The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

Scapa Flow 2013 - PART THREE: Attack of the Stoor Worm!

When stoor worms attack!

By day three on The Valkyrie i was über happy. Yes, über. Everything was running according to plan. I wasn't having to do anything except sleep, eat, and dive. At best, the most difficult decision was choosing a DVD to watch in the evening, and whether to go for a beer or have another sleep. It was working well. Little did i know how a pending night's activities would change my life forever.

The diving continued to get better, with the wrecks becoming bigger and a little deeper as the week progressed. Our collection of divers were also gelling very well. I knew a lot of the folks from TekCamp, but the guys i hadn't met previously were great fun and it was seriously good craic on board.


"BRIEFING IN THE LOUNGE!"


SMS KRONPRINZ WILLHELM

Kronprinz Wilhelm was initially Kronprinz, becoming Kronprinz Wilhelm in 1918 in honour of Crown Prince Wilhelm. The ship was a König class battlecruiser, one of four ships of this class. The others were König, Grosser Kurfürst and Markgraf. Kronprinz was laid down in Kiel in 1911, launched in February 1914 and commissioned in August of that year. On 15 June 1918 she was renamed Kronprinz Wilhelm but, just over five months later, on 19 November, she left Germany for the last time bound for Britain and her final resting place, Scapa Flow. [source: Scapa Flow Wrecks]




At 38m our team decided trimix was a necessity and opted for 21/35 with 50% as a deco gas. Joe ditched us, so it was back to Team Ireland; Kerri was deco captain, i was bagging off, and Dave ... well, Dave was on holiday. As skipper Hazel got us into position, Rob instructed us to make our way to the hole in the hull and depart. I was becoming increasingly comfortable with the entry, and took my camera on most of the dives.

We descended down the shot line together and i noted the light fading and the vision below becoming blacker and blacker. The idea was to reach the sea bed, fin under the upturned hull and find the casement guns. By the time we reached 35m it was black as night and very silty; by which stage i decided i would be going under fuck all. Another group of divers had just exited the site, and it was apparent they'd kicked the crap out of what visibility there was.

Kerri deep under the Kronprinz


I signalled Dave and Kerri i wasn't happy to go gun searching, so we finned along the outside of the hull instead. I was a bit annoyed not getting to see more guns, but i couldn't bring myself to venture into the black knowing there was 50 bazillion tonnes of warship above me to get lost under. Nevertheless, we enjoyed clearer water further up the wreck and located the mast, spotting tower, torpedo tube salvage area, and some nice 'little' dark crevices to peek around in. The planned 40 min bottom time arrived, and we began our ascent. I bagged off, Kerri ran the deco and Dave ... well ...


Dave on holiday

Back on The Valkyrie it was time for lunch; a fry up. God bless Helen the feeder. The galley was littered with pans of bacon, sausage, square sausage, vegetable roll, fried bread, eggs and other stuff sizzled in fat; it was tremendous. I know it's a disgrace to say, what with all the lovely food Helen bakes, but it was my favourite meal of the trip. I do love bacon. The topic of conversation over lunch involved cock and ball torture. I can't really comment on the content, but i believe Martin Robson started it.


"BRIEFING IN THE LOUNGE!"

SMS BRUMMER





The next dive was The Bummer. I was really looking forward to it, and at 34m we were guaranteed a decent bottom time. Alas the O2 still hadn't arrived so once more we agreed to keep it shallow and keep the deco to a minimum. The team took it's usual roles, but by this stage we'd stopped asking Dave if he wanted to do anything.

The Brummer was a fantastic dive. The visibility was much better than The Prince William, so that left us a little more flexibility to have a play about inside(ish). We ventured around the bridge, capstans, a strange criss-cross section that was most likely part of the salvage operation, and went for a venture inside; well sort of...



We reached a hole in the hull, and as usual Kerri squirrelled off into it. Dave followed her; because that's what Dave does - follows Kerri into black holes. As Dave manipulated his twin 16's through a gap i decided i would provide a light source and visual reference, thinking that they'd come and signal the all clear once they'd found a path. I hovered above the tear in the wreck and waited. I waited a little more. I became lonely. It appeared they weren't coming back for me. I was upset.




I didn't really fancy going after them, alone, so my single majority vote was to fin along the edge of the wreck hoping Kerri and Dave had popped out somewhere. Cruising along i soon spotted a dive light; excellent. Closer inspection revealed John Bellchamber, and I figured he would do as my new buddy.

John Bellchamber, NOT me.

As i approached John i noted Kerri and Dave were following him. I signalled my so called team, and they looked decidedly surprised. Once on land i found out they had mistaken John for me (as we both had blue gloves apparently), and latched onto him as they exited the wreck.


Nice to know I'm so easily replaced.


"Hello John ... sorry, i mean Andy ..."



Post dive, Helen the feeder had a steaming chicken curry waiting and within 15 minutes our group had it cleaned. The three course dinner needed walked off again, so Kerri and I took Helen's advice and investigated the mountain walk. It was a lovely evening for it, but it was a tad steep and a little like hard work for my blood!



We negated a beer, mostly in fear of the pub charging me for toilet destruction the night before, and headed back to our ship. Once aboard we found Dave hunched over the DVD collection, finally selecting Django.

We settled down to watch it and half way through the feeder appeared with a giant bowl of popcorn - fantastic!



Django is a great film, but rather long, especially when Dave sang along with the soundtrack once he'd got the hang of the chorus - "Django!" At about 10.30 i left Djave and Django to it.




The morning came to soon, and with cereal sorted we prepared for the biggest dive of the week - the legendary Markgraf. At 44m it would be the deepest dive of the week, and was one of the largest of the German Fleet.


I was crazy with anticipation, but wary as i knew some divers had rather unpleasant experiences 'inside' the wreck. We were still operating as a trio, Joe had abandoned us completely in favour of a scooter and Martin Robson; obviously not a fussy lad.




"BRIEFING IN THE LOUNGE!"



Kerri analysed her gas and noted the mix was a little hypoxic. I had a quick word with Rob, and both he and Hazel were on deck within minutes to get it sorted.


"It just needs mixed."


Rob explained as he untied Kerri's twinset. I was curious as to what he was doing, then i was slightly terrified as Rob picked up Kerri's entire twinset (with v-weights) and shook it like a baby's rattle.


"That should do it."


Re-analysing proved it still to be unsuitable. Undeterred, Hazel gave instruction about draining this, and adding that. Rob nodded and got to work. Ten minutes later we had an appropriate mix and were descending onto the Markgraf.


SMS MARKGRAF




An interesting feature of The Markgraf wreck is the location of the anchor chain. When the wreck sank, it turtled, and as it did the anchor chain wrapped around the hull. The sheer mass of the wreck made the concept inconceivable to me, and seeing the humongous chain in real life wrapped so tightly around the hull was crazy. For some reason it really emphasised how much weight was in the battleship, and i could visualise the huge ship rolling over like a monster as it hauled the anchor chain over on itself. I found myself on the hull of the ship just glaring at the chain when Dave and Kerri signalled me to move along. Mesmerising.




We had a definite plan to descend the the full depth of the bow, and headed straight for it. It took a few minutes, but we soon reached the end of the wreck, lined up in front of the ship and shone our three powerful lights onto the pointy bit; and descended. The bow was like a knife edge, and seemed to go on forever as we descended to the seafloor. It was quite a sight and i remember it vividly; followed by Dave digging a hole on the seabed to get his 45m.






Burger and chips done, we got ourselves ready for a little bimble on the Seydlitz. The Seydlitz dive was a bit of a treasure hunt / navigation exercise. A few of the guys on board didn't feel it was worth diving, but i had great fun. My navigation has always been, well, challenged.



"BRIEFING IN THE LOUNGE!"


SEYDLITZ




Amazingly we found everything on Hazel's treasure map board. We descended on top of the lens, which was particularly cool; the solid brass fan shaped light reflector would never have lasted in Ireland, and would definitely be buried under a lawn mower in someones shed. I triumphed by leading Team Ireland to the crane, spotting tower, gun turret and a gun ... i think.

Kerri over the lens

Dave on holiday

me preparing to bag off

Kerri was in charge of the zero deco obligation, and we attempted a two-man version of shooting the smb. The benefits were negligible; i still struggled to completely fill the 'big' smb from shallow water. A lazy ascent followed, and Rob's impressive beard soon welcomed us back aboard.


Kit doffed and gas ordered, we sat down to another of Helen's spectacular feasts; lasagna, garlic bread and apple crumble - accompanied by no less than two litres of custard. Mmmmmm ... custard. Dinner done, we proceeded to get dressed up for a night of story telling; i did mention that before, right?



Perhaps not...



The Orkney Story Telling Incident


The night that followed deserves a thorough explanation, and before i begin i would like to state, for the record, that i hold my twitter chum Louise and her husband Darren entirely responsible. ENTIRELY RESPONSIBLE.


Darren
"Let's all go to a story telling night!"

Let me go back in time a little, to the ferry crossing from Thurso, where we met our Scapa diving chum Darren's wife; Louise. In her polite Scottish accent Louise asked Kerri, Dave and I if we would like to accompany her (along with Darren and her parents) to a story telling evening on Orkney. Being polite, Kerri and I agreed, under the guise there would be a log fire, a pub, and beer involved. Louise assured us there would be beer, and we looked forward to the night out with our new buddies, and their family.



Flash forward to the night in question.



The story telling evening was being held several miles away, and Kerri kindly agreed to drive to the 'pub' where the event was taking place. Darren led the way in his land rover, and the Ford Boring trundled behind containing Kerri, Dave, Joe and myself.


After 30 mins we began to get concerned, especially Joe, being so young and all; but thankfully we arrived in due course. As we stepped out of the car he whole thing became a little bit mental.



"This doesn't look like a pub Darren...?"

"No ... er ... i think it's some guys house?"


Our band of story lovers approached the entrance to the not-pub, where an eccentric middle aged gentleman in a body warmer tapped each of us for £10, and promptly guided us into his house.

"Do you like my floor?"

I stood, mildly concerned, in a weird living room with old books scattered across various tables. Then the nervous laughter began. The strange man in the body warmer informed us we should embrace the culture of Orkney by looking through the books, sit by the log fire and contemplate death, before the stories commenced. Well, it was something like that.

Joe and his book of DEATH!

Dave afraid his holiday was over!

Joe found a hidden message

Kerri gives up and joins in



At this point i had decided the whole thing was a very bad idea, and contemplated how to escape, but figured it was obviously a scam and probably wouldn't take very long. Oh the irony. Louise had no friends from then on. Another ten people or so joined us in the living room, including some very over enthusiastic Americans, who attempted to converse with me:



"Isn't the place amazing?" 
"Er, aye. Aye it is." 
"Oh, are you Irish? I love your accent. I'm one tenth Irish, and we've been to Liverpool." 
"..."


The evening proceeded to become mental-ler and mental-ler. The man in the body warmer came in and we fell silent, concerned he was actually going to murder someone then and there. He didn't. In fact, i wish he had murdered me, as he proceeded to explain the history of his floor. Yes, his FLOOR. The body warmer man then produced a stone from his pocket, that he 'believed' was older than Christ, or at the very least, older than the floor.


Recovering from that bombshell, he led us into the main room where we sat down for stories.




A log fire crackled, but there was no beer; it was clear Louise had misled us, obviously hated us, and wanted to punish us gravely for some misdemeanour from another life. God how she must have hated us.

A strange, homeless lady, in a shawl, told various stories about what, I'm not entirely sure. They included a killer 'stoor worm,' a man called 'Ass-y Paddle,' little creatures living in hills that liked the fiddle, some truly dire over-dramatisation, and it took the crazy bitch over four hours to tell. Four hours. Four hours. Four. Fucking. Hours. Louise must hate us so.

Torture room


But, the mental wasn't over.



We sighed relief as the mentalist put the puppet down and concluded her stories, but then she began to explain the meaning behind each tale. I genuinely thought I'd died on the Markgraf and entered some obscene Orkney-purgatory.


When she finally, finally, stopped rabbiting on, the Americans added to the insanity by producing a couple of fiddles (which i presume they brought from America) and their children joined the resident lunatic in playing a few Orkney tunes. By that point i knew i had left purgatory, and reached hell.



"...and that concludes our Orkney story telling evening."


It was nearly midnight. We continued to sit for another few minutes to ensure the mental was over. It was. Without a sound, our band of story lovers filtered passed body warmer man, ignored the photocopied fifty pence leaflets, and slipped silently into our respective vehicles. The drive home was subdued.




No one has spoken of that night since.




No one has spoken to Louise since.




Part 1
 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4







Review: Diving In Darkness DVD - A film by Christine Grosart

Diving In Darkness - A Film By Christine Grosart



Cave diving is something that both intrigues me, and frightens me to death; the latter being the more acute reaction. I have watched many a GUE video of the main men cruising through the crystal clear waters of Mexico, France or Florida; this film bears little resemblance to that, and what I understood as 'cave diving.'

Diving In Darkness offers a gritty, cold, and severe account of UK cave diving. It is filmed and produced by Christine Grosart, an avid UK cave diver, who also provides the narration for the film as well as starring.





The film is broken into very definite chapters that look at individual cave systems within the UK. The film features Pridhamsleigh Cave, Swildons Hole, Cheddar Gough, a welsh cave system and Boreham caves. Each section has an historical introduction to the area, an overview of the system itself, and any previous cave exploration. Interviews with cave explorers Steve Thomas and Clive Westlake are very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the segment with Steve Thomas; his passion for caving is very infectious and he provided a wonderful account of developing the 'always look up rule' when exploring a cave.


The film is well shot and creates an excellent timeline of divers arriving at a site, transferring dive equipment to the cave, kitting up, crawling through dry sections, and finally diving through sumps to reach the more hidden secrets held underground. Christine provides excellent narration throughout the film ensuring the watcher doesn't get lost between sites.

(c) Christine Grosart

(c) Christine Grosart
(c) Christine Grosart

Despite watching the film with my eyes half closed, and making statements such as "seriously - that's mental!" or "why would you do that to yourself?"; it is very enjoyable. Some of the shots are fantastic; a particular emphasis must be placed on the lighting - which is brilliant. I particularly enjoyed the Cheddar Cave shots of the divers in the more open sections; the backlighting is excellent. The film reaches a peak when the watcher is treated to the infamous "China Shop" section; a photo of which graces the DVD cover.


"The China Shop"
(c) Christine Grosart



Concluding the film is a 'making of' section that allows the viewer to appreciate the extreme difficulty in undertaking such a venture, never-mind with such a small team. 

It was also intriguing to learn how the aerial shots were filmed, and laugh at the out takes; look out for GUE instructor Rich Walker being censored in a particularly tight section of a sump.






The film is obviously a labour of love (taking 2 years to make), and although not professionally produced, is far from amateur. The film looked well on my posh TV, the sound was good, and the menu system was perfect. Overall the film is excellent, and well worth £10 (plus p&p) - go buy it.




LINK: Wetwellies