Diving - The adventure continues!
UK diving in 2019
M2 Submarine, January 2019
My 2019 diving started far earlier than I expected.
I'd actually rewaxed the zip on my drysuit (although the previous 6 dives had all been freshwater ones) and packed most of my dive gear away for the winter, not expecting to do any more diving for a few months, when Dawn, from Aldershot Dolphins, texted me to ask if I fancied diving the M2 Submarine on 5th January.
If it had been any other site, I'm sure I'd have said no, but I've been trying to get to dive the M2 again since a dive on it in 2015. Numerous attempts have been stymied by bad weather and one by the closure of the M3 motorway!
I checked the weather, which looked cold but calm, and said I'd go.
Only 4 of us from the club turned out (Dawn, Julian and John being the others) and were joined on the Wey Chieftan IV by Tom, a rebreather diver who had travelled all the way down from Leeds to do the dive solo!
Ropes off was 8AM, so Julian picked me up at a very early 5:15, but at least there was no frost.
By the time we reached Wimborne, though, the weather was far colder with thick frost on car windows as we passed.
We reached Weymouth Harbour about 7AM and there was ice on the pontoon and the boat deck and seats!
Once unloaded, we had a briefing and set off, with Sue (Skipper Richard's wife) providing welcome hot drinks, as the sun started to rise.
The trip around Portland Bill took about an hour, but it was calm and passed quickly and unremarkably, if a little coldly!
We had to wait a little while for the tide to slacken and as we did Scimitar, another dive boat, arrived with a few more divers than we had aboard, which meant, sadly, that we wouldn't have the M2 all to ourselves, although their presence was to prove beneficial to me as it turned out!
The M2 is a remarkable wreck, a largish submarine from the WW1 era, it originally boasted a 12 inch battleship gun ahead of the conning tower, like its sister ships, but after the war, the gun was removed and a hanger, crane and catapult rail fitted to allow it to carry a plane. The idea was that the plane could scout for targets for the submarine to attack.
M2 Submarine in period, it remains almost intact
She sank, it's believed, when the crew failed to close the doors on the hangar in time when practicing deployment and recapture of the plane and diving. Sadly, everyone died and only 2 members of crew were recovered, the remaining crew are still inside the sub, which is an official war grave, but diving is permitted.
Julian and I descended the shot behind Tom and found it dropped us right next to the hangar, on the starboard side.
Unfortunately, it was very dark and there was quite a lot of sediment in the water, so vis wasn't good and torches were essential.
We swam forward along the hull and around the bow to other side, passing the captive anchors.
I spotted a biggish conger near the bow on the ports side.
We headed back down the hull, lifting the grapnel, which was stuck under the hull, and then passed over the launch rail for the plane and then around the Conning Tower.
Julian pointed out a very large, very blue Lobster in a gap in the upper hull as we went.
We swam along the rear part of deck, seeing a large conger down in the hull (I'm not sure if this was a new hole in the hull or the collapsing gun area).
Then we moved forward to the Conning tower, rising up to the top to see the deck there and the masts and periscopes, something I'd not been able to do on my last visit.
From there we continued on, along the crane arm and took a look in the hanger, but this was pretty silted up and someone had a crazily bright light that meant the backscatter made vis virtually zero!
At this point Julian, diving on air (I had 32% Nitrox), indicated he was at the end of his no deco time, so I launched my DSMB and we surfaced.
It was very dark on the dive, needing torches to see and there was quite a lot of sediment too, but we got around more of the wreck than I'd seen on my previous visit.
Along the way, I'd let go of my camera after taking some video, forgetting it wasn't lanyarded to my wrist!
Luckily, as it's buoyant, it went to the surface and someone on Scimitar spotted and recovered it, so I got it back! A lucky break!
On the way back to Portland, with most others not keen to do a second, drift, dive, we had a Bottlenose Dolphin playing around the boat for around 20 minutes, which was a nice bonus!
Dolphin chases boat
Dolphin breaks the surface for air off Portland Bill
Julian and I, alone, elected to do the second dive, a drift in Balclava Bay, just outside the Portland Harbour Wall.
To be honest, this was a very uneventful and unexciting dive.
We drifted along in a moderate current, over ridges of sand, with a few crabs, mostly small Hermit Crabs and some redish, velvety looking bigger ones (Edible?)
We said we'd do 15-20 minutes, unless it proved really worthwile and Julian indicated he was ready to surface at 17 minutes and I had no complaints.
It was a pretty cold day to be diving (not getting above 3C air temperature), although the water at 9-10C was comfortable enough, and I'm not sure I'd hurry to dive in such conditions again, but it was good to see more of the M2, but the poor vis means I still feel I need to do a good long twinset dive on it in the future, but in warmer, brighter weather!
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