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Fishderk's Dives & Other Ravings

Feb. 22, 2007 - Red Sea North Cruise

The Red Sea is somewhere I go whenever I have got a few bobs to spare. I love the place. I really do! In my view, it’s the perfect place for any diver. I reckon you could write a whole library of books about diving in the Red Sea and I’m tempted myself to attempt it but then again I have a hunch nay book on the Red Sea would consist of 80% photographs and 20% text. And rightly so; because when it comes to the Red Sea the old dictum that a picture speaks a thousand words applies. So am I defeating my purpose here or not? Not sure, but anyway I think I’ll just post a few pics of the Red Sea and hope it doesn’t mean I can’t rave anymore. No, just kidding! Okay, here are a few pics but I really want to talk about wrecks, at least one wreck anyway.  

                                                                              

 

There are many wrecks in the Red Sea and most of them are accessible to the average diver. Of course one of the highlights of the North Cruise and the Red Sea is the Thistlegorm, a 131m, 9009 ton cargo ship built in 1940 in the UK and sunk not long afterward on the night of 5th to 6th October 1941 in the Straits of Gubal between the Sha’ab Ali reef and Sinai. The events leading up to the sinking are quite dramatic and spectacular and provide material for a brilliant documentary or perhaps even a thrilling feature film. In fact, the story was published in the Stornoway Gazette in 1943 and survivor interviews were recorded. The Thistlegorm, which means ‘blue coal’ in Gaelic, left Glasgow in the first week of September 1941 for the Red Sea loaded with military supllies for British forces in North Africa. After stopping in Capetown for coal she set sail for Suez . On the evening of 5th October 1941 The Thistlegorm arrived in the Straits of Gubal where it anchored alongside another twenty vessels. At the same time the 2nd escadron of the Luftwaffe from the 26th Kamp Geswader in Crete were scouring the Sinai coast for allied cargo ships. At about 1 am on the 6th the pilots intercepted the vessels and decided to launch an attack. Apparently, the gunners on the Thistlegorm didn’t even have the time to load their anti-aircraft guns and the Thistlegorm was hit, causing a large explosion. She sank with nine crew at 1:30 am on 6th  October 1941.          

The wreck is a wreck-diver’s dream and one of the best dives I’ve ever made. She lies more or less upright on a sandy seabed at a depth of between 18m and 31m. She isn’t indicated on the surface by any notable marker and has to be located by GPS or sonar. It should be mentioned here that to visit the entire wreck you will need at least two dives. The current in the area can be moderate to very strong or even violent at times so it is advisable to descend a line attached to the structure of the wreck. What’s more the surface current can sometimes be contrary to the bottom current. Once on the wreck the real voyage begins. The hull split in two toward the stern and debris as well as a locomotive lie on the seabed nearby. Towards the prow you will see the anchor still in place as well as its chain. Heading towards midship you can see cabins and toilets. The hull is open and can be entered once minimum care is taken. Inside you will find an array of vestiges including trucks, jeeps, and BSA WDM20 motorcycles. There is also a selection of military supplies such as uniforms and ammunition scattered here and there. There are even a few Lee Enfield Mk III rifles.  It’s truly like an underwater museum and you get the feeling that time stopped suddenly for the life of this vessel back on that night in October 1941. Here are a few photos I borrow from Google and having failed to locate the author I hope their kindness will prevail; and so I give the links www.divesitedirectory.co.uk and www.africa-expedition.com. I mean they're only smallies, right?                                         

 

 As you can imagine, the hull has become a haven for numerous flora and fauna which adds to the spectacle of this dive. For those of you who know how to take a good shot it’s also a photographer's paradise. Here is a stingray I spotted a few metres from the wreck. Awesome! This is my own photo.

 

    Thought you'd like it.

By the way I was thinking of doing something on the Brothers Islands or St-Johns...  

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Feb. 21, 2007 - The Black Sea Shipwreck Research Project

Don’t get the wrong impression here. I mean I’m not a nomad but I do like the odd adventure abroad. After all, I haven’t been back to my source in several years. Trust me I do get away from time to time. And I’m sure most of you believe me but just in case there are any doubting Thomas types out there I decided that it would be a good idea to do a short entry about my trips further a field. Needless to say there’s no promotional intent here whatsoever but feel free to click on the links if you’re not too busy.

 

The most recent trip was to The Black Sea, Sudak in the south of Crimea , Ukraine, to be precise,  where there is a magnificent Genoan castle dating back to and probably earlier than the 12th century. It’s located in a lovely bay and obviously had many strategic and commercial advantages in the Middle Ages.

 

Thing is that some time back in the 13th century in peculiar circumstances a Pisan ship sunk or was scuttled or burnt and sunk with a part of its cargo. I mean I’m not going to go into the details of how it sunk now but if you read Latin (which I don’t) or are interested you can read a text from the 13th century at http://www.archaeology.org/interactive/blacksea/battle.html which describes a small sea battle in 1227. Anyway, the wreck is located right here but at about 10-12 metres below the surface of course. It is being excavated by the Centre for Underwater Archaeology http://www.fieldschool.univ.kiev.ua/mainua.html  and I went to help. Our job was basically to map and excavate the site as best we could with practically no help from high-tech equipment. The site is not particularly difficult so after mapping the area we mostly proceeded by fanning. Many objects were retrieved from the site including amphorae, plates, bowls, and coins etc You can see pictures at the CUA site. But here’s one or two I like.

                      

 

Of course we didn’t only work and we did have a bit of time to discover as much about the country as possible during a short stay. Firstly, I took basic Russian lessons in order to order at least and greet people not in that order of course rather greet and then order. This is my lovely Russian language teacher who also taught us some Ukrainian – kind of two for the price of one thing! Cheers baby!

 

 

We also did some sightseeing and I must say that the Crimea is awesome, like wow!

 

Not to mention the people. I had a good feeling! What can I say? Seriously, the place is full of history, diversity, and open-air toilets. It's also got great red wine and from what I saw and heard (cos I don't drink the stuff) great champagne. Anyway, enough of the raving ...

 

Here I tried to teach my dear colleague Yona how to dive. I think she loved it. I hope she did or … next time … Anyway, you can see why they call it the Black Sea . Nothing to do with the genre of humour! Well in fact I wanted to upload a photo there's no more space. I must organise myself and reduce my photo size, I reckon. Ah well, use your imagine for this one.

 

 

 

Anyway it was all very well - almost spiffing in fact. You can check out details about the season’s going-ons at http://www.archaeology.org/interactive/blacksea/field/4.html but once again I must state that there is no promotional intention here and forget the spelling mistakes – it’s not haoppeming, oh sorry!  And as far as pictures go, you know it takes ages to upload one photo. This is becoming like a full time job! Back with more ravings soon. And remember it's all true - every word of it.

 

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Feb. 12, 2007 - The Well (Coming Next)

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Feb. 12, 2007 - Wrecked

As a diver coming from a place where the summer lasts two or three months (if you’re lucky) and the rest of the year you got to deal with persistent and sometimes torrential rainfall not to mention the mighty strong Westerlies, Greece is an amazing place to live. The climate is pleasant to say the least. The winter is cool and mild with very little rain or snow and the water temperature never goes below 11 or 12 Celsius. The summer can be very hot with temperatures often in the mid thirties and the water temperature averaging around 23 or 24 Celsius in July and August. You can add to the basket the fact that the viz is usually way over twenty metres. Of course this is not meant to be a scientific report but merely a brief and approximate description for any of you guys who have never been and would be interested in having a rough idea of diving conditions here. You’re probably curious to know if you can dump the dry suit for a shorty. Well, you really don’t need the dry suit here unless you’re getting old and frail or you simply don’t eat well. Be advised though that a shorty only finds its use during the hottest months and only for short and shallow dives. A 7mm is usually recommended for any serious diving here even in summer, especially if you’ve got a lot of dives in and you’re starting to feel it (if you know what I mean). However, the good news for the avid diver is that you can really dive all year round here. And that’s great!

If you’re looking to fill up a tank or rent any gear there are a large number of dive centres or clubs, call them what you will. Most centres are only open for the tourist season which goes from 1st May to 1st Oct approximately and there is a lot of competition between them for business. (I’ll probably set up a link if I can get around to it.) Anyway, one thing at a time. I could say a lot of bad stuff about diving centres located on the islands that are only interested in a quick profit during the short tourist season because there are not always, how should I put it? On par with what you might see in Western Europe . Yeah, sometimes managed or rather mismanaged by ex-navy or commercial divers turned ‘businessmen’, poorly paid if paid at all unmotivated staff, and sometimes rustic conditions, but you know what? That’s kind of an old cliché, isn’t it? I’d like to put emphasis on the positive in this blog so I’ll avoid mentioning the aforementioned and please interrupt me if I do.

Seriously though, there are some very good dive shops and centres in Greece and in my personal opinion it is those that are open all year round that tend to get top marks from me. I’m in Athens most of the year where there are several very good well-equipped dive centres managed by friendly staff and frequented by friendly divers. I won’t be writing reviews of these centres but rather I intend to visit the actually dive sites around Athens to give an idea of the diving. All I can say about the centres is that in general they are equipped to standard and have Nitrox/Trimix etc. and that you can buy most of the standard scuba gear and all courses are available too. However, they might not always be perfectly designed for the average female customer. What? Forget that!

Now, on to the heart of the matter – the sites! I suppose you’ve heard, or for those of you who have dived in Greece , have seen, that the fauna in Greek waters is not that spectacular. We don’t have hammer-heads or manta rays or not even Napoleon fish. True! However, there are a number of spectacular sites due to their geomorphology, notably the volcanic sites of my paradisiacal island of Santorini , which I remember mentioning I a previous entry. There are also loads of wall dives and cave dives around the coast where there are many things to see. Now, I’d like to say something about seeing. Yes, it’s true there are no mantas, as we established, but trust me if you use your eyes you will marvel at the flora and fauna of the waters around Greece . We’ll get to that in detail later on though. The divers of the coast of Attica (that’s around Athens ) are also very inventive and seek out sites that can provide some form of spectacle. That’s why one of the first sites I dived on after arriving in Athens from the islands was this one here. I promise to get back to the islands at a later stage: I mean there’s no point in me raving on about the islands now when everything is shut down and everyone is resting after their long hard six month spout of seasonal work. For Zeus’ sake give them a break! No, my intent for the moment, as I think I said, is more of an anecdotal nature. Yeah, so anyway, one of the most visited sites near Athens is in fact what I call the car graveyard, located about 55 km from Athens on the coastal road to the ancient temple site of Cap Sounion. (And boy is it a nice drive!) As you might know the coastal road from Athens to Cap Sounion is quite a cliffy one with many small rocky inlets or bays at the bottom of steep or not so steep cliffs. Most of these bays are accessed by foot if accessible at all, but fortunately for the local divers this site is accessible by car down a steep winding dirt track. Apparently, a few people either deliberately pushed their old and ailing jalopies off the road and down the cliff into the sea below in order to claim insurance, I don’t know, or joy riders got rid of their evidence or whatever; who cares, and you hear so many tales these days (especially at the work place, I’m sure all you secretaries out there will agree) that you never know what to believe anyway. It doesn’t matter. What we’ve got is a dive site with a few car wrecks at a reasonably shallow depth which most divers can access; and it provides shelter for the few remaining fish that have decided to stick around in the area.

 It’s not a bad dive at all but you need to pass the basic fitness test because the entrance isn’t the easiest and there’s a surface swim of a couple of hundred metres to the site. The interesting thing is that a few months ago we drove to this spot as we often do on a Sunday morning and low and behold what do we see? Well basically what you can see in the picture! The gods had sent us a ‘boat wreck’ to add to the car wrecks, thus making the site at least twice as interesting. As you can see from my wonderful photograph, it sunk less than 50 metres from shore and the mast was still 'standing' at a steep angle out of the water! We donned our gear investigated!

  

Of course, my tethered dog barked from the rocky shore at the disappearing heads as we descended, as you’ll know if you paid any attention to my previous entry. He's always got a serious concerned look on his face when we leave him on the shore. Check him out in this picture! Although I must say he does a good job of guarding my stuff.

 

Everything is more exciting in the water, isn’t it? In fact, it turned out that it was a small yacht which seemed to have been scuttled against the rocks by immigrants or their traffickers and sank to a depth of about 8 metres only – a hole in the keel and clothes and bits and pieces everywhere. Makes the mind of any sane sea-loving man voyage endlessly this kind of stuff, doesn't it?

Inside the wreck I found various objects you’d expect to find on a small yacht: screwdrivers, hammer etc. the on-board communications system was still intact but nothing else of much interest or value … wait … except for a passport. Yeah, I found a passport outside the wreck on the seabed well hidden in the sand. It belonged to an Iraqi woman born in 1941 which makes her 65 now I think. She looked old on the photo and I wondered how she survived such an ordeal at her age and what else she left behind and what else she lost in the water some dark windy night that surely changed her life for ever.

Anyway, this reminded me that diving is not just jumping into the water and sinking and making bubbles or taking pictures of sharks. Diving can be a lot of things and we can all get something different out of even the most banal sites. That’s what I do, because I can’t be in the Seychelles or the Bahamas every weekend. So I go diving not far from the house and I make the most of it and I love it. I suppose every time I dive I go on a trip inside my mind and it’s as if the whole world becomes my personal space an everything I want to believe I can believe – there’s a certain inner peace, a silence, a tranquil beauty perhaps, and the idea that ‘the world is my oyster’ to quote myself. Well, I’d better stop raving now. Perhaps I’ll be back soon with some tales of other sites in the region. If Zeus wills it!  If I don't fall down a well ...       

 

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Feb. 9, 2007 - Where it all begins

 

This is a picture of my home in Santorini so I thought it would be a good way to start. Of course, I can't live there permanently cos my dog doesn't dive and I have to surface from time to time to take him for walks, but it's still my home if you know what I mean. I'm just waiting (like lots of us) for some clever chap to invent SCUBA gear for dogs and then we can think about settling down here; but until then I thought I might post some stuff about diving, dive centres and dive sites in Greece which will help me pass the time and give me the opportunity to rave on a bit about the sea cos you know it's in me and it's seriously affected by the moon not the mention the wind and other metereological phenomena, although we can't complain too much here in Greece what with a couple of hundred days of sunshine and only a few drops of rain or snow per annum ... sur I'll be back in the water in a shorty in no time while my tethered dog barks at my bubbles from the beach. Nonetheless, I'll have to keep busy in the meantime so expect some raving over the next few weeks. However, I must warn the pendantic type that I won't be gnidaer ym stxet cos I haven't got the time and I couldn't be bothered anyway so don't bother with the coreections. Hope you enjoy! 

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About Me

DEA (MPhil) Ancient History, PADI OWSI & EFR Instructor.

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