Countess of Erne To Be Buoyed

Nina Hukkanen, Izzy Imset, Underwater Explorers, Countess of Erne, Dorset diving, wreck diving, UK wreck diving ,scuba diving, Portland Harbour, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company
Image Credit: Nina Hukkanen / Underwater Explorers

 

Underwater Explorers in Dorset, England has advised us of an update on a popular Portland wreck.

Following an incident in May, Portland Harbour is taking measures to avoid diving incidents related to the Countess of Erne. The wreck is to be permanently marked with a buoy on the bow. Detailed handouts are also being prepared to give to visiting divers to help reduce in-water accidents.

On 22nd May three divers were swept out of the East Channel as a 90 metre tanker was being piloted in. The divers had apparently failed to find the Countess of Erne and started an ascent. During the ascent they conducted a 5 metre safety stop and ended up drifting through the channel as the tanker with a draft of 5.4 metres was being piloted in. It was only because the pilot boat spotted the divers' SMB and the tanker was small enough to alter her course, that an incident was avoided. Had this been a larger less maneuverable vessel and the timings been a little different, this may have resulted in a very serious incident.

Memories of diving the Aeolian Sky (from A Wet Weekend in Weymouth)

The following piece is taken from an article by Rosemary E Lunn written for 990 Magazine entitled 'A Wet Weekend in Weymouth'.  (Volume 1, Issue 4, Summer 1999)

Aeolian Sky, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, TUMC, Diving PR, Diving Marketing, UK diving, Wreck diving, South coast Wreck diving, Portland diving, weymouth diving, Early on the summer of 3 November 1979 the Aeolian Sky, a 14,000 ton Greek freighter, was steaming south west of the Isle of Wight, bound for Aden.  At 04:55 a mid channel collision occurred with the 2,400 ton MV Anna Knupel, which managed to escape virtually unscathed.  The Aeolian Sky was not so lucky and radioed for assistance, reporting that she was holed in the forward number one hold and taking water. Shortly afterwards another message was sent saying that the second bulkhead had given way and that number one and number two holds were full of water with the remainder of the ship open to the sea.  It soon became apparent that she would have to be abandoned and so the crew were airlifted off.  Twenty-four miles later, after drifting unmanned in mid channel, it was decided that the Master and two crew should be airlifted aboard again, to see what could be done to rectify the situation.  She was successfully taken under tow and after four hours, land was sighted.  However the Sky was sinking at the bows and because her draught was considered too deep to safely enter Portsmouth or Southampton harbor, she was refused refuge. A decision was made to head towards Portland, but at 4.05am she sank 5 miles from St Aldhelm’s Head.

And so the myth was borne.  For the Sky was carrying quite a mixed cargo: vehicles, perfumes and sweets to name but a few goodies, and one should not overlook approximately £4,000,000 worth of Seychelles Rupees reportedly stashed in the Sickbay.  What a surprise when, a few weeks later, it was announced that divers acting for the Crown Agents, who were responsible for the money, had secretly dived the wreck searching the Sickbay for the money, to find it missing!  The Seychelles Government was not amused and cancelled the complete note issue.

Then, to add insult to injury, canisters of deadly chemicals began to be washed up in the area.  BSAC banned diving and taking of fish life between Bembridge Ledges and Portland, local fishermen were prohibited from trawling within one mile of the wreck and hundreds of dead crabs were washed up.  Weymouth and Portland began to fear the coming season would prove to be disastrous and questions were asked in the House of Commons.  Things were looking bleak for the resort.

Aeolian Sky, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, TUMC, South Coast Diving, UK Diving PR, diving out of Weymouth, diving out of Portland, South Coast Wreck Diving, 990 Magazine, Beyond the Blue Magazine
Illustration by Max Ellis, DIVER Magazine

Eventually it was established that the deadly chemicals hadn’t come from the Sky, but had been washed off the deck of another ship in mid channel.  The diving ban was lifted, summer arrived, and suddenly everyone wanted to dive the Sky.

Divers should be aware that she has been fished, and there are tangles of monofilament and ropes. The Sky is also affected by tides that can run like a train and some weird currents and irregular water movements similar to a washing machine.  A friend of mine was subjected to a most peculiar ascent two days after I had dived her.

She is, however, a most mouth-watering wreck and one does get that feeling of ‘Where do I start?’ – she is so huge.  We landed on the bridge structure and I was immediately struck by the number of cargo derricks that were casually strewn around the deck, like so many jackstraws.  Further on huge pulley blocks that had snapped off during the sinking lay scattered amongst the other debris.  Rumour has it that there are several Landrovers on the wreck.  I didn’t actually get to see any though I did spot one ex-vehicle. Quite an odd sight, 4 tyres with an engine block in the middle, and nothing else.  As I sat taking in the scene a complete meal for one wandered into view.  A lobster with a crab caught between its pincers.

Jewel Anemones, Aeolian Sky, UK wreck diving, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, The Underwater Marketing Company, Diving PR, Dive Marketing, TUMC, event management, dive shows
Image by Ian Skipworth

There's so much marine life; lots of orange shag pile carpet coating the wreck (Colonial polyp called Tubularia species indivisa, common name Oaten Pipes Hydroid), and a plethora of blushy pink Jewel Anemones.   I do like Jewel Anemones!  There was also a profusion of small flower like anemones that looked like camomile or large daisies, which splashed colour over the hulk (Devonshire Cup Coral).

The Sky is such an enormous wreck with so much to see, that one dive is definitely not enough.  She currently lies at 30 metres, so good bottom time can be pulled, especially on recreational trimix.  Personally I can’t wait to dive her again.

Health status and diving practices of a technical diving expedition

Andrew Foch, a senior specialist for the Hyperbaric Services, participated in a technical diving expedition to the South China Sea primarily to dive several deep World War Two wrecks. 

Rebreather Forum 3, RF3, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, rebreathers, technical diving, safety, health surveillance, decompression, air, mixed gas, trimix, nitrox, oxygen, Andrew Foch, Rubicon Foundation, Rubicon, Gene Hobbs, South China Seas, Inspiration, Evolution, Vision, During the expedition, diving practices and diver health were observed, and a diver health survey was completed by six of the seven divers at the end of each diving day.

The survey showed a slight worsening of health scores during the first half of the expedition, which then returned to baseline levels. However, no diver reached a health score of a level (six) associated with clinical decompression sickness (DCS) in a previous study. No clinical DCS was detected or treated; however, a high level of pre-existing musculoskeletal complaints prevalent in this group made clinical diagnosis difficult for marginal symptoms. A high proportion (50%) of divers reported symptoms consistent with pulmonary and ocular oxygen toxicity.

The use of closed-circuit rebreathers for 74 dives in the depth range of 50 to 70 metres' sea water, with total dive time 100.4 hours, was associated with few technical problems for a suitably trained and experienced group of technical divers.

Andrew Foch's report can be found here.

Full Circle: Listen to The Bell Island Shipwrecks Story at DIVE.2011

If you’re a passionate temperate water diver looking for an exciting and different destination, check out Ocean Quest Newfoundland (www.oceanquestadventures.com).  For centuries vessels have run aground on Newfoundland’s seductive coastline with one of the most interesting sites and stories being that of the Bell Island Wrecks. 

Bell Island is one of the few locations in North America that German forces directly attacked in the Second World War.  For in 1942 four Allied iron-ore carriers, moored in Conception Bay, were torpedoed by German U-Boats.  Before WWII the Germans had regularly bought the iron mined from Bell Island.  Once war had been declared this relationship ceased and the Bell Island ore was now being shipped to Britain.  Germany understandably wasn’t happy and two daring raids were hatched.  On 5th September Fregattenkapitän Rolf Rüggeberg of U-513 successfully torpedoed the Canadian ship SS Lord Strathconca and the British SS Saganaga. They sunk in a couple of minutes.  Then just under two months later on 2nd November, U-518 under the command of Kapitänleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm Wissmann, sunk the Rose Castle and PLM-27.  Today the Bell Island Wrecks sit upright and intact in mouthwateringly clear Canadian waters and covered in star fish, anemones, sea urchins, mussels and crabs.  Lying in 18 – 48 metres, they’re a Mecca for all temperate water wreck divers.

The story of the Bell Island Wrecks doesn’t finish here though.  In the mid 2000’s Marita, daughter of Captain Rüggeberg, was clearing out her mother’s house when she discovered a small box.  Inside were military documents, slide photos of icebergs and two Iron Crosses that Rüggeberg had received for sinking the SS Lord Strathconca and the SS Saganaga.  Her husband (Barry) started researching, “it was like a jigsaw.  Once we got hold of a copy of the logbook and started to work on the logbook, it all started to come together.  The pictures matched some of the positions of the boat and the story began to unfold”.

The story took on a new twist when Captain Rüggeberg’s son-in-law attended one of the UK Dive Shows.  Barry stumbled across Ocean Quest Newfoundland, who run trips to dive the wrecks that Rüggeberg torpedoed.  As a direct result, in July 2010 Marita and Barry visited Bell Island and donated Rüggeberg’s artifacts (including the two Iron Crosses) to the Bell Island Museum.

To hear more of this exciting story, come and listen to Rick Stanley talk at 2pm in Room 23 this weekend at DIVE.2011, Birmingham.  And if wrecks aren’t your thing, then you can also find out more about diving with majestic Humpback Whales, breathtaking icebergs or abandoned whaling stations.

Press Coverage includes;
http://www.britishdiver.co.uk/diving-news.html?ID=127

 

Dive Dover from Sea Explorer

Just over 90 minutes fromLondonis the ancient port of Dover.  For two millennia “the Gateway to England” has faced boat loads of invaders and this trend continues to this day, with over 20 million travellers passing through this strategic port.  Dover’s rich history is echoed in its surrounding seas, which makes Dover diving  a Mecca for wreck enthusiasts.

One of the most popular boats you can dive from is Sea Explorer.  (www.divingproducts.co.uk/boat.html)  Licensed for 12 fully equipped divers, this 10.5 metre offshore RHIB is powered by twin 300 hp engines.  It’s an ideal vessel for Sport Divers, offering quick and comfortable transits, hot beverages and a knowledgeable Skipper.  Better known by many divers as “that very clever engineering bloke from Kent Tooling”, John Perrin has a wealth of experience skippering these historic waters, which mean that divers have a safe and enjoyable experience.  To find out what Dover Diving can offer you come and talk to John at this year's London International Dive Show at Excel.