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Thread: I've not done one of these for a while! ***IMAGE INTENSIVE***

  1. #1
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    Default I've not done one of these for a while! ***IMAGE INTENSIVE***


    As regular visitors to the forum will know, from time to time we have thrown in a report on an underwater urbex. We've covered variously the wrecks in Bikini Atoll, some Japanese navy ships caught by the Americans in Palawan, a roll on roll off ferry in Cyprus and a Bristol Blenheim and a tug boat in Malta.

    This report is on a former East German navy mine sweeper - yes, apparently they didn't just goose step up and down on the wrong side of that ugly wall in Berlin! Malta has long been a popular destination for scuba divers but due to the steepness of the continental shelf off shore many of the wrecks that sank there, especially in World War II, are way too deep for divers - typically wrecks sit in 100 + metres which is almost double the safe limit for compressed air diving and approaching the limit for technical divers using rebreathers. We have been lucky enough to dive HMS Stubborn, a WW2 submarine sunk intact in 85 metres, and the Bristol Blenheim previously mentioned, but otherwise there is really little else worthy of a look because HMS Maori, a WW2 destroyer sunk just inside Grand Harbour, is a skeletal mess now, and the "Beetle" - an ex-Gallipolli Great War infantry landing craft - are the only other "real wreck" alternatives.

    The Med has suffered a lot from over fishing and pollution - when I first dived in Malta the sea was teeming with fish life, crustaceans and invertebrates, particularly sea urchins and small, highly coloured wrasse, however the last time I dived there after a break of some 17 years or more I was appalled at how lifeless it had become - Cyprus was much the same with little in the way of fish life apart from on the wrecks. As a result of the paucity of genuine ship wrecks in shallower waters, the Maltese authorities have sunk several small wrecks close in shore to add attraction to what has now sadly become rather barren waters.

    I can find little in the way of information on this particular ship however, and to be perfectly honest even its east German provenance is in some doubt however one must rely on the word of the locals and it is they who told us it was east German in origin. It is one of two near identical ships sunk in 2007 and we were lucky enough to dive her only a couple of weeks after she had gone down. It is a long swim out and rather difficult to find however well worth the effort. On our first visit we found little life had appeared as yet however a second visit about twelve months later showed the beginnings of colonisation by a variety of creatures and many more small fish, the precursors to an ever swelling eco system.

    The process of sinking these ships for divers is in itself of interest. The ship is sanitised first by the removal of all pollutants such as oil and fuel. In Britain and America the same kind of thing happens however with typical British respect for Elfen safety we have a propensity for cutting huge access holes throughout the superstructure leaving a wreck which has more in common with a pre-fab kit garage than a ship. Not so the Malts who just seem to clean it and then pull the plug. I am sure you will realise that a Maltese diver's wreck is therefore much more interesting!

    The piccies...







    First sight of the wreck appearing through the gloom almost 100 feet down.






    TJ descends into the stern of the wreck where the engines used to be.






    Looking through the engine room to the forward hold. Note the absence of any colonising life forms.






    Part of the rudder mechanism. The cam seen here was turned by a steel cable attached to a large electric motor controlled by electronics linked to the bridge.






    'er indoors :) We are both using rebreathers on this dive, a type of technical diving system which recirculates the
    gas mix we are breathing, prolonging our time at depth and dramatically reducing our decompression time.







    Although the rebo is amazing it is also rather cumbersome, especially because you have to carry a bail out scuba
    cylinder on your hip in case of emergency. It makes swimming through tight corridors rather interesting







    Emerging behind the bridge superstructure.








    It was really amusing to find the Tasmanian Devil from Warner Bros' Looney Toons cartoons painted beneath the mast






    You can clearly see the amount of extra tech kit TJ is wearing on this shot.






    Entering the bridge lower deck area now and it will be a tight squeeze.






    An urbexer's self portrait of sorts :p except it's still 'er indoors, not me.






    Easy does it is the order of the day to avoid snagging hoses etc.






    What's she looking at






    Ahhh... part of the fire fighting system.






    Much of the appeal of this wreck was the sheer amount of opportunity to twiddle things! I expect it's all corroded solid by now though.







    Fiddle fiddle fiddle






    The bridge as seen from the bow decks.







    Both of the clear view screens survived the sinking intact, not so the adjacent plain
    windows which both shattered with the force of the water surge as she went under.








    Both of the plain glass windows had shattered into crystalline shards reminiscent of the old Duralex drinking glasses we had for school dinners in the 70s...







    You can see the bridge compass (middle bottom) with it's weather proof glass cover still intact on this shot.







    Wrecks rapidly become artificial reefs for sub-aquatic wildlife. Already after just a couple of weeks a few small fish have begun to appear on the upper superstructure.







    Ascending the radar mast. The plume of bubbles to the right are coming from TJ who is venting her buoyancy control system.
    The rebreather does not make any exhaust bubbles unlike scuba so it is rare to see a bubble plume except during ascent.








    And then quite suddenly we realised we were no longer alone Believe it or not we noticed these scuba divers first by the sound of their bubbles Their dive duration would be roughly half
    ours and yet they would still incur upwards of 40 minutes deco penalty requiring them to wait at about 10 metres to avoid the bends. We on the other hand enjoyed over an hour at 100 + feet and swam straight back with no penalty what so ever.

    Ahhh those rebos :)








    Time to leave the ship now, gently ascending all the way. The release of
    dissolved gas from our tissues is safely accelerated by the constantly changing
    gas mix we are breathing, all controlled automatically by the rebo.




    And that's yer lot I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for looking...
    Last edited by TeeJF; 9th May 13 at 08:28.
    Veni, Vidi suum custos canis admorsus meus culus...

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  4. #2
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    Great stuff, made even better by the explanations. :)

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    So do you hire the rebos or do you own them Seeing TJ with the spare bottle brigs to mind cave diveing. A great report was superb photos as ever.
    May the shadow of Murphy never darken your door."
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    Quote Originally Posted by night crawler View Post
    So do you hire the rebos or do you own them?
    We hire the sidey bail out cylinders, the O2 cylinders and the diluent cylinders (1 of each for each diver) plus our lead weights. We buy the sofnalime co2 scrubbing chemical in resort and refill the cylinders in resort. All the rest of the kit we take with us because it's not wise to trust hire kit when doing technical diving. It's just too indifferent too often and you can't just pop up to the surface when you are so gassed up if something goes wrong. The comparison to cave diving is not far off the mark but not in the way you might expect - whilst the rebreather ensures a long bottom time coupled with a low deco penalty the gas loading in your tissues is no different to using scuba whilst actually on the dive - in fact you saturate faster if using helium in your dil cylinder. Where you win is the speed at which you safely off gas. The reason is down to the fact that your proportion of O2 in the mix is constantly at the safest highest amount which means the gradient between nitrogen in your tissues and in your blood is so high it pours out of your tissues on ascent compared with a relative trickle when using scuba. Thus during the dive you can regard yourself as having a virtual roof above your heads which you cannot cross to come up.

    Hope that makes sense?

    Thanks guys for the thumbs up!
    Veni, Vidi suum custos canis admorsus meus culus...

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    I absolutely love reading these reports, they are so fascinating! Could never do it myself so cheers for sharing them :)
    Urbex Photography | Exploring The Hidden Past
    Urbex Photography Website | Find me on Facebook

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    Quote Originally Posted by Urbex-SW View Post
    I absolutely love reading these reports, they are so fascinating! Could never do it myself so cheers for sharing them :)
    Seconded! :)

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    Brilliant stuff !!

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    Fantastic report Wish that I could learn to do it myself but I'm too old and fat - If I put on a wetsuit every Jap "Reasearch Ship" in the sea would be chasing me with harpoons! I'll just have to wait for my 15 year old son to finish his scuba training then buy him a rebreather and a camera and send him to the places I want to see. :) Seriously I am most impressed with how clear the water is and how light it is, you've got some great shots as usual in your reports. Thanks for posting can't get enough of this.
    It'll all turn to dust and we'll all fall down

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    wow that was fantastic, would love to go down and nosey, the write up was excellent, really enjoyed it, well done

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