Brighton Unknown Wreck, 27/09/09

October is just around the corner, yet the weather was more like the end of July! The sun out, the sky was blue and not a gust of wind graces the surface of the channel. This was a last minute invite for 6 members of the lunatic asylum known as Croydon BSAC: the ‘A-team’ aka Scott Dillon, Paul Carvall & Tony Ray, plus Chris Vanstone, Dave Elphick and myself (Chris Boddington). We checked in at various times between 8:30 and 10am to board the good ship Brighton Diver.

 Whilst we waited for Dave to turn up (note to all tell Dave to arrive 1 hour before everyone else), Tony went off for some ablutions as the rest of us busied ourselves with out kit. Tony returned to asked us if we’d ever spoken to another man in the toilet. Obviously we all hadn’t, but someone had just spoken to Tony whilst doing his business and propositioned him! Well, we were in Brighton and “when in Rome” as they say…

 This gave us an almost endless amount of mirth. Anyway, back to the diving…Dave finally turned up and we got underway. The designation for the first dive was an unknown wreck in 32m, yes 32m out of Brighton and an unknown – not often that happens. We arrived on site after about an hour’s steaming and due to far to many twin sets onboard we struggled for kitting up space, so Dave and I decided to jump in last and take our time. I was diving on a 20/20 trimix fill and an 80% stage for suit filling which wasn’t ideal, but was looking forward to getting in.

I leapt in without Dave as he was fussing with the club’s rebreather (by way of a change). As I dropped down to 8m on the line I noticed my left hand computer wasn’t registering a dive so I quickly stripped it and cleaned the contacts after which it jumped into dive mode. 4 minutes later Dave arrived and we started our descent. At about 20m Dave stopped and was playing with his hand set, I popped a look over his shoulder and saw a low battery warning – that can’t be good! After a minute or two of Dave slapping the console he decided it was ok to continue. Hmmm…. Helicopter for two, my mind raced.

We were just above what I thought was the seabed at 24m when the sea bed dived away in a near vertical line. I realised that the wreck was upturned and we had reached the hull. The viz was a good 6m, although there was little of the usual fish life we expect in these waters. The wreck had taken on the sandy colouring of the seabed and the hull was generally intact, yet here and there the plating had cracked away to reveal the ribbing of the hull. The ship must have been fairly recent (less than 100years) as the ribbing looked modern in design, with a design similar to the aluminium structural aircraft design.

We had heard that it was recently discovered and had just appeared out of the sand and here and there the hull disappeared back in the bed. The hull was ripped open in several places and in other areas it dipped down into the seabed at unnatural angles. Bib, wrasse and some very large pollack danced through the seascape. A large lobster strolled out across a valley in the wreckage right in front of Dave and jumped as Dave tapped it on the back.

Dave was happily snapping pictures all around and after we had finned about 25-30m from the shot I saw a solitary scallop amongst the wreckage and grabbed it. After this I dropped off the wreckage to the seabed to find more scallops at around 32m and after a while Dave joined me in grabbing a few scallops himself. I looked up from my scallop snagging to peer under a piece of wreckage only to see a huge golden claw that looked to be about as long as my forearm and hand. I took a deep gulp of trimix, reminding myself it was almost impossible to be narked at this depth on this mix. I waved Dave over to look under the wreckage, as the massive lobster backed further under the plate. Our hero took a double take and tried to get closer to the mammoth crustacean, but it remained well out of reach. Neither of us had seen many larger lobsters, this was a case of what nature can produce if you have a virtually undived wreck. Whether those large lobsters last on the wreck remains to be seen.

After 25 minutes we left the bottom we deployed our SMBs and begun our accent. 25 minutes later I met Dave back onboard Brighton Diver. Back onboard we noted we weren’t the only ones with booty, several others had snagged some smaller lobsters and a good sized Brill. Post dive we chilled out in weather more reminiscent of mid-summer than late September.

There was some confusion over the designation for the next dive. Paul checked out another mark in 22m on the way back but after some trotting over it we decided not to dive it. Then we thought we would dive the City of Brisbane, but continued on towards to Brighton, finally deciding on the ledges, a familiar dive site to us all. Dave was kitted up almost immediately and jumped in with the A-team, as I had developed a leak from my left hand reg which needed fixing.

After sorting my reg out I was in and starting my descent. Down at 11m, the current was drifting gently but as instructed I deployed my blob so skipper-Paul would know my position. The viz was a good 8m in places and two divers swam past me, dragging their SMB behind them. I followed for a while, then stopped realising that for some reason they were fining into the current! After that I decided to turn and let the current take me. I saw several lobsters, edible and velvet crabs all peering out of cracks and crevices in the broken seabed. The small stripped bib hovering above the ledges reminded me of the anthias dancing around coral in the Red Sea. Large wrasse, hovering like coral grouper kept to the edge schools of bib. The ledges ran out into the sandy seabed at 14m and after a few minutes of exploration for flatties I ascended to rejoin the others on Brighton Diver.

We saw off the day with a beer in the Yatch Club overlooking marina. Many thanks Paul Dyer for a good days diving.

Finally if you see Tony around, just don’t ask him “Do you have the Time?” whilst in the loo, I think he thinks the joke has worn thin…..

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Chris Boddington

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