dives, trips

Shetlands – day 6

Our final day aboard MV Clasina began with a dive on another klondiker (like the Lunokhods-1 we saw earlier in the week), the Pionersk. This huge fishing factory ship foundered in the 1990s, but is rather shallower than many of the other wrecks we dived. Consequently, it is more kelp encrusted and sadly the vis was rather poor, so I was limited to very close focus photography. The fact that we were so disappointed with the vis on this dive (“normal” UK vis – approx 3-4m) just goes to show how good the visibility had been on the other dives of this trip. Good weather – calm sea and bright light – helps, as does the sandy sea bed under most of the wrecks we saw; however, the lack of large amounts of algae in the water here is a massive help too (many of my shots from this week have a bluish tint, rather than the pea soup we have come to expect in the UK.

Our week aboard Clasina finished on a highlight with a return full circle to the first site we saw – the Fraoch Ban. This marvellously intact and upright wreck on white sand did not disappoint, and we saw angler fish and octopus in addition to the flatfish on the sand, spiny spider crabs on the hull and shoals of small fish around the superstructure we saw last time. A fitting end to an excellent stay aboard MV Clasina.

The dives were finished early, to allow the disembarkation of the mountain of gear which ten divers bring onto a live aboard. Rob and I bade farewell to our buddies from East Cheshire BSAC, as they were on the afternoon ferry. It was a more leisurely end to the day for us, as we had a couple more days left on Shetland.

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<– Shetland day 5

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Shetlands – day 5

Divers on the stern of the Gwladmina

On our cruise back south to Lerwick from Unst, our first stop was the Gwladmina, a large Victorian steam ship which sank upright in 38m. Most of the cargo seems to have been recovered and, descending the shot line amidships, we were able to complete a circuit of the ship – bow first and then astern along the exposed prop shaft and then to stern with rudder blown off to salvage the prop.

Our first sight was the Gwladmina’s substantial boiler
Wreckage as we move aft
Deck gear fallen into the wreck, as the tops decayed during their century underwater
Almost to the stern (see top image)
We had time to view the bow as well
Is this what remains of the bosun’s stores, or perhaps the remnants of previous buoylines to the site of Gwladmina?
A brief inspection of the triple expansion steam engine as we return to the shotline for our reluctant ascent to the surface (not forgetting the deco stops…)

The second dive was not a wreck, but a scenic site for a change. The Giant’s Legs is an iconic geological feature at the southern end of Bressay, where the headland has been eroded into a series of broken stacks. Underwater, the terrain consists of series of submerged stacks. We saw many nudibranchs, but I had camera problems and had to return to the boat, before getting back into the water agains. Two dives for the price of one!

Polycera faeroensis munching on the abundant bryozoans
A tiny juvenile scorpion fish hiding amongst the kelp
An impressive Dendronotus frondosus feasting on the bryozoan mat covering the weed

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dives, trips

Shetlands – day 3

Another morning, another wreck!. In this case, the Jane, a cargo ship which came to grief in 1927. The wreck lies on its side, with a large propellor and rudder visible. It stands several metres proud of the sea bed but shows signs of collapse in several places.

Our second dive was a drift off Burra Ness, on our way to Balta Sound. The sea bed consisted of maerl and coarse sand with very large undulations caused by the tide. We saw many hermit crabs, one or two nudis and a huge plaice.

The evening saw us in Baltasound, where we chatted to the skipper of the Björn, a gaff Cutter rugged ketch flying the Norwegian flag. In fact the owner was from Iceland and had sailed to Shetland via the Faroes, on his way to Bergen and points south in Norway to overwinter.

We also walked up to Balta Light, the most northerly pub in the UK. In these Covid times, we decided not to stay inside and drank our pints in the surprisingly cold beer garden.

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Baltasound has several other notable landmarks, including the John Peel memorial bus stop (currently sporting a “2020 vision” theme in “honour” of a certain Mr Cummings) and also a memorial to the crew of the WW1 submarine E-49, the site of our dive the next day.

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trips

Shetlands – day 1

NOTE: I wrote these blog posts at the time of the dive trip, but was not able to post them at the time, so there’s roughly a week’s delay between the date of posting and the day they were written.

The Shetland Islands is a place I have long wanted to visit and I was lucky enough to be invited by my buddy Rob Bailey to join him on a week-long charter aboard the new liveaboard MV Clasina skippered by Bob Anderson.

We arrived in the attractive town of Lerwick first thing this morning off the overnight ferry from Aberdeen, and transferred a small mountain of gear onto Clasina. Rob and I had met our fellow divers on the ferry and, predictably we all got on well – an experienced group from East Cheshire BSAC.

Our shakedown dive was a corker, on a trawler called Fraoch Ban (gaelic for White Heather), a trawler whose internal bulkhead had failed, causing its catch of sandeels to shift, which capsized and sank the boat.

The first thing that struck me was the amount of light. Like many of the best Shetland wreck sites, the Fraoch Ban lies upright on sand, which reflects a lot of light. The visibility was about 15m, which meant we could see from one end of the wreck to the other. A large winch and gantry sit on deck and a large shoal of fish swirls around the site. I spotted a new (to me) species of spider crab and others saw octopus and angler fish.

The second dive was close by at Noss Head, a cliff dropping into the sea with a series of deep gullies. This exposed site has wonderful purple rock formations and many anemones – dahlia, Devonshire cup corals and even patches of jewel anemones.

The surge reduced the visibility but the gullies made for an interesting swim and I was buzzed by a couple of seals – the female coyly checked me out from just beyond camera range and my buddy told that a large male was watching me from behind; as is often the way, I was not even aware he was there.

Link: Shetland trip day 2