Spellbinder

North East Diving


Silent Running Mixed Gas dive Team

2009 North East wreck week

Graveyard.

 

Our storey begins in winter time 2008 at Dorathea quarry in North Wales. Brent and I where diving in the cold deep waters of the quarry keeping our skills finely tuned ready for the dive season to start. On the return journey home we were discussing some of our best dives to date and most of them where of the North East coast!!! So we decided to put together a expedition out to the Graveyard in the summer 2009.

The Graveyard is a large mass of water that drops off to over 100 meters in parts and is a wreck diver’s heaven. You basically steam out for about 3 hours in the general direction of Norway. There are so many wrecks to choose from that we had to put some time in researching which wrecks we were going to dive. This task was given to Brent who spent many a good hour trawling through archive information and hydrographic charts. He came up with some interesting marks and documentation of some good wrecks in the 50 meter to 90 meter range.

We needed a good dive boat and a skipper who has experience of these waters. That meant only one person Allan Lopez of Spellbinder II. Allan has been our regular dive skipper for over 4 years now and understands how we dive and the procedures that our team follow. I contacted Allan with our intentions and he seemed more excited than we were!!! So I booked the week for 27th July and sent out the basic details to the dive team.

 

Spellbinder II &  Brian and Allan Lopez, best skipper in North East  waters!!!                                           

I instantly received lots of emails and it soon became apparent that I could have booked two weeks. I choose the team on a first come first serve basis which left some sad faces but lots of reserves. The lucky ones were contacted with the basic details and the planning and training started in earnest.

Brent and I decided to do a pinning day and Allan had a cancellation so myself, Brent and Jo went out to the graveyard and pinged some of the marks we had been interested in. We came across one which looked really good so Allan put the shot in and we kitted up eagerly.

Brent "Borg" Hudson kitting up.                         Brian and Jo doing their final checks.

Shot and deco station in we wait at the foot of the lift to be dropped in, as I looked down the visibility was amazing, it seemed like I could see for miles down the line. We jump in with a splash of bubbles and dumping air from our wing, suit and lungs we started our decent in to the unknown. Stop at 8 meters for a hard ware, soft ware and bubble check. All divers ok back down the line we go. As we passed the 30 meter mark we hit a thermal climb, glad I had my under suit and dry suit on and as we hit 60 meters we noticed that the lights starting to go out. Suddenly the wreck comes in to view. It was reported that this wreck was on its side, as it happened the wreck was up right and the shot landed just off the gunnels, down to 70 odd meters to the sea bed to tie in the waster. This is a length of rope which is tied to the wreck and then the anchor is sent up using a lift bag. When the dive is over the skipper simply ties the shot to the back of the boat and pulls to snap the waster. This leaves a nice light rope instead of over 80 meters of line with a heavy anchor attached to pull up.

Once tied in I could make out a dull dark shape in the distance, we headed for it and we came up to a large structure some 8 meters high, Brent was reeling off and looked at the bottom of the structure with Jo, I ascended up to the next level and bang there in front of me was one of the ships telegraphs, glass and dials still intact but pedestal badly damaged. As I shined my torch I could make out some of the colours on the dial, Wow I though. I shouted to Brent and Jo and they came along side to have a look. It was well encrusted in so has remained on the wreck till our next visit. We all moved up another level and as we moved slowly along a port hole caught my eye, I turned it over and started to get a lift bag out. Port holes are a great piece of brass to help identify a ships age. As I started to bag up my find I heard a wild scream from right behind me. As I turned I saw a cloud of smoke and a very happy Brent with the ships bell in his hand. We all started to scream with excitement.

All to soon our allocated bottom time was up so we retraced our steps and once back at the shot Brent and Jo who had been busy too and had found some nice pieces of china sent up there goodies.

The viz was that good at depth that I saw the bell and china slowly rise and buzz past me. I thought I hope it makes it to the surface? We had our professional deck hand on board Chris Roose. No matter what we send up he can get it on board!!!

 

We started our ascent and it seemed like an eternity to get to our 18 meter stop where the transfer line was connected to the shot, tags off and station released. As we drifted effortlessly in the now building current we could do nothing but laugh and shake hands. We started singing our usual diving songs and after nearly 3 hours we eventually cleared our decompression schedule and started to surface. As I broke from the seas clutches I could then feel the warm fresh air on my face I was still laughing. Allan was right there and started to pick us up, God bless the lift as it is not much fun getting out of the water after been weightlessness for so long.

Brian returning to the back of the boat and the welcome lift on the back of Spellbinder. Check out the viz!!!

 

 

The boat pulls alongside and I float on to the lift, I grab the hand rails and give Chris the nod. Up I go and the gravity of earth starts to take hold. Did I really walk and jump in with all this kit on? Chris guides me to my seat and I can see the lift bags and above all the bell on deck. I look at Brent and say Job well done.

Brian, Jo and Brent after the dive!!!     Nice Goodies!!!

I emailed the gang and told them what we found, they all wanted to get on the boat straight away and start the dive week but they would have to wait. Many thanks has to go out to Chris Roose. He is always there on the boat to help us kit up and check we have turned on all of our life saving equipment on. But most of all he can pull anything out of the water in any conditions and makes sure it is secure on the boat.

Chris Roose “Legend” with bell off Mary.

We send it up He lifts it out of the water!!!

 

We would all like to thank Allan for all his help and professional attitude in making this a special day for us all to remember. Cheers Big Al.

Report By Brian Matthewman, Silent Running Mixed Gas Dive Team.

 

 

 

Silent Running Mixed Gas Dive Team Tec Week

Silent Running Mixed Gas dive Team

2009 North East wreck week

Graveyard.

Back row: Left to right. Ian Davison, Chris Chapman, Steve Richardson, Ken Dennis Bob Karmman.Bottom row :

Left to right. Brent Hudson, Foggy and Brian Matthewman.

After a long cold winter of research and pinging we were finally ready to embark on our July 2009 Technical diving expedition to the graveyard or so we thought! Several marks in the 70m to 90m range where identified and ready to dive but as usual the sea gods in the North Sea didn’t see it that way.

Team had done quite a lot of build up dives and where ready to rock and roll. Kit configured and prepared. Dive and decompression back up tables cut, cylinders mixed with exotic helium devil gas mixtures to allow us to venture deep below the surface of the water.

I awoke on a windy Monday morning and filled the kettle ready for my dive Buddy and friend Brent “Borg” Hudson to arrive. I could see the trees blowing from the kitchen window and new it was going to be a close call. Brent arrived and we set off to South Shields to meet the boat. Our usual routine of banter and excitement of diving virgin wrecks filled the car with the occasional chorus to “High tec diver, under water man of mystery”. Some of the team where coming up from down South and would have already been on the road for some hours.

We landed at Custom House quays and the wind was really blowing. I left my kit in the car and went down to the boat for a meeting with Alan Lopez, Skipper and legend of Spellbinder II. Alan informed me that the dive out to the graveyard was a NO go, but although the wind was blowing quite hard it was blowing in a Westerly direction and of we hugged the coast we could still do some shallow dives in the 50m to 60m range.

Brent fixing Ian “I'm glad to be alive” Davison’s kit, Again on the way out!

 

 

 

As all good dive team leaders should, I had some back up marks for just such an occasion and we got the kit on board and had a team brief. Everyone agreed with the skipper’s decision and off we went in the total opposite direction to what we had planned all year! Everyone checked their kit away and then the banter started. Mickey taking is just part of been a diver, my wife been pregnant meant I took a lot of stick.

Kit stored ready for the journey out.                      Bob and Ken modifying kit  on way out.

 We settled down with a warm drink and started to go through our dive plans. Brent and I would tie in, Ste and Chris would send up anchor, Foggy and Ian would deploy the decompression station and Ken and Bob would attach the drop bottles full of life saving 100% O2.

We arrived on site and everyone started to get kitted up, we had never dived this mark before and you could cut the excitement with a knife. Lift ready and I'm stood at the gate waiting for the Skippers shout to release the shot line with a heavy anchor. Alan buzzers the wreck and then the engines slow down and the shout from the bridge echo’s out!!! Down goes the anchor pulling the shot line with it deep into the fairly clear blue water. Waves are splashing over the gate due to the swell. After a couple of gentle tugs on the line it snags the wreck and we through the large buoy over board.

Steve Richardson kitted up and ready to rock.

 Steven Richardson Kitting up. Notice 2 x 11Ltr side mounts!

Time to get kitted up and see what's at the bottom of the shot! Kit on and unit pre breathed, I look over to my buddy and we do our buddy check. We know each other’s  kit well and our final check is the loop. Everything ok, the guys lift us up and the shout goes out “divers ready and at gate” Alan swings the boat round, He and had to drop us up stream of the shot due to current and wind direction. Standing there in the gate I’m thinking about hitting the water and getting rid of all this weight. “Go” in I jump surrounded  by a mass  blue bubbles, Dumping air from my suit and counter lungs, I grab the shout and  fin down hard. I stop at 6 meters and look up there right next to me is Brent. We signal to do  a bubble check. This is where I turn round and Brent looks for any bubble leaks. A quick ok and then he does the same. Down we go, Visibility is very good so far and as we descend ambient light stays with us till about 35 meters then the lights go out! Clearing my ears and adding air in to my dry suit I gently float in to the dark abyss.

 Brian decending into the dark cold abyss.

Alan did a great job with the shot, as it was draped across the mid section of the wreck. As I followed it down the  very bottom Brent dropped of short for some reason. I stopped just off the sea bed and placed my strobe on the line, then down the last couple of meters to tie the waster in to the wreck.  I Had to turn on the lights on my helmet for this one due to lack of ambient light. 

As I turned round I could just make out the strong torch light of my buddy and I made my way towards him. Brent had spotted the helm on his way down and dropped off the shot right on to it. When I got to him he said “Do you want this buddy?” He didn’t need to ask twice and we both started to work the Helm. It was trapped in what looked like hand rail of some kind. After a bit of bending and pulling we attached two lift bags to help in the pulling two more went on and then a good final pull and up she went!!! Whoopee!!! And a high five finished off the job. We Had kicked up a load so silt and moved away from the that particular area.

As we turned I spotted one of the ships telegraphs and signalled to my Buddy. It was well encrusted in and hard to move so my trusty crow bar came out and help persuade it. After I bit more pulling and shoving it came loose and we bagged it up. What a dive !!!

By now the other divers were down on the wreck, I looked across and no more than 2 meters away Ste and Chris were bagging another Telegraph! I watched as they filled their lift bags with air and the telegraph slowly at first then gaining speed quickly left its watery grave. Well done boys I thought.

Steve and Chris with their telegraph. Class lads!!!!

A quick check of the time and gauges and we decided to head back to the shot. After a short swim the strobe came into view like a guiding star and then the shot line. Computer check and first decompression stop at 35 meters. After storing away the strobe and a quick PPO 2 check we slowly started to make our way back up the shot line to our first decompression stop. We reached our stop level and I gave Brent the signal to level off for 2 minutes. This is to help the exotic Trimix gases we have been breathing leave our saturated tissues and allow us to move to the next level up the line. Once the allocated time was up we started back up the line towards our next stop. Brent signalled to me to look up and there tangled in the shot line was our Helm, 3 lift bags still attached but struggling to hold the weight. I came off the line and tried to fit another lift bag to help raise our prise. I couldn’t leave it on the shot line because it had tangled with the decompression transfer line. 8 divers needed that station to float free and in the ever growing current. So Brent and I struggled to free it then, off it came and we watched in the clear visibility it sink back down the watery depths!!! 

Gutted and so very disappointed as it is a rare find and one which could help identify this unknown wreck. Just then Bob and Ken arrived with more lift bags to aid in its recovery but it was too late. The rest of the time on decompression was very sombre, but it was still a great dive with a good mate and we were both back safe and sound.

 

Deco cleared and as I slowly surface to the ever increasing sea swells I inflate my wing and signal the boat. Alan steered Spellbinder skilfully in to the swell to help protect us and the lift was lowered. It was at this point I was glad of my helmet as a wave banged me against the boat and would have caused me some discomfort had I not been wearing it. Once on the lift a quick nod and up I go. The weight of all the equipment suddenly hits my legs and back. I try to walk to my seat which is quite hard with the boat pitching and swaying.

 

Returning to the boat and a welcome lift.