Anchon WH36, daylight at depth.

I don’t often feel inferior underwater, but after witnessing the clout of Michael’s recently purchased Archon WH36 torch, I knew I had to have one to restore my easily damaged feeling of superiority. Now that I have one, I am God. I can turn night into day and should I feel the urge for an underwater disco, I flick on the strobe and move rhythmically to the beat in my head. This can scare my fellow divers into thinking they are going to need to perform an in-water rescue. Good to keep them on their toes.

ImageThe Archon WH36 is an awesome, super bright, compact and light powerhouse of a torch with one small downside… and that is it comes supplied with a charger that only fits one battery at a time (there are three batteries), and it has a European plug. Before you stop reading, the plus sides of this torch totally make up for this.

It is 3000 lumens. That’s so much, that many, many years in the future, in an area of space a long, long way away, they’ll be talking about the Archon WH36 as the antecedent to the creation of a visually impressive weapon that every child alien wants. 

It has 3.5 hours burn time on full power, 7 hours on half power (makes sense), 5 hours of disco time. That’s so much, that many, many years in the future, we’ll be able to travel to that area of space a long, long way away and still have charge left in the batteries.

It is light, at only 1300 grams with batteries, which translates to 1.3kg, or 2.86601 pounds, or 45.8562 ounces… doesn’t really matter in space.

The battery canister is slim and compact, so it can be tucked away neatly. It also fits nicely in the hand, should you need it to beat clones wearing cumbersome fancy dress outfits, after blinding them with the immensely powerful torch. 

Now wipe the drool off your chin and give us a call. You know you want one.

 

 

 

Wreck of the day 03 – The SMS Brummer

SMS Brummer

Displacement: 4385t (design) and 4316t (loaded)

Length: 140.4m (460’)

Beam: 13.2m (43’)

Draft: 6m (19’)

Propulsion: 2 shaft steam turbines, 6 boilers, 33,000shp

Speed: 28kn (52km/h)

Range: 10700km (6700miles)

Complement: 16 officers, 293 enlisted

Armament: 4 × 15 cm SK L/45 guns
2 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) L/45 AA guns
2 × 50 cm (20 in) torpedo tubes
400 mines

 

A brief history:

An extremely quick build, she was launched on 11th December 1915 and commissioned on 2nd April 1916. She was a remarkable ship with an impressive top speed of 52km/h but despite carrying 400 mines she was not employed on mine laying duty.

However minelayers by their nature were not designed for defensive purposes and their modus operandi would be to steam into an area, lay their mines and use their light weight and high speed to make an escape.

An interesting thing about the SMS Brummer and the SMS Bremse was that they slightly resembled British warships of the aurora class which was a contributing factor in a successful raid they made on a British supply convoy to Norway in which 2 destroyers were sunk along with 12 merchant ships of which the British ships were escorting. This coupled with their high speed meant that the convoy were sitting ducks and the resulting massacre was proof of this – there were very few survivors.

The success of this operation (which was celebrated with champagne by Kaiser Wilhelm II) the German heads of Navy got excited and lined up the deadly duo for further operations in the Atlantic. However the Americans entering the war and the logistical difficulties of refuelling at sea meant the operation was cancelled.

 

Diving the SMS Brummer:

Laying on her starboard side with her bow at 32m and the stern at 33m and the top of the hull at 21m this wreck is a firm favourite amongst Scapa junkies.

Although luckily not raised for scrapping she was subjected to heavy salvage work around the engine rooms and boilers etc. The stern is in pretty bad condition but if you focus your attention further forward this is a brilliant dive!

Worth having a look at are the gun turrets which are cool because they are not covered which means you can have a peek inside and inspect the mechanisms and controls.

There is also a cool hole where the funnel used to be but unfortunately don’t go getting ideas about swimming your way through to the engine rooms as there are grates which protected against shells.

If poking your way around machinery is your idea of fun then head to where the salvage work has taken place as it is all exposed and you can check out all the complicated nuts and bolts etc. your heart could lust for.

A nice feature is the armoured conning tower where the well paid officers would hide and control the ship during battles and the slit windows in the front are reminiscent of a fortified castle.

There is a deck gun in front of this and if you have time make your way forward and check out the anchor capstans. Those appropriately trained can make penetration dives between decks and those qualified to use nitrox and/or do some cheeky deco will really get the most from this dive.

Wreck of the day 03 – SMS Dresden II

Name: SMS Dresden II

Launched: 25th April 1917

Commissioned: 28th March 1918

Co-ordinates: 58°52.98N; 03°18.37W

Displacement: 5620t (7486t loaded)

Length: 155.5m (510’)

Beam: 14.2m (47’)

Draft: 6.01m (19.7’)

Propulsion: 31,000 shp, 2 shafts

Speed: 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h)

Range: 10,000km at 12 knots

Complement: 17 officers, 542 enlisted men

Armament: 8 × 15 cm SK L/45 guns, 3 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) L/45 AA guns, 4 × 60 cm (24 in) torpedo tubes, 200 mines

 

Brief History:

Sister ship to the Köln (also on the bottom of Scapa flow and discussed in a previous blog) and built to replace the Dresden I which was sunk off Chile in 1915. The SMS Dresden II was longer and more heavily armed than her predecessor and was considered one of the best in her class within the fleet.

She was attached to II scouting group which was sent on a mission to locate and destroy a British convoy en route to Norway. However, as the British convoy had sailed the day before it was not located and the German mission was called off.

In October 1918 she was assigned a mission along with the Köln and others to attack the British navy in the Thames estuary as a final stand in the final days of the war.  This was a last ditch attempt to secure Germany a better bargaining position no matter the cost to the German fleet. However several of the ships’ crews mutinied and the attack was cancelled.

The unruly crew of the Markgraf apparently pointed one their guns at the Dresden and refused to move out of her way after she was order to Eckernförde but eventually backed down allowing her to sail.

Once the order came to scuttle the ships in Scapa Flow, the Dresden II capsized violently to port and sunk dramatically.

Diving the SMS Dresden II

A good wreck for all abilities as it lays on a sloping seabed. The bow faces north and rests at 25m while moving aft will take you deeper to a maximum of around 37m. The wreck lays on it’s port side and has many interesting features.

Relatively unscathed from the salvaging that many of Scapa’s wrecks were subjected to the Dresden is in good condition. Pay good attention to the engine rooms which although have suffered blast damage from salvagers are still full of machinery and are definitely worth a poke around.

The officers’ quarters are fascinating and those with a keen eye may find a bathtub! Although the bronze propellers themselves would have been salvaged it is possible to see 2 propeller shafts in place with a single rudder. The stern is still intact itself and is a magnificent shape.

Notice the rear guns are still in place and facing ever so slightly towards starboard and also note how the forward of the rear guns is raised so to fire above the aft gun.

This is a nice dive to complement the Köln as they are sister ships and you can compare how both have fared to 93 years underwater! A particularly cool feature however of the Dresden II is the crest just aft of the bow which only the lead ship of a given class would carry.

What is a ‘beam’ and a ‘draft’ anyway?

So we are now 2 wrecks into our series but I deemed it a good idea to explain some common nautical terms regarding ships and shipwrecks.

All too common that a boat skipper or dive leader will be giving a briefing which to a wreck head is perfectly understandable, but for the common layman makes no sense whatsoever…indeed I think these folk derive a certain pleasure from the confused looks they receive when they talk about triple expansion engines and davits….

Plus I believe a wreck dive is all the more special when you know what you are looking at, for example what at first glance may appear as a mundane, barnacle encrusted piece of metal may to the educated observer be a lot more fascinating….

So to start with I will give some general ships’ terms and in future posts we will go into more specialised areas such as engines, weaponry and more…

Length: Come on guys, let’s not be silly…

Beam: It’s width at the widest point, the more narrow it is when compared to length generally the faster the ship was designed to go but with a loss of stability.

Draft: The distance from the waterline to the bottom of the hull. AKA: how much of the ship is physically in the water. Knowing this will allow the crew to determine the minimum depth of waterway the ship can safely navigate.

Displacement: The technically correct version of the ship’s weight. Actually refers to the weight of water the ship displaces.

Laid down: The date construction on the ship began. Derives from the traditional days of ship building when the length of the keel was ‘laid down’ first and then the rest of ship built around it.

Keel: Essentially the ‘spine’ of the vessel. A large beam that runs the length of the ship and forms a large part of structural integrity.

Launched: Pretty obvious…

Commissioned: The date the ship enters service, when launched they are often empty shells but are fitted out once on the water to allow space in the shipyard for new constructions.

Bow: Pointy end

Stern: Blunt end

Port: Left hand side when facing the bow

Starboard: Right hand side when facing the bow

Forward: Facing or travelling from the stern to the bow

Aft: Facing or travelling from bow to the stern

Davit: The structure used to lower items over the side of the ship. Mostly in our case will be life boat davits.

Complement: Crew

Anchor: Heavy object thrown over the side to prevent the ship from moving when at rest.

Winches: Mechanical device to ‘let out’ or ‘pull in’ rope or cable. (such as that attached to the anchor)

Capstans: Similar to the above. A vertically axled device to apply pressure to a rope or a cable, although a winch traditionally stores the rope/cable on a drum.

Scapa Flow – Wreck of the day 02 – Köln

Name: Köln

Launched: 5th October 1916

Commissioned: 17th January 1918

 Co-ordinates: 58° 53′ 32″ N, 3° 3′ 0″ W

Type: Light Cruiser

Displacement: 7,486 t (full load)

Length: 155.5m (510’)

Beam: 14.2m (47’)

Draft: 6.01m (19.7’)

Propulsion: 2 Turbines, 14 boilers, 31,000shp, 2 shafts

Speed: 27.5knots (50.9 km/h)

Range: 10,000km (6,200m) at 12 knots (22km/h)

Complement: 17 officers, 542 enlisted

Armament: 8 × 15 cm SK L/45 guns
3 × 8.8 cm (3.5 in) L/45 AA guns

4 × 60 cm (23.6 in) torpedo tubes
200 mines

History:

Although launched in 1916, by the time she was ready for service it was only 10 months before the end of the war. As a result she didn’t see action but was involved in several missions including one which involved escorting U-boats in the German minefields of the Heglioland bight.

As the end of the war began nearing she was one of few ships to remain loyal whilst other crews mutinied and she stayed at sea awaiting orders. However this order was for her internment at Scapa Flow. Leaky condensers meant that she was slow to travel and limped into the harbour behind most of the fleet although once the order came to scuttle on June 21st 1919, she was one of the first to obey.

Diving the Köln:

Considered the most intact and in the best condition of all the German wrecks in Scapa Flow, this makes a fantastic dive and is the favourite for many visiting divers.

Lying on her starboard side in 36m with her portside hull being 20 metres from the surface allows a degree of flexibility in how you plan to dive her. Those with the necessary qualifications and intentions to do some deco can explore the lower regions whilst the others will be able to enjoy the shallower sections.

It’s a worthwhile swim to head aft from the shot and look for the portholes and a doorway which lead to the officers’ accommodation and if you continue further aft still there you will find a large gun before swimming around the stern and checking out the rudder.  If you swim forwards you will come across the lifeboat davits and the 3.4 inch high elevation gun located before the main mast pointed horizontally forwards. The armoured conning tower and Command Bridge (minus the periscope) are also worth a look. The forward deck guns are missing but a large hole allows those trained access to what were once the crews’ quarters.

Scapa Flow – Wreck of the day 01 – The Kronprinz Wilhelm

Image

So in excited anticipation of the upcoming trips to Scapa Flow in August we are running a series of fact sheets giving some brief information about each wreck, including a small history and useful dive information.

If you want to come and dive these epic wrecks in an amazing location – let us know!

So to start us of we have the Kronprinz Wilhelm….

Name: Kronprinz Wilhelm (originally simply the Kronprinz but later renamed in honour of the German Crown Prince)

Launched: 21.02.1914

Co-ordinates: 58°53.39N; 03°09.46W

Displacement: 25,390 long tons (25,800 t) design 28,600 long tons (29,100 t) full load

Length: 175.4m (576’ 6’’)

Beam: 29.5m (96’ 9’’)

Draft: 9.19m (30’ 2’’)

Propulsion: 3 shafts, 3 steam turbines

Speed: 21.2 knots (39.3km/h)

Range: 13,000km (8000m) at 12 knots

Complement: 1136

Armament: 10x 12’’ guns, 14x 5.9’’ guns, 10 x 3.5’’ guns, 5x 19.7’’ torpedo tubes

History:

Took part in Battle of Jutland in 1916 and although a front line ship, escaped unscathed. Later, she was hit by a British torpedo (launched by submarine HMS J1) off the coast of Denmark, whilst providing heavy back-up for the rescue of U20, which had been stranded on the Danish coast.  The torpedo left a huge whole in the side of Kronprinz Wilhem but thanks to watertight compartments and cork packing, she was able to limp back to port for repairs. Soon after, she was involved in Operation Albion in the Baltic.

During her scuttling the British guards panicked and shot and killed a stoker on board.

Like the other battleships scuttled here, the fact that she sunk in deeper water contributed to the fact that she was not raised for scrap and she lies on the harbour bottom today. Like the other battleships, the sheer weight of the deck guns caused her to overturn as she sank.

Diving the Kronprinz Wilhelm:

The ship lies almost upside down with the seabed at almost 40 metres so this is one where your deep diver certification is essential! What makes this so special is that because it lays ‘almost’ upside down you can actually dive underneath the upturned deck which lays at an angle above you. Here you will see the massive deck guns which are a sight to behold.

Once your time starts to get low you can simply start making your way up the hull of the wreck to the top which is only about 14m and therefore it is possible to really maximise your time to get a better perspective of the sheer scale of this battleship.

Although you can dive this on air, like all of these wrecks you will be able to get the most from them if you are nitrox qualified! This will grant you much more time which certainly on a wreck of this scale is no bad thing.

Focus on Advanced

Ah, the Advanced Course. Never before has a simple case of semantics led to so many bitter recriminations. When the Roman legions of PADI invaded the shores of Brittania in 1991, the barbarian BSAC hordes engaged them in a bitter and bloody battle. The war was fought predominantly over what was meant by the term advanced diver: From the BSAC’s point of view an advanced diver was an individual with 10,000 logged dives, a home-made drysuit and at least 5 confirmed kills to their name. From the PADI perspective, an advanced diver was someone who knew that the inflator valve is not an ‘up button’ and who could put their own equipment together with only minimal assistance. The horrors of that conflict still remain fresh in the memories of it’s survivors.

The great war of PADI vs BSAC

The legions of PADI square off to the BSAC horde

So ultimately who was right? Well as is often the case in war the answer was neither and both sides were made to shake hands and say sorry like they meant it. The problem was all due to interpretation: In the UK to call yourself advanced at anything implies expertise and years of experience whereas in the States to be advanced means to have simply progressed beyond the basic level. Apparently. I’m not sure if that’s true, I haven’t done any research and it’s possibly offensive to a large group of people but it sounds good, quick someone make me the editor of the Daily Mail.

Daily Mail Front Page

A standard Daily Mail Front Page

So what I’m kind of driving at here is that the Advanced Course isn’t perhaps the best name for the course but please don’t let that put you off. The actual ethos behind the course is that you simply extend your experience and skill level whilst under the supervision of an instructor. The Advanced Course actually runs very well back to back with the Open Water Course and it certainly isn’t necessary to go and do loads of dives before signing up. I did my Open Water and Advanced back to back and it didn’t do me any harm. Someone said I had quite good buoyancy control once.

So what does the course entail? The best part of the Advanced Course is that it really is centred around fun diving. There’s no classroom or swimming pool stuff just 5 open water dives where you’ll work on a range of skills. The idea is that you complete 2 core dives: Deep and Navigation and then 3 others. There is a choice but we generally find that Drysuit, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Wreck and Moto Service Station Forager work best. A typical course runs as follows:

Day one is where we complete the shallower dives. We usually start off with the drysuit dive (if you’ve already qualified as a drysuit diver we often substitute this for Search and Recovery). This dive focuses on buoyancy skills in a drysuit and gets you used to moving in and diving the suit. This is then followed up with the peak performance buoyancy dive which is another dive based around buoyancy skills. We find that running these 2 dives first really helps you to get to grips with the drysuit as well as preparing you for the rest of the course.

Dive 3 is the navigation dive. This expands on some of the basic compass skills from the open water course (but don’t worry, we’re not asking you to become underwater orienteers) as well as getting you thinking about natural navigation.

On day 2 we progress to some deeper dives. You start, unsurprisingly, with the deep dive where we’ll take you down to 30m. Whilst you’re down there you’ll look at how different objects and colours are affected by pressue and if you’re really lucky your instructor will show you the potato trick! Once that dive is complete you’ll finish the course doing a wreck dive, this is really now just a fun dive where you’ll bring all your skills together.

Advanced Course Malta

Divers on an Advanced course in Malta

As a final bonus because you’ve done a drysuit dive as part of the course you are able to do a final dive at the end of the day to qualify you as a drysuit diver. In fact this extends to all the dives on the course, they all count as dive one of the speciality course so you can extend your experience from there.

 The  last dive is then conducted at a motorway service station on the way home when you’ll have an opportunity to show your instructor how much health food you can find and consume in 15min period.

So there we have it, the Advanced course is really just about extending your skills and confidence as well as qualifying you to dive to 30m ( a very handy skill when it comes to exploring some of the cool wreck dives around the world and in this country). We run regular courses every other weekend, so give us a shout if you would like to join us!