Tag Archives: Orkney

Shetland 2020 and …………

One of our long awaited trips is on the cusp. Are we going to Shetland ? Will the weather gods smile on us ? What will Bob decide. Will there be any lockdown changes ?????


We all travelled up to Aberdeen, in glorious sunshine, for the Saturday night ferry to Lerwick. Full of hope but knowing there was a storm coming our way !

A very calm crossing and quick disembarkation meant that we loaded the Clasina and were on our way very quickly for the first dive. Fraochpan (trawler on white sand) at 30m. Only small but upright and very recognisable as a boat with life colonising the relatively recent wreck. Flatfish all around on the seabed. 2 Octopus on the wreck and 1 a little way off. A great start.

Then, the start of the conversation about the storm due Wednesday and when to make the crossing to Orkney. Never mind, focus on the diving. Two more dives today. Lunokhods (Klondyker) in 40m. Everyone found the shotted bow section but only one team managed to follow the wreckage trail to the shallows. OOOPS. Visibility not great (my excuse!).

Off to Giants Legs. Two arches and a cave in 20m max. Everyone successfully navigated this and had a great dive. Lots of life all around. Scared the seal out of the cave.

Decision time. Can we face a rough crossing for 14 hours – NOOOOOOO. Decision made easy then. Steam for Orkney in the evening and arrive in the early hours.

Awoke docked at Eday. Slow start to dive the Char (Oceana). Broken wreck in 16m with a few swim throughs. Good visibility and lots of life. Things are looking up.

Spoke too soon, The boat has engine problems. Need to get to Kirkwall and an engineer ASAP. No diving for the rest of the day. Go for a wander. Highland Park shop is open but not a lot else.

The situation is terminal. Boat is properly broken. Some serious engine dismantling and parts needed. No more diving for us. Can’t get the next ferry until Wednesday night so 2 days ‘at leisure’. Means different things for different folks !

Not the result we had hoped for.

Please see the next instalment – short notice St Abbs – on the way home.

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Orkney August 2019

There is a lot more to a six day liveaboard diving trip than exploring rusting hulks and chasing marine critters. In fact, during this year’s Orkney trip, over the six days and, assuming an average dive time of 45 minutes, each of us only spent 9 hours underwater. Of course, some of us – notably your humble author, spent quite a bit less than this, but more of that later.
So, what else diverts us during the remaining ninety six hours or so – the time remaining that we are not asleep at night?
Eating and drinking, as in all trips, or indeed any holiday, is of vital importance. Let’s face it most holidays are merely filling in time between meals. We were blessed with food of the highest culinary standard provided by the efficiently delightful Rachel. She provided tasty, yet balanced meals catering for the varied capacities and idiosyncratic tastes of the assembled diners. Of course, the carefully crafted and balanced diet was totally undermined by the large quantities of sweets and biscuits eaten in between those meals.
Drinking is a vital pastime which, it goes without saying, was indulged to strictly moderate levels – unless it was your birthday. However, it is essential to oil the wheels of social interaction and ensure, for the older members of the group, a regular and vital exercise regime through the night. The quantities of cans and bottles deposited in the various recycling bins, clearly evidenced the commitment to the pastime.

The old traditionalists

Birthday boy
There is also ample time, for some, to pursue a strict exercise regime and for others to strictly not pursue any exercise regime. For most, gentle evening strolls enjoying the beautiful Orcadian sunsets was sufficient to maintain a modicum of physical fitness. However, on one occasion, the desire for an evening libation, spurred the group to a furious route march to a far-flung hostelry.
In between dive sleeping and reading was another favourite pastime. Usually it was more of a case of reading then sleeping rather than any lengthy retreat into the fantasy of prose.
Of course, the nine hours under the water involves support and ancillary activities such as kit fettling, nitrox analysis – for those willing to pay for it, and equipment repair with the help of the of the very efficient overnight service of the dive shop in Stromness.
This trip brought new innovations. We had the newly devised MOTD Awards which were nothing to do with football and actually meant Muppet of the Day (perhaps it was about footballers?). There were several, variably deserving recipients of the award who I will not embarrass by naming here. The sloppy grin and pinkness of your author’s cheek, gives away my identity as one. It was possible that I might have received on more than one occasion but a sense of fair play on the part of our revered leader meant the award was more widely shared out. An overall weekly winner has yet to be announced.
More excitingly, there were new DIVE BRIEFING innovations (this has to be in capitals as it always must be shouted very loudly).Bob delivered his first 3D model some undersea pinnacles called “Nipple Rock”, using a handy blanket. Whether the model was meant to allude female mammary glands only Bob can say. It was a tour de force and left us all open mouthed in admiration. However, even this momentous new innovation was eclipsed by application of the latest cutting edge technology in the form of a 3d printed version prepared by Ainsley and Rachel. It was of a separated item of wreckage photographed on the sea floor then rendered into vibrant orange three dimensions. The only disappointment was the actually item of wreckage proved not to be bright orange as the model suggested it would be.
Another first was that Bob abandoned ship for two nights and a day and left us in the youthful but very capable hand of Ainsley and Rachel. Ainsley proved to be a master steersman and professionally overcame the elements to extract The Halton from a quay in strong winds. Rachel delivered more traditional dive briefings with a thoroughness and a great deal more beauty than is generally available from Bob. We were suspicious of Bob’s reasons for time off but were too polite to mention them.

Undersea Beauty I

Undersea beauty II
And the diving? Divers go to Orkney for the remaining wrecks of the scuttled WWI fleet and often never venture from Scapa flow for the entire week. We are more intrepid and venture out to the other island and this time tied up in Burray in the west and Westray in the north. We also managed a couple of hours for late breakfast and love gift purchases in Kirkwall. We also made an attempt on a much lauded site well out into the Atlantic called North Shoal. However, the sea state was against us and after 5 hours bobbing about there was concern over retrieving divers and a general lack of enthusiasm to dive. Round we turned and eventually dived in the shelter of the islands. Typically, our nauseous author spent the whole time in his bunk.
In the flow we enjoyed the variety of diving that is characteristic of Scapa Flow. We dived a battleship (Kron Prinz Wilhelm). All the three battleships in the Flow turned turtle when scuttled and only brave and intrepid divers venture in the dark recess to see the juicy bits partially buried in the silt. The cruisers (Karlsruhe, Coln, Brummer and Dresden) are much more rewarding as they lie on their sides making the most interesting deck paraphernalia available for exploration.

Tabarka -the undersea cathedral

Extreme scallop preparation on the Barge

There is plenty of other diving with block ships (Tabarka) and, possibly your author’s favourite, the F2 and barge.The irony of the story of these two wrecks is that the barge sank whilst part of the salvage attempt of the U boat, the F2. It sits there on the bottom with a couple/three of the U boats guns which will never again see the light of day.
The beauty of diving in Orkney is that there is diving for all tastes whether you are a young techy or an old traditionalist. This trip typified this and with generally benign weather, sociable company and the professional and, mostly polite, care of Bob and the crew of The Halton. We all sped home tired but fully satisfied with our experiences. Actually Karl and overnighted in Edinburgh and found ourselves the only the only westerners in a Chinese restaurant.
Our sincerest thanks to Richard Ward for organising yet another successful trip.


Matt Corder

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2019 trips booked so far

Feb 21-24th  3.5days liveaboard diving on MV Halton in the Sound of Mull.

There are spaces – organiser Richard Ward


June 8/9th weekend diving Farnes with Sovereign

Not taking names until December – organiser Ray


June 29/30th weekend diving St Abbs with Rock House / Shore Diver

Not taking names until December – organiser Ray


August 24/29th 6 days liveaboard diving on MV Halton in Scapa.
There are no spaces but a reserve list is running – organiser Richard Ward


Sept 27/28/29th long weekend diving St Abbs with Rock House / Shore Diver

Not taking names until December – organiser Ray


If members have other suggestions / want to organise something then please get in touch with Ray.

I know some members are looking at a late deal Red Sea liveaboard.

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Orkney – August/September 2017

MV Halton – Bob Anderson with Hannah and Fiona

Our expedition to Shetland – Fair Isle – Orkney, has become a shortened ferry crossing to Kirkwall in Orkney only, due to the predicted high winds and no diving in Shetland. Our intrepid leader, Richard managed to get us a refund on the ferry and organise taxis waiting at Kirkwall at 11.00 pm on a Saturday night (fortunately given the extreme distance between ferry terminal and harbour).
There was no sign of the poor weather as we set out for Kirkwall on the ferry enjoying a beautiful sail and sunset. Given the late change of plans and Bob’s steam down from Shetland on Friday night / Sat am the diving plans were up in the air. Then there was the midnight kit load and set up.

A late first dive next day became a scenic one against a rocky wall. Plenty of big gullies and 3 octopus spotted hiding in the rocky holes. A nice shakedown, given many of the group had not done much diving – July St Abbs having been cancelled due to bad weather. Great reviving lunch of leek and potato plus blue cheese soup given the swimming against the current which was running reasonable strongly.
Wreck of the Cotavia, 2nd up late in the afternoon. Deep but great viz with huge boilers and a plate stood upright against the block. Lots of life but just not enough time. On the surface some of us had to swim hard back to the boat. Our DO, Matt, opted to take to his bed due to the excessive exercise at his advance age ! A long and slightly lumpy steam round the islands to get into the relative shelter of the flow at Lyness at 10.00 pm. A quiet night with everybody up and at it for the 9.00am appointment with the Koln. 36m to the bottom, lying on it’s starboard side relatively intact for the cruisers. Most opted for the bow excursion.
A delicious lunch of sweet potato soup with a suitable digestion interval led to 2.00pm at the Brummer. Slightly better viz but the lighter built ship has ‘dropped’ more that her cousin. Several saw two seals both from the wreck and the shot line. Diane tried knitting with lion’s mane tendrils on the shot line as it appeared out of the mass of bubbles from the mass of divers on the shot line. Richard and Frankie were nothing like as creative and were merely stung.
It being Frankie’s birthday we were treated to an impromptu cake and candles for dessert after the delicious pork and cider casserole. Frankie did manage to blow out all 44 candles and wished to go to the pub in Stromness. It did come true !!
A fine morning and off to the Dresden. A little more canted over and top plates dropping but still enjoyable with features and guns a little clearer. Lots of shoaling fish and a few more lion’s manes near the shot. Into Lyness (Hoy) for a little walk to the naval cemetery and tea (best china for a change) and scones at the museum. A short trip over to the F2 and Barge. F2 bow section mostly there but midships and stern salvaged / spread over sea bed. Lots of fish life especially wrasse of all types, followed line to Barge with salvaged gun and vice(s) and then back. A liesurely 60 minutes with no bottom time concerns (18m).
The evening found us docked at Burray next to Andy’s boat, the Jean Elaine. A brisk walk after dinner to the other side of the barrier (beach beyond dunes) cleared the cobwebs and got us ready for a pint in the hotel bar. The imbibing continued back in the rum bar (the boat saloon).
UB116, a late German casualty of the first war, is well blown apart at 29m. The central body has recognisable shapes and features but is quite distorted in some areas. Only one pair found the remains of the conning tower (from the briefing off at 45 degrees). Alex and Will did a defined search pattern to locate it. Only problem for Alex, given Bob’s briefing about it looking like the sub from the ‘Yellow Submarine’, was the song (Beatles – only for those of a certain age !) repeating over and over in her head. There were conger, ling and octopus as well as shoals of small fish. On a very white sandy bottom it felt very bright with good vis before divers feet stirred it up a little. Everyone enjoyed this one, so good even Syd did 10 minutes deco.
Adventure was on the agenda for the afternoon. A drift down Burra Sound over the block ships. Turned out to be quite gentle on the Skye scale. Only 3 pairs were separated but that may have been deliberate. There were certainly fast and slow pockets, as well as the occasional lumps of metal. Continuing the theme, after docking at Lyness and reviewing the new museum exhibits, a walk up to Wee Fea. A thorough exploration of the observation block gave outstanding views over the whole of Scapa Flow. There is an Anchor bar with entry hidden at the back of the hotel block that we persevered and located.
Another bright and still morning dawned for an earlyish start. Horrors !!!!! The midges appeared in the calm. Everyone hid indoors until the boat got underway. Kronprinz Wilhelm, the shallowest of the battleships was our next dive. Quite dark underneath, boat is turned turtle, but lots of life on the bottom (top).
Highlight of the week for some – Tabarka. 12.00 for the tides. It has deteriorated from previous years. The gap in the middle is much bigger, the clearances have reduced with the plates dropping. On the plus side, we were on super slack, so we could explore round as well as inside. The light streaming through the holes still makes this spectacular.
So an afternoon and evening in Stromness. A nice walk round the town, then up the hill, a pre-dinner drink, tea and then a fiddle group to entertain us in the Ferry Inn.
This morning Hannah educated us on nautical matters as the ‘boutique’ cruise ship (ugly cattle) docked beside the Halton. Derricks not cranes. Posh is teak not steel caps.
Off to the Dresden again with Bob putting in the shot that should be on the stern (deep entry, shallow exit). Steve demonstrating superb leadership skills by getting Karl to lift the weight onto the deck, so he could tie it in.
Oh no. Our final dive. The Karlsruhe. Much more distressed than the other cruisers but more ‘accessible’ and at a more convenient depth (25m). A lovely dive to finish with lots of identifiable metal and life.

So we said our goodbyes to ‘5*’ Fiona and Hannah ‘banana’, our fantastic crew for the week, and to Bob, a truly great skipper and diver. Reorganising the dive plan after being blown out from Shetland and giving us the type of diving we were looking for in the best possible conditions each time.
And finally thank you to Richard for organising it all. A little frustrating at times I know.



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Orkney – August 2014

Huddersfield BSAC 18  – The mysteries of Orkney.

By Matt Corder

The Orkneys have been inhabited for 8,500 years from the Neolithic to the present day. They have witnessed major historical events – Viking invasions, scuttling of the German fleet in World War I, the base for dangerous Arctic convoys of World War II and most recently the invasion of these mystical islands by Huddersfield BSAC 18.

Group photo

The horde from the south


In early centuries, the locals worshipped the sun and the moon and mystery and magic abounded. Some say that mysticism still pervades the islands and some of the events of the club’s trip had all the hallmarks of these mysterious influences.


How would you account for the beauty of the weather – well most of it? The intensities of the sunsets, the tranquillity of the sunrises, for those not sleeping off late nights tying knots and talking.


Idyllic or what?


How would you account for the calmness of the seas which enabled the creaking Jean Elaine out of the flow and north to the Northern Isles for the first time this season and allowed those of us with delicate stomach to shun the call of the ‘Stugeron’?


How would you account for the stunning visibility in the Flow? It was actually possible to see a lot, if not all, of the gargantuan German warships rotting away on the seabed. Including large tubes which mystified your author and excited our glorious leader. So there were a couple of big guns under the Kron Prinz Wilhelm………….!!!


One gun!Good viz

Seen one gun, seen them all.                                                 Now that’s good viz.


How would you account for the temporary disappearance of Frankie on a drift between Eday and the Calf of Eday for a goof half an hour? Some of the company were mysteriously humming the tune to ‘Frankie goes to Holywood’ while scanning the waves. Full marks must go to Karl’s eagle eyes for spotting the forlorn diver and his orange blobby.


Anyone there whos lost

He’s out there somewhere.                                                 Lost? Who was lost?


How would you account for the strange temporal, or was it cerebral, imbalance that resulted in Richard H and Alex spending 25 minutes in deco returning from the Kron Prinz Wilhelm? Perhaps they were sucked into a marine black hole which transported them to a wreck on another  astral plane…………..apologies, I’m getting carried away.


How would you account for the otherwise meticulously organised Richard W – our magnificent trip leader, jumping into the water with his flies undone- actually it was his dry suit zip? He was forced to make a yelping return to the Jean Elaine to rectify his ‘wardrobe malfunction’


How would you account for Richard W finally remembering his ‘Book of Knots’, buying 1m of cord in Stromness to enable hours of innocent fun on the part of some of the Company and the suddenly discovered need for sleep, on deck, on the part of the rest?


Retreating from knots and Rhys.


How would account for the outpouring of the huge lexicon which is Rhys Farrow’s verbal encyclopaedia (this is his type of phrase)? This avalanche of verbosity delighted some of the Company and rendered others to a state of distracted desperation. It has become apparent since this trip, that the mysticism of Rhy’s verbal manifestations are a constant and not just attributable to the strange influence of the Orkneys.


How would you account the presence of an aggressive man-eating scallop which nearly surgically removed Frankie’s finger? A scallop, with many others which became part of a mystical fish pie created by our oft referred to leader, Richard  W. The same fish pie which contained the only mackerel the company managed to catch from a sea full of Mackerel.


How would account for the masses of fish which seemed to appear on every wreck we visited? They were present in such quantity that the expressions ’fish blizzard’ and ‘fish soup’ were coined in description.

Fish Soup

Fish soup


How would you account for the fact that Will and Richard H and Alex reached  the milestones of 150th and 100th dives respectively on this particular tip in this particular place?


Will on number 150…………ish


How would you account that, out of a potential collective 144 dives for the trip, 144 dives were completed despite some of the company suffering from colds and doubtful eustachian tubes? This was a statistic which had never before figured in our chief statistician’s (Steve H) copious records before.


How would you account for the sheer divine food which Diane, Frankie and Richard W conjured up out of a ’new’ yet very recalcitrant cooker? Perhaps the state of near starvation of the awaiting company transported them into gastronomic nirvana when the food finally arrived. Or perhaps just top drawer cooking.


How would account for the weird spectacle of the Tormalina wedged upright in its own rocky gully looking as if the crew had only just left – well apart from the rust, abundant marine life adhering to the metal and the holes and dents in the hull?


How would you account for the almost spiritual experience that is diving the Tabarka? Sun streaming in the holes in the upturned hull, gin clear water and an abundance a marine life on every surface and in every nook and cranny. If one was inclined to the religious then the cathedral like space could bring you to your knees in supplication. Your overawed author needed to just sit and wonder at the sheer beauty of it all.


The mystical Tabarka


The sceptics amongst you will dismiss all this mysticism as pure baloney. You would say it is all perfectly explicable combinations of benevolent climate and marine conditions, exceptional diving skills – well mostly, great seamanship, extraordinary group management and organisation and extreme patience of the verbose by the taciturn. Perhaps, however there are forces abroad which are undefinable, that do not follow the logical or scientific path and which shape events and outcomes. Should forces be at work then, surely, the Orkneys must be a credible centre for their influences.


Dear reader, I will leave you to decide……………………..

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