Trip Reports

Norfolk Chalk Reef 11th-13th September 2020

This was the club’s third visit to the Norfolk chalk reef.

The reef itself is 30 miles long, with an average depth of 11 metres. It is a mixture of bright white chalk, flint and sandstone, boulders cobbles, pebbles and coarse sand. Erosion has left pockets, holes and tubes in a variety of shapes across the reef. As a protected marine habitat, it is a veritable nursery for a variety of marine life.

Phil prepped the boat on the Tuesday evening then did the final check on Thursday. The journey to Cromer was busy but interesting as the hills of Derbyshire gave way to the fields of Nottinghamshire and ultimately to the small villages and agricultural landscape of Norfolk. Our accommodation was a beautiful old farmhouse in Banningham. We arrived with enough time to check out a new launch site at Trimingham and to double check the sand at East Runton.

Saturday:  We launched from East Runton—a breath holding experience, given the steep decent onto soft sand, pebbles and then hard sand into the sea. Everything went smoothly to the relief of everyone. We dived as two buddy pairs and a three.

The first dive was during slack water, the second a drift dive at Sheringham. Viz was 4/5m and the water temperature a comfortable 16C. Lobster, squat lobster, edible crab, velvet swimmers, sponge crabs and prawns were in every crevice. Many of the larger lobsters were out walking across the cobbles. Light from our torches caused dragonets and blennies to dart from one place to another and the tiny long-clawed squat lobsters to scuttle for cover. Sponges, dahlia anemones, sea squirts and short red seaweed provided an array of colour. Small shoals of juvenile wrasse darted across the chalk reef.

In the past recovering Top Cat has been a serious, time consuming problem-solving activity. This time it had been meticulously thought through and was incident free. Phil and Tim used 2 vehicles and a variety of heavy-duty strops to take the trailer and Top Cat out of the water and up the slip to the car park.

 

In the evening we had a first-class meal at the local pub where the steak and kidney puddings were the local speciality.

Sunday:  We launched at Trimingham without incident and dived a new site to the south of Cromer pier.

We had 4/5m viz and an abundance of life including Cat Shark.

Top Cat’s recovery was more of a challenge owing to a sharply shelving water’s edge and an area of soft dry sand immediately before a bend in the slip. Once again using 2, 4×4’s and a variety of strops worked successfully however we can see why the local BSAC club usually shore dive and the local fishing boats have a dumper truck and /or tractor for launch and recovery.

Another enjoyable weekend diving on the Norfolk chalk reef with calm seas and sunshine, a bonus. Thanks to buddies Mark & Anna, Helen, Rosie & Tim.

Video courtesy of Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Photos courtesy of Helen Hamer

Shetland 22nd - 29th August 2020

This was not a planned club trip however owing to Covid 19 cancellations and last minute spaces 6 divers from ECSAC ended up on board Bob Anderson’s new boat Clasina in Lerwick harbour ready to dive on Sunday morning. It must be said that the new boat is fantastic, undercover drysuit area, massive flat deck space, twin cabins, dive lift, dining/kitchen area, 3 showers and best of all Ainsley and Rachel as crew.

Fellow divers were Jane and Junho from London, Underwater Photography competition winner Rob Bailey and photographer Charles Erb. A full article written by Rob will appear in Scuba magazine shortly.

We were blessed with good weather, 15m+ viz and 12C water temperature. We dived a mixture of wrecks and scenic sites between Lerwick and Balta Sound.  We even had time to walk to Hermaness National Nature Reserve overlooking Muckle Flugga to watch the gannets, fulmars, giant skua gulls and kittiwakes.

Wreck and scenic sites

  • Fraioch Bahn a trawler lying in 36m, plastered in life on a white sandy bottom which is covered in plaice plus resident angler fish and octopus.
  • Lunarhods 36m and The Pionersk 34m: both  Russian fish factory ships.
  • The Jane 25m -a Swedish steamship in Bluemull Sound
  • The classic submarine E49
  • Noss Head with resident Gannet colony.
  • Maerl bed drift which was Cat Shark city.
  • Giants Legs. 3 sea cliff swim throughs. A riot of colour especially the Dahlia Anemones.

The beauty of the Shetland both above and below water is stunning and a relatively easy place to get to thanks to the overnight ferry from Aberdeen.

A great week with ECSAC buddies Pat/Phil, Mark/Anna  Alison and Tim.

Thanks as always to Bob Anderson and his amazing crew.

Video courtesy of Alison Brammer

SOUTH SHIELDS 14TH - 16TH AUGUST 2020

Nine divers journeyed north on Friday evening, some to stay at The Little Haven Hotel and others at a nearby B&B. Tim and Phil had prepped and checked the boats the previous Wednesday evening. We launched at 8am from the public concrete slip adjacent to the hotel.

Sat 15th August:  Our first dive site was The Elise, a British Navy trawler which sank in 1918. It lies on a sand and cobble seabed in 26m of water. The wreck was located and shotted successfully. The viz was 8-10m and water temperature a comfortable 14C. The boilers, engine block and propeller were easily identified and covered in Deadmens Fingers and Plumose anemones, Hornwrack and a variety of hydroids and bryzoa. Shoals of Bib and Pollock swam around the whole of the site. We also spotted Butterfish, Tompot Blennies, Gobies, Goldsinny, lobsters, an abundance of squatties, Edible and Velvet Swimming crabs. Helen was lucky enough to find an octopus. We all managed to avoid the Lionsmane and Compass jellyfish on both the descent and safety stop.

Following a quick cylinder change back at the slip our second dive was The Oslofyord , a 18,673-ton troopship, which sank in 1940 when it hit a German mine . It lies on a sandy seabed in 15m of water just off Tynemouth beach and is the largest wreck on the East coast. The bow section points seaward. There is also the wreckage from the Greek steamer, The Eugenia Chandris which sank in March 1943 having struck the wreck of the Oslofyord. There is a huge amount of broken wreckage to explore. Four steam engines, 3 massive boilers, miles of cable, large sections of metal plate and an intact prop shaft are easily identified. All the wreckage is plastered with Deadmens Fingers and Plumose Anemones, hydroids, bryzoa, Hornwrack and encrusting sponges. Large shoals of Bib and Pollack, Angler and Scorpion fish, Butterfish. Lobster, Edible and Velvet Swimming crabs were spotted by all buddy pairs.

The boats were recovered and refuelled. Cylinders were taken for filling; kit was sorted for the next day.

We ate at the hotel on Saturday evening.

Sun 16th August:  Phil had researched and planned a new dive site, The Marie, (865tons) which lies on a sand and cobble seabed in 36m of water. It sank in 1907 following a collision.

We launched at 8am for the run out. The wreck was located and shotted and we waited for slack.

This was much darker, the viz was around 5m and there was a slight current on the bottom. It was not as colourful, with just patches of Deadmens fingers, Plumose and large Dahlia anemones, however, there were still shoals of Bib and Pollock, several flounder, Leopard Spotted gobies in every nook and cranny, plus prawns and starfish.

Our second dive was back to The Oslofyord, as it is non tidal, to shot and dive the area around the boilers then north to explore the prop shaft. Best finds were an octopus sitting on old fishing net, Anglerfish, lobsters and two large well camouflaged Scorpion fish.

The recovery and de-kitting of both boats went smoothly before we headed south. Tim, Helen and Phil secured the boat in the club house at around 9.30pm.

A great weekend of wreck diving with 2 new sites added to the list of marks. Thanks to Phil for meticulous research and planning: Tim and Phil for towing: dive buddies Ken, Steve M, Helen, Connie, Dave M and Wilf for ensuring that the weekend was a success.

Photo credits to Helen Hamer

Interesting links: 

 

BRIDLINGTON 31ST JULY - 2ND AUGUST 2020

Top Cat and the trailer were prepped and checked before heading to Bridlington on Friday evening. The journey was incident free although we were treated to a spectacular electrical storm for the final hour of it.

Sat. 1st Aug: An early start and a tractor launch courtesy of the inshore lifeboat crew at Hornsea saw us setting out for the 5-mile run out to dive the UC75.

Phil and Mark successfully located and shotted the submarine which sits upright at 35m on a sandy seabed. Viz was around 5m and water temperature 13C. The wreck was covered in orange and white deadmens fingers, plumose and white elegant anemones, encrusting sponges, a variety of hydroids and hornwrack. Shoals of bib and the occasional pollack swam over the entire wreck. Several large lobsters ,edible crabs, velvet swimmers, butterfish ,the occasional nudibranch were spotted. A superb dive.

In the afternoon we located and dived HMS Falmouth which lies on a sandy bottom at 20m. When we arrived at the site, we discovered It has two permanent shots on it. We were told that it was non tidal but found there was current on it. (With hindsight this would make an excellent drift dive.) A great dive for rummaging. Viz 4/5m water temp 14C. Main marine life: shoals of bib, juvenile pollack, codling, ling, ballan wrasse, lobsters, edible crabs, velvet swimmers, hornwrack, oaten pipe, nudibranch plus eggs, deadmens fingers, plumose anemones.

Sunday 2nd August:  The plan was to dive HMS Fairy as it was responsible for the sinking of UC75. A tractor launch into a calmer sea and a westerly breeze gave us a smooth run out to the wreck site. Phil and Mark had 2 sets of marks and spent some time before they were happy that the shot was on the wreck.

On the plus side the locating and shotting of the wreck was a success. The downside was that there

was little of it left to see and it was dark and deep at 39m. We managed to find the top of some railings and odd bits of scattered metal. A big lobster walking out across the sand was the best find.

The run back in was decidedly lumpy as we had an offshore wind over tide. The Hornsea tractor driver recovered Top Cat successfully and took us into the boat yard where we dekitted the boat.

Thanks to Phil’s for planning and organising. Thanks to buddies Mark and Anna. It was good to be back in the water on new wreck sites.

Interesting links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-oM2vtBIHw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv9Ln8xwc80&t=88s

https://historicengland.org.uk/content/docs/hms-falmouth-broadsheetpdf/

 

ST HELENA 16-27TH JANUARY 2020

We drove to Heathrow  on Thurs to travel overnight to Johannesburg, spent Friday catching up on sleep and visiting The Apartheid Museum before catching the Saturday flight to St Helena, famous for housing the exiled Napoleon after Waterloo and for its importance to The East India Company  trading spices and slaves.  Our accommodation was a 2-bed bungalow with views across the steep valley to the southern Atlantic Ocean.

We dived for 5 days with Subtropic Adventures from the jetty in Jamestown. Our skipper and dive guide Anthony made sure we were safe and well looked after, essential as the nearest hyperbaric chamber is in Cape Town, South Africa.

 

With 25m viz, the sea temperature a comfortable 24C and the ocean a stunning bright blue we dived a variety of sites: caves, rocky reefs, swim throughs pinnacles and two wrecks.

Highlights:

A very large pod of Pantropic dolphin with young on the way out to the dive sites, snorkelling with a whale shark, Chilean Devil Rays with accompanying remorays, amberjacks hunting for flounder, tuna, shoals of St Helena Butterfly Fish, Squirrel Fish, Atlantic Trumpet Fish, Diamond Lizard fish, Ascension Needle fish, Crawfish and Atlantic Trigger fish.

DIVING IN THE CLYDE WITH WRECKSPEDITIONS

A team of ECSAC explorers joined Wreckspeditions aboard the Starfish Enterprise this weekend for what promised to be a great weekends diving. And it delivered. To quote Fred “the best skipper he’s ever had!”.

The gang arrived on Friday night and settled in to the accommodation with a few beers.  Ropes off was at 8am so we gathered together at Kip Marine for 7:30am where Jason met us and briefed us on the day ahead.

Starting with the SS Wallachia a cargo steamer that went down in 1895 after being hit by the Flos in fog. Vis was approximately 2m but everyone had a good dive with Mike and Fred finding some very smelly bottles of stout. Average depth was 34-28m

 

The second dive was on the MV Akka; a large bulk cargo ship that ran into technical difficulty which led it into the Gantock Rocks. A great wreck with multiple dives needed to get it all in. Covered in life. Simon located some Buttons that look like they belonged to a crews uniform so that will be being reported to the ROW to see if there’s any museum interest! Most of this wreck was around the 30-26m mark.

 

Back to the holiday park, showered and off to Largs for an all you can eat Curry, a few beers at our favourite Ye Old Anchor pub and then home for another early start. 

 

Well overnight we seemed to have an epidemic of illness. Clive awoke with a horrendous cold, as did Steve. Mike pulled his back and so 4 explorers remained. 

 

Fred, Simon, Helen and Vesta went out to the SS Kintyre, a small cargo passenger ship. In 1907 she was lost after another ship plowed into her side whilst doing a nautical mile time trial. Her stern was pretty smashed up but her bow is beautiful.  This was the deepest of the wrecks starting at 30m and going as far as 50m. Fred and Simon quite enjoyed this dive and ended on a scenic assent along an old pipe covered in lots of life up to 5m.  Alas Helen and Vesta had to cut the dive very short when Vesta had a wobble and Helen kept a very calm head as she helped Vesta ascend back up the shot line.

 

After this dive we lost another explorer as Helen went back to check on Mike, and then there were 3. We ended on a lovely scenic dive on a very large abandoned military jetty with masses of life on it and around it. A great way to end the weekend.

 

Highlights of the dive charter. Jason was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. We’ve never known a skipper take all your kit from you, take it to the rhib and sort it, then also swap your cylinders for the second dive. A great set up with a multitude of hot drinks and homemade baked goods for between dives as we headed back in to the marina. Would definitely dive with them again! Especially for the hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream!

 

Great weekend, great weather, lots of happy divers!