On a bright and beautiful March morning a bunch of Croydon BSAC divers loaded their kit on their boat (Dive 125) for the day. The skies were blue, the visibility under the pontoon looked good and the mood was relaxed and positive. This was going to be a great days diving.
Our wreck of the day was the Oceana, here is some info I lifted from Wrecksite:
Oceana S/S; 6.610 ton P&O Liner; Built 1888 in Belfast; 468ftx52ft , 7.000hp triple expansion engines. Cargo: General cargo plus £747.110 worth of gold and silver ingots and 40 P&O passengers and 210 crew.
On March 16th, 1912, she collided with the 2.850 steel 4-masted German barque Pisagna. Pisagna herself was towed into Dover. Nine from Oceana drowned when lifeboat capsized.
A vast amount of silver inglots and gold coins was present at the time of sinking. The ship was salvaged, but a few silver inglots has been reported as missing.
That great feeling lasted approximately 20 minutes after leaving the marina when the first diver was sick. Within the next 30 minutes half of us had lost our breakfast. By the time we reached the dive site 3 of us where to ill to dive (I was one of them but there was no way I was staying on that boat). With buddies reassigned we jumped in.
My problems started before the assent. I was wearing new gloves and these have bits of Velcro on them. At the buoy, my hand stuck to my deflate hose making its use very difficult so after a bit of faffing I was on my way to the wreck.
At 10 meters it was black with about 2 foot visibility (much the same as the dive on the Pentrych a month before) thus making my camera a very large delicate lump that will serve little purpose. At the bottom of the shot I reached for my torch (also covered in Velcro) and spent a good couple of minutes fighting with that.
In the limited visibility it was not long before I became separated from my buddies. I decided that searching for them would be pointless so I turned my camera and went searching for things to photograph.
The dive started by the boilers and in the poor visibility I could not make out many navigational points. I did pass the engines, part of something resembling the prop shaft, morning bollards and possibly some winch gear. I suspect I was close to the bow at one point but I am not sure. Life on the wreck was varied but not abundant. I saw blennies, lobster, a flattie, a conger, some scallops, numerous crabs and several fish. No shoals of fish, just very docile individuals.
After about 40 minutes I bumped in to my buddies. They had been busy and where dragging a very impressive bag of scallops. We sent the next 10 minutes swimming around before we signalled to end the dive. At this point I had 1 minute of stops. My buddies attached their SMB to the bag of scallops and got it ready to deploy. In the bad visibility it would not be a good idea for 3 divers to ascend on one SMB so I swam off to deploy my own.
I have been deploying SMBs for years and I can deploy mine in my sleep. But with stupid Velcro gloves on it took me a while just to unclip it. Once I had it in my hand I inflated it in no time and sent it on its way. Unfortunately the knot tying the SMB to the reel had undone its self so when I looked at my hand all I saw was my reel with some string hanging out. Great!
I had a new backup SMB and reel that I had played with in the pool, not been very happy with, put in my pocket and forgot about. So I deployed that one and started my assent. 12 minutes of stops now.
We all decided to cancel the second dive.
All-in-all not the best days diving but still good at the same. I took the following away from the day.
They say there are no bad dives, some are just not as great as others. This is very true, it was not a great dive but it was better then not diving.
Always test new kit out in the pool. If I had not tested that new reel out in the pool I would have lost it as it is very fiddly to operate and I would have had to make a free assent in choppy waters with 10 minutes of decompression.
Don’t buy those stupid Velcro gloves from James.
If anyone in the club would like to buy a cheep pair of Velcro gloves [insert endless sheep gags here] please let me know.