Diving reports 2020

Hurray!  We’re back in the water at last.  We were allowed to resume diving from 4 July, but that weekend was plagued with gale force winds, and the week following had strong wind warnings every day, so no diving was possible.  However, all changed from Saturday 11 July. On that day members of SeaSearch were on board. We dived close inshore under the cliffs by Tennyson Down in very scenic gullies and ridges, looking for various forms of life.  Following that, we investigated what was presumed to have been a chalk ridge some 500 metres long off Hanover Point at Brook, but it turned out to be different geology. A piece of fossilised wood containing iron pyrites was found. Vis was quite good considering the weather the previous week, with about 3 metres under Tennyson, and similar conditions off Brook. On Sunday 12 July we carried out our first wreck dive of the season, on the WW1 wreck of the French steamer Azemmour in 38 metres. Vis was quite good at 6 metres in ambient light, though there is still some suspended plankton in the water column. The wreck was alive with crabs, while conditions topside were flat calm and sunny. On the way back we pinged another wreck which is one we’ll investigate soon.

On Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 July, I had marine archaeologists on board, surveying Bouldnor Cliff, a prehistoric site of human habitation. Vis was very good for close inshore in the Solent, varying from 3 to 5 metres.  On Wednesday 15 to Friday 17th July, I ran out of Southsea Marina to dive wrecks east of the Isle of Wight. We dived the wreck thought to be the Flaxmoss in 45 metres – though having had a second look at it, it may be too small to be the 1886 wreck. Nothing was found to identify the wreck.  Vis was about 8 metres in ambient light. The next day we dived the French steamer Leon in 30 metres – armed with both a bow and a stern gun. Being closer inshore the vis was still a very acceptable 6 metres.  On the last day we investigated an unidentified anomaly, which turned out to be something which might be historically important.  It was four ‘Anti Aircraft Torpedo Close Protection Pontoons’ all lying in a straight line in 43 metres, pretty much undamaged, complete with vertical winch gear and steel anti-torpedo nets. These pontoons were only in use between 1939 and about 1942 and previously thought to have been confined to Scapa Flow, so it was a real surprise to find them off the Isle of Wight. No record of their loss has been located.  On Saturday 18 July we had an early start to dive the WW1 wreck of the tanker Oriflamme. At the Needles we were delighted to have a pod of about 20 dolphins all around the boat.  On the wreck, vis was a bit disappointing at 5 metres – we’d anticipated that it would be better on HW slack following a good neap tide – but that’s St Catherine’s for you!  The next day, Sunday 19 July, we again dived off St Catherine’s, this time on the WW1 steamer Redesmere. This was a good dive though the vis was similar, and with the water up around 15°, a good day out.

Planned trips for Friday 24 to Sunday 26 July have been blown out, and Monday 27 July and Tuesday 28 July – ditto.  Finally, we managed to get out on Wednesday 29 July. Picking up at Yarmouth, we had intended to dive the Asborg off St Catherine’s Point, but in view of the recent big springs and 5 or 6 days of strong winds, decided the vis would have taken a knock, so we headed west instead to dive the wreck of the steamer Betsy Anna. A warm, sunny day with a slight breeze, but some swell left over from the previous unsettled weather, everyone got in the water. Vis was around 4 metres, about what was expected given the circumstances, but at least the water is warm!  We followed this on the way back with a very quick drift up the Solent from about Hatherwood Point. Described as an exhilarating drift in 2-3 metres vis over a varied seabed comprising sand, rock, depressions and peaks, lots of life was spotted but divers moving too fast to collect anything.  Next day, Thursday 30 July, members of SeaSearch were on board. We dived first on the underwater cliff face at Bouldnor. There are differing sediment levels here, comprising, clay, sandstone, peat beds etc, and the divers wanted to see what life forms were living on each level. With vis expected to be on the low side, on LW water slack, it was around 2 metres and quite enough for the purposes of the dive.  This was followed by diving a mark on the flood tide just off Tennyson Down, where vis had improved to 4-5 metres.

The weekend of Saturday 1 August and Sunday 2 August looked iffy regarding weather – but Saturday looked the better day, so we ventured off St Catherine’s Point to dive the WW1 wreck of the Norwegian steamer Cuba in 42 metres.  Although everyone had a good dive, we passed through the good vis to well, less good vis!  Dark and 2-3 metres vis, not the best, but at least we’re in the water wreck diving. Sunday was still looking iffy but we reckoned we could get the dive in before the wind came up. Leaving the pontoon in calm conditions, we saw a few dolphin off the Needles before we reached the wreck of the steamer Daylesford in 46 metres. The weather began as overcast and as the divers entered the water the wind began to pick up. However, the dive was another good one – ambient light on the wreck and slightly better vis at 4-5 metres.  Sloppy ride home in a SW 4-5. On Monday 3 August we were inshore south-west of the Needles, investigating an unknown site. This turned out to be some sort of large steel pipe, 75cms diameter, with all sorts of fittings attached, and an anchor and chain. Congers, a shoal of large pout, crabs and lobsters were there, but whatever the wreckage is, it wasn’t what we were looking for. Despite this, vis was 4-5 metres in ambient light, the water is warm and the bonus was we had a pod of a dozen dolphins off Totland Bay.  We then had a look at another mark thought to have been wreckage, but this turned out to be rocky outcrops. On Tuesday 4 August we dived the WW1 steam drifter New Dawn in 33 metres, 3 miles off the Needles. Nice dive, upright boiler and engine, and lots of shellfish. Vis was OK at about 4 metres in ambient light.

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