Scapa Flow, 23rd August - 2nd September 2006

Dusk on the Churchill barriers: Iain Crampton Maili framed: Iain Crampton

OK, so officially this is a Hellfins trip, but as 6 of the 12 divers were also in Stingray, I think it counts. Many many thanks to Ed Collinge for running the trip and thinking of me when a late place came up, and thanks to everyone else for a fantastic week.

It was a wonderful trip, especially as it included Shona and Cleggy's wedding!

Day 1: Cruiser Sunday

Brummer: The Brummer is always a picturesque wreck and didn't disappoint, a particlar highlight was seeing one of the local seals darting in and out of the holes in the bow, hunting a shoal of fish. Excellent.

Dresden: More cruiser goodness.

Day 2: Battleship Monday

Markgraf: In my previous trips to Scapa I have been frustrated in my quest to dive the battleships, this time nothing would stop me. Tony and I opted to do this dive on trimix, working up for our trip to the Strathgarry later in the week. Being at 45m with a clear head was novel, enjoying the good vis and the sweeping metallic landscape. Swimming by guns so big they could easily be mstaken for mast parts or prop shafts. We covered the whole ship, from shot to bow and back to the stern again, finally putting up our DSMB between the enormous rudders and waving farewell to an excellent wreck.

Kronprinz Wilhelm: Two battleships in one day, the Markgraf was definitely better, but the Kronprinz is only a little less impressive, being more sunken into the mud and more heavily salvaged. Still we did the grand tour and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Day 3: Wedding Day

Bayern: A very different dive, the upturned turrets make a wierd, gaudi-esque sculpture on the muddy seabed, shot through with beams of torchlight. Cleggy went searhcing for the wedding feast and was rewarded with an ample haul of scallops. It is just a shame the rest of the ship has gone for scrap.

Coln: Don't recall much of this dive, most have been the (non alcoholic) bubbly at the wedding going to my head. Shona and Cleggy got married! There was even a piper to play them out of the registry office. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear (except Fred of course, who remained professionally grumpy, but we wouldn't have it any other way). And as for the wedding breakfast, Faye and Nicki excelled themselves, Cleggy's scallops made a fantastic starter, a little diving grade Helium helped with the baloons and enough real bubbly was consumed that we should probably all have stayed in bed the following day, which in fact most of us did.

Day 4: Blockship Wednesday

Churchill Barrier II (Lydia, Ilsenstein, etc. etc.): How often can you take in 5 wrecks on one dive? The weather ruined Plan A for today, (the Konig waits for another trip) but a hardy few of us were determined to get a dive in and opted for the Churchill barriers, where the eastern (seaward) side was flat calm, in contrast to the crashing waves in the sound. I was very glad we went for it. These shallow wrecks were wonderful fun and I got a chance to try out my borrowed underwater camera, very kindly and trustingly loaned by my girlfriend. Of course I was snap-happy, and completely obsessed with my new toy, top marks must go to Maili as the spotter and for putting up with the constant camera flashes.

Day 5: Posh Nosh Thursday

James Barrie: I didn't have the best dive on this wreck, I've done it 3 times before and enjoyed it, but this time we were too early for slack and it was an effort, also my cuff dump jammed and I began to baloon on the way up, only repeated punching of my own arm and a firm grip on the shot saved the day. Finally, the test of our new trapeze, did not go to plan and we found it dangling in one entirely vertical mess. Even with a relatively clear head on 25/20, I only spotted one conger. Oh well, can't have everything.

Karlsruhe: Much more pleasant than this morning's dive, this shallow cruiser afforded us a nice long dive and plenty of interesting life and interesting holes, even yielding one or two half decent pictures.

To further celebrate the wedding we ate this evening in the Creel restaurant, which thoroughly deserves its 2006 'Scottish Restaurant of the Year' award. Wondeful food, local ingredients and the starters would do for a main course in some places I've eaten.

Day 6: Final Friday

Strathgarry: It almost looked like we would miss this dive, and I had been so looking forward to it, excited and a little nervous to be doing a real trimix dive, the first time I have been past 50m in the dark and cold of the UK. Early mist shrouded us as we steamed down the sound, but it cleared wonderfully as we were preparing and we got the OK. It is a long, long way down to 57m, but eventually the bottom came into focus and just by the shot, the side of the old trawler loomed, curving away into the darkness. The vis was excellent, the wreck covered in fish and just a nice size to swim round in 15minutes or so, taking in the deck winches, the old wheelhouse (mostly gone) and the propeller and rudder at the stern. Our tour completed, we made our was back and up to our seemingly endless decompression. Well worth the long hang for this rare Scapa treat.

F2 & Barge: I've always like this pair of wrecks, but this latest dive was rather disappointing, bad weather had ruined the vis here and my camera was largely useless and I came alarmingly eye to eye with a conger quite by accident, we stuck it out for most of an hour, but in the gloom and muck we eventually gave in. When we ascended, it was raining hard, time to go home I thought.

Report by: Iain C

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