?)

What counted as entertainment on the boat? or is it take loads of books?

Cheers
Juz
 

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Hi Juz,
Just in the middle of running a course at the mo' so I'll get back to you later on - lots of interesting things we found out about VR3's!
And last week one of the buttons popped out of mine - wouldn't have been too much of a problem except it was during a gas switch on a 60m dive!

More later

Robert
 

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Juz,
From the South China Seas trip:
"My observations on the VR3
There were twelve divers on the boat and ten VR3s (including Bob with two!) so they're obviously a popular item, and I'm reasonably happy with mine but I'm also starting to learn its quirks:
1)  I wasn't very happy with the soft metal battery compartment cap, or I was just ham-fisted when tightening it up, which probably led to the problems with the computer blanking out. I've replaced mine with the newer plastic cap.
2)  A couple of times we tested the dive plans and with the same safety settings (20%) there was no difference in dive times with a final stop at 4.5m or at 6m - Hmmm....  

3)  When you input a set of gases the computer computes and runs that plan automatically - there is no need to switch the gases on the computer at the depths you physically change gases. So if you don't change gases at the depth that you've set (i.e. forget or get distracted dealing with something else) the computer will carry on with the plan regardless. Maybe this isn't too great a problem, but still I'm glad that I found out.  

4)  Natasha and I did exactly the same dive on the Moldavia earlier this year, same gases, same settings, and pretty close throughout the dive. There was a 20 minute difference in deco obligation. Hmmm again.  

Decompression computing isn't a very exact science and I'll keep diving with my VR3, but I won't forget the plan on the slate and my second gauge."

And from the latest Red Sea Trip - I've already mentioned the button popping out problem. Spoke to Delta P today and they have recognised the problem and changed the design of the body - if you have a newer body where the back shows two slots instead of two holes where the buttons are, then you've got a newer version. With the older version they've offered to make a modification (involving a hammer!) if I send it back to them, and give me spare set of buttons.  

Yet again on the last trip we had the same problem where my buddy and I did pretty much exactly the same dive profile and ended up with a 10 minute difference in deco times. With total deco time of 50-60 mins this does seem quite a difference - my older VR3 is probably due for a healthcheck.

If you're going on the Mata Ikan - it is more of a work-boat than a Red Sea live-aboard! It's basic and fairly cramped but works well and has a lift on the back - bonus! Take books and DVDs as there's not too much else to do (apart from catching up on sleep!). The food was good and plenty of it, better when they cook local dishes rather than cook 'European'-style food, but again basic.
I seem to remember that the group before us dived a Dutch submarine which they thought was a bit crap as it was deep - short bottom time - and covered with nets.
Can't think of much else for the moment,
HTH

Robert
 

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<font color='#000F22'>Robert,

Yeah we're on the Mata ikan with Jack.

Many thanks for taking the time out for the review.

Cheers
Juz
 
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