The diving trip to Malin Head that didn’t happened!
Last September Mike Ferguson from my local branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) the Deeside Sub Aqua Club (DSAC) organized a trip to Malin Head out of Al Wright’s MV Salutay. Read more about Al here and on IANTD’s Operation Pedestal page. I was invited to join but kindly declined as although qualified to dive I would be the only Open Circuit diver on the boat and that would
- make it hard to buddy with any CCR diver
- make gas logistics a nightmare
- make for a very expensive gas bill!!!
The trip was a success although visibility was not great because of an out-of season Plankton Bloom.
This was highly unusual and unlike anything like what was expected according to my diving buddy’s video of Malin Head (Diving Malin Head, Ireland 2010 by Geoff Davies https://vimeo.com/14388873) and photos:
iconic Shipwrecks lying off Malin Head, Ireland – taken by fourth element team diver Steve Jones:
Therefore it didn’t take long for Mike to start organizing the next trip to Malin Head and I was invited to join the group. This time as a proud owner of a newly acquired AP Inspiration Classic I agreed to join and needless to say I was really very excited at the prospect of diving the HMS Audacious, SS Justicia and the SS Empire Heritage.
Considering that all three (Audacious, Justicia and Empire Heritage) lie at a depth of around 70m of water this makes it for a tech only trip with not much scope for recreational / non-deco diving!!! Ideally for suitably experienced divers.
As much as I do consider myself to have some understanding in the lore of scuba diving I felt I had to get myself ready and “dived-up” for a trip like that and therefore embarked in a race to get as many deco and simulated deco dives as possible to make sure that I am ready for Malin Head.
After a fair bit of diving and a lot of waiting August the 31st arrived and I packed my gear and Saturday morning headed off to meet Lorne Thomson and start our drive to Stranraer. It is amazing how much kit just the two of us had!!! One would imagine that a Range Rover would be enough for 2 (yes two) divers? Well just!
By the time we had loaded, rebreathers, stage bottles, Lorne’s scooter, tool boxes, dry suits and other random stuff there was hardly any space left for us!!!
The drive was pretty easy and uneventful and we made it to Stranraer in time to load the boat.
Photo of MV Salutay (Wikipedia Belfast Tall Ships 2009)
After the expected fuff of setting up gear, selecting cabins etc we (orderly) made our way to the local Chinese restaurant for a curry, beers and raising a pint to diving buddies that unfortunately didn’t made it to this trip.
Sadly by that time it was confirmed that the weather was too bad to make it to Malin Head and dive the wrecks of Plan A and therefore we had to dive Plan B!!!
Google Maps extract showing the waypoints of the trip we had originally planned (Dive Malin Head Wrecks)
Google Maps extract showing what we actually dived (Diving IOM wrecks – Plan B)
Sunday morning after a hearty fry-up prepared by Freda we sailed from Stranraer to dive the first wreck of the trip
“SS Tiberia, built by Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Newcastle in 1913 and owned at the time of her loss by Anchor Line (Henderson Bros.), Ltd., Glasgow, was a British steamer of 4880 tons.
On February 26th, 1918, Tiberia, on a voyage from Glasgow to New York with general cargo, was sunk by the German submarine U-19 (Johannes Spieß), 1.5 mles east of Black Head, Belfast Lough. There were no casualties.” Source: the Wreck site.
A sketch of the wreck can be found here.
Video of the wreck of SS Tiberia on YouTube here. On the way out we got to see Samson and Goliath the two giagantic cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding (the one that built RMS Titanic? – Yes! that one!!!)
The sea was a bit choppy so the decision was made to not take any scooters much to the boys disappointment. Luckily for me that meant I would get a buddy! Myself and Lorne were getting ready until Lorne started having “Cell” issues. For those of you into closed circuit rebreathers you know what that means for the rest of you not familiar with the AP Cells drama all I will say is that Cells is a critical bit of the rebreather and going diving with any warnings on them is a bad idea.
Lorne attempted to replace the cell but then it didn’t work and I buddied up with Brian and Simon and went for a dive. Vis was not exactly excellent but considering that we managed a 100 minute runtime dive that probably implies that we quite enjoyed in!!!
Back on the boat we got fed by Freda and headed out to shore.
Dessert was at least epic! (photo courtesy of MV Salutay)
On arrival to Portavogie we engaged in our favourite activity of messing around with kit. Power drills etc came into play while Al was filling our cylinders.
A scouting party was sent out to find a pub but returned empty handed as Portavogie ( which according to wikipedia comes from Irish: Port a’ Bhogaigh meaning “harbour of the bog”) is a small fishing village with a 95.9% Protestant background!!! (source: Census day 29 April 2001- wikipedia)
Monday morning after a our breakfast and a casual walk by the marina we headed out to dive the Romeo
SS Romeo (photo from The Wreck site)
SS Romeo was a British passenger / cargo ship (1730 grt) travelling to Liverpool from Scapa Flow. On the 03/03/1918 she was tricked into giving her position away by U-102 and was sunk by a torpedo with only one survivor of the 37 aboard (from the Wreck site).
During the dive me and Lorne stayed close to the bows and headed midships but we had to ascent before we made it to the stern to make the 90 min runtime requested by our skipper.
Back on the boat we followed the same routine. Lunch. messing around with kit and dinner on our arrival at Peel, IOM. Easy life! Just the way I like it!!!
Tuesday morning we headed out to dive the Stern part of the Romeo again as we hadn’t seen it in the last dive. Once again the conditions topsides were not great so we left the scooters on the boat and dived to see the stern of the wreck while the rest of the company as “wannabe” wreck detectives were digging into the wreck / sand / debris trying to find souvenirs!!!
And needless to say back on the boat for more food, more messing around with diving gear and then to the pub, where Brian demonstrated his hagling skills by buying two bottles of wine from the local pub. After a couple of drinks we headed back to the boat for some more food (surely one has to have dinner right?!!!)
Wednesday morning we left the Port St Mary, IOM to dive SS Liverpool. This was almost my favourite dive of the trip. I love good visibility and ambient light. The wreck was less intact but the vis was awesome!!! 15-20 m easily!!! It was almost like diving abroad 🙂 well apart from the not so tropical temperature (although one cannot complain when the water temperature is 14 deg C) and the strong currents in the area, which is why we had to limit our run time to 90 min (much to my disappointment)!!!
SS Liverpool (photo from Divernet)
“SS Liverpool was a british passenger / cargo ship (686 grt). On a voyage from Liverpool to Slingo she hit a mine and sunk with loss of 3”. source: WreckSite (http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?10320)
After the dive we headed out to Douglas and “The British” to enjoy a couple of drinks in the sunshine while Freda was preparing dinner!!!
The downside of not making it to Malin Head (apart from not diving the excellent wrecks of Malin Head – of course) was that I missed my chance to visit the distillery of Bushmills
(photo showing unhappy Dimitris – missing Bushmills Irish Whiskey)
Once more Al intervened and saved the day!!!
Bushmills 10 Year-Old Single Malt
Thursday morning having been fed and watered we headed out to dive the SS Inkosi. Being very excited after the SS Liverpool dive there was a unanimous 2hr response when Al asked what our planned runtime was going to be, despite both Al and Mike predicting that vis wouldn’t be that great.
SS Inkosi photo from Newton Stewart SAC
Soon on the descent visibility deteriorated and by the time we made it to 30 m depth it was pretty dark but fortunately the water was clearing up!!! On the wreck despite the lack of ambient light visibility was great and we busied ourselves by looking into the holds and the loads of crockery. Heading to the stern Lorne spotted an abandoned dive / fishing boat anchor which we decided to leave in situ!
Apart from the wreck and the cargo there were loads of life especially Lobsters Crabs and Conger Eels some of the later ones were big enough to count as “scary”.
We were definitely enjoying ourselves because by the time we decided to end the dive and head up the current had picked up and we had more than an hour to surface!!!
After recovering all divers Freda served lunch and we started our long steam back. The weather got worst and we ended up heading to Stranaer where we spent the last night.
After arrival Freda served dinner and then we went back to messing around with our kit.
The last dive of the trip was to be the SS Rowan on Friday. The story of the sinking of the Rowan is anything between unbelievable and impossible.
SS Rowan was a passenger ship (1493 grt) on a voyage from Glasgow to Dublin. In thick fog she collided with the American steam ship Camak (5721 grt). Although the damage was not too bad it resulted in her stopping and then a second collision with the Clan Malcom (5994 grt) which resulted in SS Rowan sinking quickly with the loss of 13 crew members and 3 passengers. Two more of the survivors died later of the injuries (from the Wrecksite).
Al seemed worried about tides and recommended us “not to blow the arse of it” and by that we assume he meant stay to runtimes of about 90 minutes. Which we did (more or less). Sadly visibility was poor and of course dark as dark gets!
After surfacing he headed back to Stranraer loaded our gear into the cars said our goodbyes to Al and Freda and started our journey back.
Overall I enjoyed this trip very much. I got to dive every day, on some pretty cool wrecks, log 10 more hours on my unit and enjoy the excellent company I was in. We didn’t got to dive the wrecks of Malin Head but…
…well I suppose that is a good reason to book another diving trip right?! 🙂
A number of videos were filmed and I will update the links below as the videos are published.
- Neil’s Video
- Mike’s Video here
- Simon’s Video
Many thanks go to:
- Al and Freda for looking after us
- Mike Ferguson for organizing the trip
- Lorne Thompson for the driving and being a great dive buddy
- The rest of the team (Brian Burnett, Simon Carter, Neil Masson, Jer Cameron and Gar Petrie) for making it fun!