Diving the Arizona Wreck off Elie in Firth of Forth

Steve organised a Wednesday evening dive on the Mako with Steve Haddow to dive a World War two wreck the Arizona (Not the one in Pearl Harbour). the Arizona was a Merchantman carrying 600 tonnes of Coal from Methil, unfortunately she hit a mine and sunk with 5 of her 8 crew lost with her.  What remains today are a flattened hull section with ribs sticking out of the sand and the main feature her Engine, I understand the Navy swept her with a wire to a depth of 11 meters to reduce the chance of a hazard to shipping now she is home to lots of marine life.

We were lucky enough to enjoy a sunny evening and 5 to 6 metres of visibility on the wreck. Photos below:

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Night dive on the Primrose Wreck – Isle of May

Steve had organised a trip to dive the Primrose a wrecked Steam Powered Trawler that came aground on the Isle of May in 1902 and then slipped below the waters about 300 metres to the East of the Southern tip of the Island. The Weather was looking dark with clouds adding to the atmosphere the sea state was not too bad with a small swell from the south East. We were using Steve Haddow’s boat the Mako based at Anstruther which is a well equipped Catamaran with a Dive lift on the back of the Boat. Steve was planning to put a permanent shot on the wreck for ease in the future and after sorting out the shot we kitted up and jumped into the sea, we were the last in following eight divers descending 31 metres onto the wreck.

With shot on the boiler and the Steam engine a stern of it, with the wreck sitting on the bottom upright we worked our way over to over to the Starboard side and headed towards the Bow taking a few shots of the other divers that had headed up the port side a minute or so before us (Small wreck about 25-30 metres in length), the bow is now only about 60 cm proud of the sea bed covered in Brittle Stars on hull plating and and Dead Mans Fingers on the spars.  Heading back along the port side the sea bed was covered in course sand and broken shells with Squat lobsters hiding in the debris on the sea bed, also just on the edge of our torch light we could see the Cod and Poor Cod swimming watchfully, these strange invaders of their territory with their bright and multicolored HID, Halogen and LED diving torches.

This is a lovely wreck with lots of life on it including Dahlia Anemones, Conger and Wrasse definitely worth looking under the spars and wreckage, we headed to the stern and found the propeller still intact rising 1.5 metres vertically from the sea bed and as we headed back towards the Engine and Boilers on the Starboard side the Mooring Bollards could be seen with several Urchins grazing on them. Colin and I had been using Nitrox 30 to give us more “no-deco” bottom time and the 20 minutes on the wreck was plenty of time to do a full tour of the wreck,  we headed back up the shot which was tied off to the Engine, as we headed up to the 6 metre stop I noticed several Lions Mane Jellyfish floating by in the gentle neap current. What a fun dive and a totally different feel to diving it during the day!  Thanks to Steve for organising the dive.

Rathlin Island and HMS Drake, Northern Ireland May 2012

Well with the good weather beckoning, we packed the car and headed across the Irish Sea to visit family in Northern Ireland.  I hadn’t dived the back wall of Rathlin Island (200 Metre Drop off in places) for several years the Water rushes round from the Atlantic into the Irish Sea bringing lots of nutrients round coupled with excellent visibility. I had missed the arches on the wall before and was keen to find them this time. Diving with Richard from Aquaholics he had East Cheshire BSAC over for a weeks diving on his boats and I buddied up with another Paul for my dives.

Sheep Island, Rathlin Island and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Weather was perfect with a stable high across the UK, blue skies and almost millpond conditions, we headed off at 9:30am from Ballycastle Marina towards the back wall of Rathlin, and as we headed round the Island you could see multitudes of Sea Birds – Puffins, Gannets nesting on the towering cliffs (Up to 132 metres high) and Pinnacles.  After Richard had worked out what the currents were doing and providing a safety briefing on the use of SMBs as the currents just a few metres off the wall can be very strong.  We kitted off and jumped into the water the visibility was 12 metres plus, we dropped onto a Large slab covered in Dead mans fingers and headed West along the wall, at 28 metres depth looking down to the bottom of the wall some 15- 20 metres below. The Wall was covered in a dense lawn of different species of animals (surveys have counted over 100 species per square metre) these included Elephants ears, Cup Corals, Dead mans Fingers, Anemones and Hydroids.

We were in luck looking up I spotted the Arch and we headed up to explore it covered inside with Deadmans fingers, before moving onto the overhang, I have to say this is one dive I wish I had brought my twin set with me, we started to ascend up the wall and at about 22 metres depth came across the Red Seaweeds with the Kelp Forest just above, typically on most sites in the UK Kelp stops at about 10-12 metres due to lack of light, but this dense kelp forest rising to heights of approximately 1.5 metres something you would expect to find on the West Coast of Canada.

After moving through the kelp forest disturbing large Edible Crabs scavenging on the rocks I decided to deploy my Delayed SMB, something interesting happened to my SMB is seemed to be stuck in one place on the surface like a vice had got hold of it, reminded me of the eddies that swept around the artificial reefs on the East side of Lismore Island.

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We headed back round to the Harbour at Rathlin Island noting the interesting geological features of the cliffs, there were several enthusiasts had built old style coracle sailing boats and were planning to sail to Islay (Better them than me!). After a packed lunch and an hours rest we headed off to dive the broken up wreck of HMS Drake an old Battlecruiser and the Salvage Barge which sunk on top of her, this is a 18 – 14 metre dive lots of plates and which attracts shoals of Pollock and has become a huge artificial reef in the middle of the sandy Bay.  Interesting enough the water temperature between this wreck and the back wall of Rathlin was 3 degrees cooler at 9 Celcius not helped by a leaky drysuit which is now being repaired as I type this up.

Sunset over the Skerries and Malin Head