JANUARY 2011: My Surface Interval named one of the best scuba diving blogs

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scuba Diving Scapa Flow Day 4

Like a ghostly apparition, she appeared from the grey beneath us.
At first, her details were hard to distinguish as our eyes adjusted to the unnatural shape sitting on the seabed.
Buts as she drew ever closer, her features became more apparent.
Twenty-five metres down, we were on the mighty SMS Markgraf.
Underwater, she appeared otherwordly. In fact, she was.
The Markgraf was built in a different era, when the oceans were a battlefield as nations fought for supremacy of the waves as the world tore itself apart during the Great War.
She was not meant to sit on the bottom, beneath the swirling surface.
But there she lay, down on her deck, providing 21st Century divers a window into history. It's heyday was a time that thankfully we have not had to endure, a time when the world was in turmoil.
As we followed the shoptline ever deeper, the true nature of the dreadnought became apparent. Squeezing between the starboard side of the upturned hull and a mass of wreckage that had fallen to the seabed, Junior and I found Gun Number Five pointing forward. Gun Number Six was close by.
Heading towards the stern - the Markgraf has a "peachy little arse", according to skipper Emily - Number One, Number Two, Junior, Ash, Grumpy (although to be fair he did smile after this dive) and myself were all about the 40m mark.
On EANx25, the clock was ticking and our time on the wreck was short. We only had a few more minutes to take in the structure beyond the gundeck, much of it lost from sight as she smashed into the seabed during her scuttling.
It was the little details that highlighted the real life of this 'ghost of the abyss'; the turrets were gunners rhythmically loaded the cannons to keep up a deadly barrage; the portholes, some with glass still in them, where, in quieter times, a sailor may have gazed out to cast his eyes over the vastness of the ocean.
These were the reminders the once she was a living breathing machine, a hive of human activity.
That is gone now she lies in her watery grave.
The scale of the wreck was hard to fathom. But she imposed herself on the watery surroundings she now finds herself in. To face her in battle would have been daunting. To face her on the ocean floor was awe-inspiring.
Taking a second to gaze up along the hull above us from 40m down, we were left dumbstruck. The Markgraf cast a shadow over the seabed and into our souls. We dived this for pleasure, but this was a 'destroyer of worlds', a purveyor of doom in its time.
At the stern, Junior and I moved off the wreck to glance back at her size, the hull disappearing off into the distance as the 15m viz of the surrounding sea took her from view, much the same way as it did in 1919.
Moving back over the upturned hull, I clicked into deco. At the 32ish-metre mark, we found blast damage where salvors had gone hunting for the valuable metal of the engines and torpedo tubes.
Thankfully they had exposed the ships innards like some haphazard surgeon, so we could see the giant prop shafts that should have been hidden beneath the armour coating. You had to really open up your hand to wrap fingers around the layers of steel.
Number One and Number Two were a little way back as Trev had taken a detour over the wreckage that spewed over the seabed.
We followed the hull stabilisers running along the length of her hull back towards the shotline. Our short time in the company of the Markgraf was up and we made a slow ascent to the surface. We may have shared only a few treasured minutes with her, the Markgraf left her mark and bewitched the six of all. Having taken us in her grasp she ensured that we would all be lured back to her one day (maybe next year).
After a lunch of French Onion soup, we headed to Burra Sound for dive two.
And the Tabarka couldn't be more different.
Sitting in about 12m worth of water, she was one of the blockships, sunk to keep at bay the Wolfpack of the enemy U-boats that preyed on the British Fleet at anchor.
Dropping off the dive deck of the Radiant Queen like lemmings, no air in our wings, we descended as the current swept us to her. Or in my case onto her as I hit the hull and bounced over to the lee side.
From the shelter of the hull, we headed inside, Junior leading the way as we swam, crawled and pulled our way through the twisty-turny gaps that took us from the broken bow and into her chasm-like innards.
Some of the openings required a deep breath in (deeper for some, ay Jono) while others needed a bit of wiggling, as Junior found out when he ended up on his back after squeezing through a triangle-shaped gap above the engines.
The current didn't let up and inside offered very little shelter as the water surged through any opening to buffet us in the stirring water that surrounded us.
It is fair to say the cylinders took a few knocks as we followed the underwater maze around the wreck.
As we emerged back onto the outside, we decided to end the dive with a bit of a drift.
Although Number One and Junior may have felt it a bit more than the rest as the lines of their reels were pulled diagonally as they spooled out with the surface current taking their SMBs.
Fifteen minutes later, after bumping into another wreck, our Superman flight ended as the current ebbed.
There was, however, still time for one unnamed diver to 'mount' Junior. After the spanking he got from skipper Emily earlier, he must be getting used to being everyone's bitch by now.
Tomorrow: The Konig and The Brummer.

1 comment:

ash said...

you have to have been there to really know how it feels to be with these monsters of the sea.