A Vision among Giants – Malin Head, Ireland – 28 August 2005
Trip Report by Phil Griffiths
Malin Head is renowned for having some of the best UK diving going so when Matt said he was organising a trip for 2005 and having turned down the opportunity in 2004 I thought I'd better get my name down!
What was going to make this trip even more interesting for me was that the week before I had taken delivery of a replacement Inspiration with the new “Vision” electronics! I'd managed to get a couple of solid hours in the water with the unit and so I felt confident in taking it to Ireland – plus I would of course be carrying a couple of 7l side slungs for the duration :o))
The trip was based aboard the well known Loyal Watcher which had recently received new owners, Darren and Linda of Inga Charters and a refit. Darren and Linda had done a good job on the refit giving 2 x 4 man cabins, 2 x 2 man cabins and two showers/toilets along with a refurbished Galley and Dining/Lounging area. A great collection of DVDs and a surround sound DVD player/TV set this off nicely for evening entertainment! A mention must also be given to Richard who looked after our gas needs during the trip and was the one generally stood there shot in hand waiting for the shout to release :o) He even got to bring it back on board :o)
Pickup was on a Saturday afternoon in Ayre from where we began the overnight sailing to Portsalon, Lough Swilley in Ireland. There were 12 of us on this trip –Matt, Stu, Justin, Mark, Rob, Bas, Tom, Jeff, Pete, Chris, Steve and me.
Having a fairly steady sea crossing to Ireland the first dive was planned for around 3pm on the Audacious, the venerable battleship from the First World War. The shot line was put in followed by the first pairs taking the lazy shot and the deco station. Hitting the water it was noticeable that there was a little bit of a current running but once one got down to about 30m this reduced greatly. On the way past 18m I watched the Vision Electronic’s Green Hudlights flash as the automatic change of setpoint to 1.3 kicked in and the unit reported that the difference between the actual and set setpoints was more than .2 apart –this soon settled back to steady green as the increasing depth plus a little squirt of O2 injected by the controller brought the set point to 1.3. Matt was my buddy on this dive and after we had both transferred our tags to the loop by the lazy shot connecting clip at 30m we set off down to the wreck. What we then saw was amazing for those that haven’t experienced Malin Head before –from 30m we could see the upturned shape of the Audacious below us with the previous pairs swimming around with their torches creating beams within the water!!
Arriving on the upturned hull at around 50m we could see the huge props at the stern bending slightly toward the bottom at around 70m where one of the earlier pairs gave us a friendly wave. Being the first dive I was happy to spend my time around 58 m where we spent our planned 20 minutes swimming around a hull breach where we could see bits and piece of dinner plates and other tangled bit and pieces of wreckage. What was most impressive about the dive though was the sheer sense of size that one got from having 20m+ visibility allowing you to great a real grasp of the size of this Giant!
All too soon the 20 minutes were up and we had made our way back to the shot line for a steady assent. Along with the Trimix computer built into the Vision electronics I was using a VR3. Given the relatively easy dives, nicely controlled ascents on a shot line and a relatively good level of fitness my personal preference is to set the VR3 to zero conservatism and do a couple of extra minutes at 6m. This setting gave pretty much the same deco profiles as the Vision Trimix computer set to GF 85/15 on the mixes I was using for the week although the VR3’s micro bubble stops added a slightly deeper initial deco ceiling.
After a total in water time of 55 minutes it was back on board for the welcome cup of tea and the typical “did you see!!!” diver chatter :o)
One thing that must be mentioned about Loyal Watcher in Darren and Linda’s hand is the great hospitality and food that was on offer!!! And if what was on the menu didn’t suit Linda made no fuss at all about offering individuals another option! Doing one dive a day left plenty of time for sleeping, tea drinking, eating, DVD watching and of course the recounting of diving tales!!!!
The next day our dive was going to be on the famous Empire Heritage and it’s Sherman Tanks. Diving with Stu and Mark we immediately came off the shot line at 65m and found ourselves in a large section of hold that was fairly complete. What was impressive about this hold was that it was stacked full with Sherman tanks like Tonka trucks in a toy shop!!! Shining our torches along the length of the hold displayed more tanks than I could count! Swimming out of this section we were presented with a mass of wreckage in huge chunks that ordinarily one would have been happy to spend an entire dive just going into one part. Stu elected to go on a tour so we swam in and around the wreckage until it was time to head back to the shot. It was then that we had a moment where we were getting ready to have a vote on where the shot was before, fortunately, we caught the dive light of an ascending diver in the distance :o) so off we went to spend an hour with the rest of guys doing our deco stops.
The next day it was decided to revisit the Justicia. I for one wanted to get on the bow to see for myself the view that has been famously captured by Leigh Bishop looking up at the bow from the seabed with the huge anchor on the side. Credit should go to Darren for getting the shot within 30m of the bow!! Diving with Rob we made a beeline for the bow and I got exactly what I was after and I can say it is more impressive in real life than in a picture ;o). The bow section is actually broken off and we swam around it and then explored the other areas of wreckage adjacent taking care not to disturb to much a huge conga underneath one of the plates! This was probably my favourite dive of the trip and turning around as we ascended the shot line the feeling awe was present again as we saw the wreck stretch out into the distance!
As we ascended I paid more attention to my VR3 than the Vision electronics so it was nice when I got the red flashing hud and beeping of the unit to remind me to look at my handset –for once the ceiling on the Vision Trimix deco profile was slightly below that of the VR3 –by just less than a metre! a quick drop brought silence and steady green lights :o) I’ve inserted the dive profile for you to have a look at below. You can also see where I had followed the VR3’s microbubble stops (old habits die hard):
What you can also see nicely is the scrubber monitor display of only one segment being used up which was typical for each dive for the entire week. The next day was a dive to revisit the Audacious which, even though it was only Thursday, was to be our last dive off Malin Head. The weather was turning bad and after what had now become a routine dive on a Goliath of the Deep :o) we found ourselves surfacing into what must have been getting close to a force 5 :o) I’ve included the dive profile so that you can see how this affected my depth whilst on the deco station:
So with the weather chasing our heels it was decided to tie the kit down and head off back toward Scotland early with a plan to try and have a dive off of Scotland the next morning! Did we dive the next morning?? Well four of us did a dive down and up a shot line! Bas was my buddy for this one and we went down the shot first. We had been spoilt – coming from the excellent visibility off of Malin Head we found ourselves at the end of shot line at 50m in 1m of visibility somewhere close to a German submarine. We made a quick effort to put our hand on the sub but then gave up and went back up the line in search of a cup of tea :o) Passing Stu and Mark on the way up they elected to continue down but thankfully they didn’t find the sub either –now that would have been a bummer if they had! :o))
So all in all an excellent week with excellent company looked after by an excellent crew! I would recommend it to anyone diving the 60-75m range. It is a week of single dives per day with relatively short bottom times but what you get to see makes this more than worth while!! – I intend to go back again in a year or two! Any regrets? Wish I’d had a camera for some underwater shots!!! Oh and my new Inspiration with the Vision electronics? Absolutely Brill!