I wanted to write a quick report of our trip, as this the mid point, but truthfully there was just too much to write. So I have summed it up into this longish report, and be warned, it is a long read.
First of all, I came out to join the M/V TALA crew and my partner Faisal in Red Sea Explorers on a sort of informal safari. I invited some friends and family. Joining me were my Dad.. George, his partner ..Nick, my uncle.. Carl and my friend from my GUE days, Rob Calkins (GUE fundies instructor.)
The first few days are spent in Hurghard recovering from the long flights and taking in the sights. My father, Nick and my Uncle, met us as they were spending a few days in Cairo first. Faisal sits with us for dinner and lays out the plan. A Northern Wreck trip with great reef dives in between. Yahoo, my favorite by far. Fasial can hardly keep a straight face before he informs me that I have to teach a technical class to some of the guests and he want to go and finish pushing this cave some other divers have being exploring and have reached their limits. He has done an initial survey dive and now is ready to push the cave. So in this report, I will focus on just the wrecks and cave, as the class and reefs, which of course are beautiful, have being reported on before by so many others.
We do a series of wrecks. 4 of them in a row. 1.5 miles/2.5km in total . With our X-Scooters this is not an issue. We drop in on the Kimon M 80/24m. A cargo ship which sank in 1978. The wreck is awesome but I really think the pod of 50+ Dolphins that joins us while we are scootering to the next wreck trumped it. The next in line is the Marcus 80/24m. Another cargo ship that was carrying tiles. Rob and I do fun easy penetrations through this fairly open ship. Pushing on we hit the Carnitic 80/24m, another cargo ship with a cargo of gold, copper and silver. Finally we do a world class wreck the Giannis D 80/24m A 300/90m cargo ship in really great shape. Faisal leads us to the engine room and through some other fantastic area. 70mins has passed and now it is time to return. Some deco and we are back for a great meal.
Rosalie Moller. This ship was sank only 2 days after the famous Thistlegorm, The ship, was 317/93m long and was at anchor when it was attacked by a staffel of Heinkel III bombers. Two bombs exploded in number 4 hold. She took massive starboard damage and sank in 170/50m. Because of the depth and the location in a bay and the visibility of only 100/30m many of the Thistlegorm crowds avoid this dive. But for us this is perfect. No divers and tons of ship to explorer . I mean who could ask for more. That night we move to this famous wreck of the ThistleGorm 100/30m, We do some amazing dives here for the next two or three dives. Rob and I dive both that day and day 3 and do massive penetrations shooting video and pictures. I cant express how incredible a dive the Thistlegorm is. It is a must do. Rob and I have some great pictures and video I will eventually publish.
We started the day with the Thistlegorm and then move on to the Dunnraven 90/27m. This upside down wreck, a must do for a fun dive on its side and then a great reef dive afterwards.
The Cave 450/150m
Dawn breaks. I find the M/V Tala crew already up for a 1/2 hour preparing the boat to move to Jack Fish Alley, a famous dive site for snorkels and diver alike. Although we are not going recreational diving or snorkel at this site, it will make for some fantastic DECO entertainment. Watching hundreds of snorkels and divers enjoy the sights at this world class reef.
The night before the dive the team had got together to identify the objectives, teams and sequence of the day. Team 1, was Rob Calkins and Mario. Team 2. Foxman and I. Team 1 will splash in at 8:00 am and be done approximately at 11:00 am. Team 2, will splash in at 2:00pm and be done by 5:00 pm. So, it is now 6:00am and there is a lot to prep prior to Team 1 splash down. -- Finalizing the mixes, bottles and logistics is an important part of the preparation. Each diver we use 6 stages, backgas and 2 scooters, plus the X-View and lighting. Plus the tanks for the surface support, inwater support and so on, all need direction and final preperations.
8:30 am Team 1 are finally in and ready for the descent. During final flow checks, Mario discovers one of his second stages is free flowing. As I am the inwater surface support, I remove the bottle and pass it to the zodiac. Fasial, who is surface support and manger, promptly exchanges the second stage and return the bottle to me. I then reattach it to Mario, who then conducts a final flowcheck. Down they go. Keep in mind the backgas and deep stages are mixed for the anticipated 500/150m cave dive so it is 8/80. They need to descend on a transitional gas. We used the 270/81m deco bottle of 15/55 as the descend gas. (For a full report and logic behind our gas choices please see the official RSE report and video on www.redseaexplorers.com ) Now we wait. 28 minutes later we see the first bag up with the deep stages. They are out. Cheers from the boat. Now for the deco. At 40 minutes, the inwater support crew are in and down to meet the divers. They shoot video, clean up empty deco bottles and most importantly bring back the goods. The X-view footage. Most other camera housings cannot handle this depth, but the X-view on the X-Scooter is capable to 600/170m.
Faisal and I, now hover around the 40/120cm flat screen LCD TV Screen in the M/V Tala Salon and inspect the footage. Great penetration. They followed the line down in to the cave from the entrance at 270/81m and then on down into the first room, then push through the restriction in the second room and stop at the final last vertical restriction at 330/100m. They had pushed passed the initial RSE survey and given us a deeper look into this cave and what to expect. Deco was smooth and Mario introduced himself to several of the Snorkels and Divers.
3:00pm. We are now dressed and ready. We splash in, Fasial with all 6 stages, I choose the smoother approach, I jump in with 2 stages and they hand me down my cluster of 4 stages (all stages are 80s/11L). They then hand me my X-Scooter. I connect it to my front crotch D-Ring. I conduct my final bubble checks and flow checks and find my SPG hose on the bottom stage leaking profusely and Faisals left post leaking. So, we fix the issues, Rob C takes some final pictures and off we go. The initial descent goes smooth, we hit 220/66m and start following along the reef progressively getting deeper, looking for the cave entrance. Finally there it is, we drop the deco bottles (A cluster of 4 Al80s/11L), outside the cave, as we are returning to this point. We push into the cave passing the warning sign. The entrance and initial room is very impressive. A large cavern area shaped like a crack, with a smallish entrance and I notice two sources of blue light. I have seen this before (Dos Ojos). Maybe thats why they call it the Devil Cave. So we descend down the guideline and follow it into the first hallway, through the restriction. I hear a sever popping sound. I have heard this before, normally from gear imploding, but what was it this time. I signal Fasial attention, I then check my valves, lights, gauges, pressure gauges. Ok, found it, it was the deep stage pressure gauge. It imploded at 315/95m. No gas leak, no problem. Ok, lets push on, into a 330/100m crack/hallway. I am now leading the dive, Faisal filming behind me, so it is real important not to bang around the cave destroying the cave and visibility. We hit the second restriction where the previous team turned. We pushed on, turning down the vertical restriction and find the end of the line at 430/130m. Great, time to break open NEW cave and push beyond their point of furthest exploration. I look at my runtime and wow 4 min to the end of the line. Keep in mind, we are on X-Scooters. So lets go. A quick ok from Faisal and we push horizontally at 430/130m. I hit the trigger in this area the previous explorers call The Void. This is certainly a large crack shape room. We scooter length wise across this room. It makes a few small turns (S-Shaped) and takes another 2 min (300/100m in length) and we wall out. I look around, the bottom is 500/150m and the roof is 400/120m. The width 7- 12/2m-4m and nowhere to go. L So, ultimately, I believe this area previously called the Void is 100/30m in height, width 7- 12/2m-4m and 330/100m in length with a small S turn. We called it Devils Crack. Although it is time to turn, I am very disappointed. I absolutely love this place, a place which no man has ever being. I just want to stay and play, but we have to go, I turn the dive, look at Faisal and ask Whats for dinner? I am 2.5 hrs away from home, time to roll, and need something to look forward to. We head out following the line back to the vertical restriction and then up the restriction into the 330/100m section. Through that horizontal room and then on up the first restriction into the entrance room. We started our deep stops at 300/90m, inside the cave, following them up and out of the cave at 270/81m. We quick send up the empty deep stages. Pickup the deco bottles, switch to 270/81m and then up to the 190/57m where we send up the empty 270/81m bottle, and then up to 120/36m, where we meet the support divers. Big smiles. We give them a quick report and hand them the X-View for the Surface support to review our finding. I think, only 2 hrs to go. As we proceed on up to 70/21m and then up to 20/6m we spend the time entertaining ourselves. Writing notes back and fourth, Looking at the coral reefs. Watching time. The in water support guys did a fantastic job of keeping us occupied during the last 100 mins. Our deco profiles for both team was very clean. We based it on an averaged of 330/110m for 22min. Using ratio deco we do 50min O2, 50min Nitrox 50/25, 25min 35/30, 12min 21/35, 8 min 15/55. After a longish deco we finally board the boat and the crew, support and staff are all very excited and congratulatory at the days success. Truth be told without these guys Fasial and I could not enjoy a day like this. So they truly are the ones to thank.
We start this day with a nice dive on the Ulysses at 100/30m. Then we move on to find the location of a new wreck called the Iquammarel Saudi. It is a 425/125m long Ferry in 280/81m. A team reported finding and diving it four days ago, so it is time to go and check it out thats the beauty of having your own 120/36m liveaboard.
We found and marked the location and prepared the gases. 1 bottom stage, 3 deco stages and of course backgas, X-View and the X-Scooter. Plan was a 250/75m dive for 20 min using ratio deco that is a 60 min deco and run time if 95 min. As we descend into the blue abyss I could not help to think how much I love the anticipation of a New Wreck. Suddenly she appears. The wreck is laying on it starboard side and shallowest part is at 220/66m. The line is tied into the stern. First things first we check out the stern propeller system. Followed by a run down main deck. Faisal and Rob seem to be loving it almost as much as me. Suddenly I notice the Telegraph. Yahoo I screen, Fasial comes over to shoot some video. Then onto the bell ad spare propeller on the deck. Man I am loving it. We continue to cruz to the bow ad take a peek. On the way back, I find the front hatch open, so I scooter inside the ferry hold. Man is it big. Hit the trigger. , 2 min later empty reel and more wreck to go . Man o Man this is big. Turn, and exit. We still have time, so check out some more of the main deck and then time is up. Back to the up line and off to deco. After a quick recalc we decide 240/72m for depth average for 20 min bottom. So O2 is 22 min, Nitrox 50 is 22 min and 120/36m is 11 min. Deco was fantastic and back to the boat to review the footage. I will be making a video and pictures and putting them on the RSE website soon.
In the mean time thanks for the read and hopefully next week, we will have just as exciting trip with the English group from DIR Explorers. Looking forward to seeing Mr. Willow and family