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.

We had a cracking weekend over Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 August.  The inshore waters weather forecast was completely wrong – they were saying NE3-5 but for both days there was a total absence of wind, so we had flat, hot, sultry, sticky weather. On Saturday we dived the WW1 steamer South Western. Vis was disappointingly poor at about 2 metres, and pitch black below 25 metres, but this is quite a safe wreck in low vis and at least the water is warm at 18°.  On Sunday we headed south to dive the Clarinda, another favourite, and as the spring tide reduces towards neaps, we had a corresponding improvement in vis, which was around 3-4 metres in ambient light. As a bonus, we came across of pod of 5 or 6 dolphins on the Bridge Reef at the Needles.

From Tuesday 11 August to Friday 14 August, marine archaeologists have been surveying and excavating a trench on Bouldnor Cliff at a depth of 9 metres.  This was a site of human occupation some 8500 years ago. Vis improved dramatically as a really small neap tide has progressed, giving long periods of slack water and also long periods when divers could work through the tide. Water temperature close inshore in the western Solent is a balmy 22°.  This isn’t surprising as we’ve had days of hot, steamy, sultry weather, with an oily, flat calm sea.

Dive/vis reports:  On Saturday 15 August we ventured offshore – the first time this year – to dive a wreck thought to be the Luxor, lost in 1918 when she was brand new.  Steaming down the Solent we were in overcast skies and thick fog, which didn’t bode well.  We remained in the fog until 20 miles south of the Needles, when the fog lifted and we were left with cloudy skies.  The sea was flat calm and everyone had a great dive in 56 metres – with vis of at least 10-12 metres in ambient light.  Next day, Sunday 16 August, we were inshore, diving first on the War Knight in Watcombe Bay. We had cloudy skies and heavy rain but the sea was flat. It’s unusual to have good vis on this wreck as it’s very close inshore, but the neap tide had given us 3-4 metres vis. This was followed by the main dive on slack water in the Needles Channel, on the stern section of the steamer Serrana lost in 1918. Despite being on low water, vis was a very acceptable 4-5 metres. Finally, on Monday 17 August, a small group ventured out on a flat sea to dive the Admiralty steam drifter New Dawn in 33 metres.  The only complaint – too many fish to see the wreck!  Vis was quite good at 5 metres but with overcast skies this was to be expected. We finished the day with a second dive on the War Knight, just as the wind picked up and began to increase.  So far, August has been a good month, but the weather looks set to break down…

Dive/vis reports:  Sure enough, nasty low pressure systems bringing strong wind and rain, coupled with monster big spring tides, wiped out the weekend of Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 August. 

Dive/vis reports:  Poor weather continues – bit of a shock after the first 2 weeks of brilliant weather.  Friday 28 August cancelled de to strong winds, as was Saturday 29 August. Sunday 30 August has been rescheduled – SeaSearch were due to survey the shallow, inshore waters of the Solent and Needles, but the gales of last week have adversely affected vis, and it’s no good if you can’t see anything!  We’re doing this dive later in September.

Dive/vis reports:  We ventured out on BH Monday 31 August. Light winds and calm seas made our trip out to the wreck of the Dallas City quite pleasant, though it was a cloudy day. Vis was excellent, estimated at 10-12 metres at 60 metres, though divers reported seeing torchlight on the wreck while descending from 40 metres. If only the had shone for us – which it was on the way back!  A good result was that we recovered a lost shot from 2019.

Dive/vis reports:  Lots going on and no time to keep the posts updated – but here’s what we’ve been doing. On Friday 4 September we dived off St Catherine’s to investigate an unknown/unidentified target in two pieces. Some dived the stern section and some the bow section. Nothing was found to identify the vessel, and vis was quite poor – not surprising given that the day before wind speed reached 82 mph at the Needles and that has really stirred things up.  Next day, Saturday 5 September, we’d intended to return to St Catherine’s to dive a WW1 steamer, but in view of the vis situation we decided to dive the wreck of the Hazelwood west of the Point. Vis was improving but still not great, but as the tide eases back from springs it’ll improve. On Sunday 6 September we dived the WW1 steamer Eleanor in 38 metres. Vis has improved to 3-4 metres in ambient light.  On Monday 7 September with a different team, this time of marine archaeologists, we were engaged in surveying and using an unmanned vessel, programmed to survey remotely. Conditions weren’t ideal but much data was gathered. Next day, Tuesday 8 September was spent with the magnetometer searching a specific area. Lots of targets were located, and we commenced diving on them on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 September. Most of what we found was modern rubbish – old iron pipes, mooring blocks etc, but right at the end of the day ship’s timbers and associated debris was found, some disappearing under the sand. Vis was very good at 5-6 metres but we were quite shallow anyway and many of our targets have been dived.  There’s a lot more to do…

Dive/vis reports:  On Saturday 12 September we ventured offshore to mid-Channel. The forecast wasn’t great, but it was such a good neap that we suffered the swell and waves, knowing that the vis would be great – and it was. diving the steamer El Kahira in 60 metres, horizontal vis was a good 12 metres, while a diver reported that when he was at 40 metres, he could see divers below on the wreck. Next day, Sunday 13 September, we headed south-west again, to dive the wreck of the Derna. An angling boat on site prevented that – the skipper suggesting that when divers have been on a wreck it ruins the fishing!  Nonsense, of course, but as he was there first we headed to the wreck of the Dagmar, just over a mile away. Sunshine, flat sea and no wind – ideal. Vis wasn’t as good at 6 metres, but being closer inshore it was what we expected. Water temperature is still around 18°.  Not many dives left for this short season, but we’ll keep going when tides and weather permit. On Tuesday 15 September we had an early start – away from the pontoon at 0645 – to dive the wreck we call the Train Set – 2 steam locomotives with tenders – off the back of the Isle of Wight.  Considering the very good neap tide we’ve just had, vis was somewhat disappointing but certainly good enough for photography. Two of the marine archaeologists snapped over 2500 digital images for photogrammetry purposes, which will fill in the gaps from our last visit to the site. Loads of conger on site, poking out of every hole and crevice, as well as lots of juvenile lobsters.

Dive spaces:  We are about to have a run of huge spring tides, from the 17th to the 21st September, which will bring poor vis and short periods of slack water.  It’s not worth diving…and in any case, the forecast is for fresh to strong east or north-east winds, which is about as unfriendly as you can get!

Dive/vis reports:  Not much to tell – strong to gale force winds wiped out diving on Friday 25, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September.  Even though the winds was offshore for that period, vis had taken a severe hit so it was not worth going if you can’t see!  Not much left now this season.

Dive/vis reports: All dives for October were blown out, but we had 2 very good days on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 November, diving with marine archaeologists in the Solent.  With a very good neap tide and no wind, vis was a very acceptable 2-3 metres, though with the sun low in the sky, good torches were needed. An adze, 8500 years old, was recovered intact, along with numerous flint shards which shows the area we were diving, now in 10 metres of water, was inhabited by our distant ancestors.

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