London Scuba Blogs
With a biting wind, cutting straight through very my best selection of base layers and icy grains peppering our squinted eyes, it was becoming increasingly difficult to remain excited about our imminent dive in the geothermal lake of Kleifarvatn.
Kleifarvatn is the largest lake on the Reykjanes peninsula. Situated on the fissure zone of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge it is one of the deepest of the country, at 97 meters. In the year 2000 the water level shrunk dramatically after an earthquake; up to 20% of its surface disappeared. The cracks that opened on the lake bed gradually filled and the lake returned to its previous size by 2008. On the south shore of the lake (in the area of Seltùn) you can still see steam rising up from the border of the lake from numerous hot springs which were revealed after the earthquake period (below).
'So we can expect a visibility of about 1m with today's wind and a water temperature of 1C', AJ reiterated as he wrapped up his briefing on the lake shore. Well, I say lake shore, but it could have been small ocean given the not-insignificant waves, all too obvious surface current and the black volcanic sands underfoot sloping away into this overbearing body of water.
'Is it just me? Or does this have "tough dive" written all over it?' I mused to myself as we wandered back to the van which was nestled out of the wind, at the foot of a large, rocky hill.
There was some considerable backward wading in the chest-high water, against the current as our trusty guide AJ, tried to find an orange line that had been left on the bottom in the shallows to mark the beginning position of the dive. With icy waves crashing over my head, I was certainly looking forward to starting the dive to seek some respite below the surface. The challenging surface conditions, combined with some equipment problems (including Robbie and Lea's regulators experiencing free flow), caused the group to become separated and I found myself commencing the dive with only Simon, Lindsey and AJ.
The initial, strong current as we followed the line at 2-3m quickly abated as we dropped off the shallow sandy shelf towards 7m. We were pleasantly surprised by the visibility, it was much better than we had anticipated - reminiscent of a great day at Wraysbury (approximately 5m). It was also noticeably brighter, perhaps due to the lack of algal bloom (or any other life forms for that matter), hence the usual green tinge clouding out the sunlight was conspicuous in its absence.
Moving along the bottom it became apparent that we were surrounded by many craters all merrily bubbling away. There were baby ones, fizzing away like champagne and much larger ones belching their gases from the depths. But what were we actually looking at? Along the fault line, on which Kleifarvatn sits, the Earth's magma is found relatively shallow, heating the bed rock around it to a toasty 1000C. At an average depth of 2000m below the surface, water that naturally percolates downwards, meets the hot rocks, literally boiling it and sending it back towards us Earthlings. Surrounded by grey, sandy, lifeless, craters I decided this was definitely what the Moon would look like... if it were underwater... and fizzy.
Meanwhile, back in the lake, AJ navigated his way around the local area, trying to show us the best and noisiest craters. Larger areas of 'champagne' type fizzing made the clearly audible and unmistakable noise of gas escaping underwater. We finished the tour with the aptly named 'Dragon's Den' which consists of 2 large deep craters (but no entrepreneurs) into which we descended amongst the bubbles to a depth of 10m. In the craters the light and visibility reduced noticeably so we did not press on to the bottom (around 18m).
The end of the dive came at the 30 minute mark and again featured some fairly energetic finning against the current back on the shallow sandy shelf and more backward walking. Once back on shore I certainly felt like I had a good all over workout; a decent amount of physical exertion due the entry/exit, currents and low temperatures, with a nice side-serving of mental anxiety (caused in the main by the perceived threats of the difficult weather and dive conditions).
So this was the coldest dive of the trip, registering 1.9C on Simon's bling computer. But did it feel cold? Once out of the wind and below the surface - no it didn't. A combination of some excellent garments, physical exertion and distractions (the enjoyment of studying the lake bed) meant it never really crossed my mind. I have felt A LOT colder on platforms in Wraysbury during winter, assisting on dry suit courses. It was great to experience the cold water technology functioning well, first hand, in the coldest (and most geo-thermally active) body of water I have ever dived in.
In 2011 I became the proud owner of a new ratchet reel. Having had 2 years of use out of the reel I wanted to pen a few thoughts for those thinking of investing.
- Breaks easily when trapped underwater in large swell.
- Cheap to replace.
- Hard to lose.
- Cumbersome to use.
- Tangles Easily.
- Looks Cheap.
British Sail-Steam Cargo-passenger ship
Built 1862 Date of Sinking 14th September 1869
Laying between 20-27mtrs at Abu Nuhas. Straits of Gobal, North of Shadwan Island, Northern Red Sea
The Carnatic is a beautiful 19th Century wreck that lies on Sha'ab Abu Nuhas Reef. Its shallow depth means that it is accessible to all levels of diver. Despite the length of time the Carnatic has been on the seabed (it sank in 1869) it is remarkably intact. The majority of your dive can be done along the outside of the wreck past giant moray eels and other Red Sea reef fish that have made this wreck their home. In the holds you can see the remains of broken bottles and there are shoals of glass fish inhabiting them. Penetration into the holds is easy for any level of diver. To finish the dive you can head back along Sha'ab Abu Nuhas reef where you will be able to find many different types of coral and fish before ascending.
The Carnatic is one of the older wrecks in the Red Sea and after her sinking in September 1869 she lay alone on the reef of Abu Nuhâs for over 100 years before being joined by several others wrecks in the 1970’s and 1980’s. She is of iron framed planked construction and was a P&O passenger sail & steam ship, 90m in length with a beam of 12 metres.
On September 12th 1869 she began what ended up being her last voyage from Suez with an intended destination of Bombay under the command of Captain P.B Jones (who had taken command of the Carnatic in 1867). With 176 crew, 34 passengers she had a cargo of wine, cotton bails and £40,000 of royal mint gold. It is thought and widely reported that Captain Jones did most of the navigation and course plotting and with the inevitable lack of sleep certain bearings were not taken during watch changes. Whatever the reasons, the Carnatic struck the reef of Abu Nuhâs just after midnight where she did not sink immediately but became stuck on the shallow reef top. It was a clear night and the decision was made not to abandon ship, but for crew and passengers alike to remain on board. Captain Jones knew that another P&O vessel, the Sumatra was due to pass them in the opposite direction on route to Suez, and intended to seek her assistance. After a perilous night on the reef top the Sumatra had still not arrived on Sept 13th. The Carnatic appeared to be in fair condition and as nightfall approached for the second time, Captain Jones made the fateful decision to ride out another night on the floundering vessel. After some 36 hours on the reef the Carnatic finally gave up her hopeless battle against the elements and broke in half, late morning on Tuesday Sept 14th 1869. The passengers and crew abandoned ship, using the lifeboats which were not damaged and could still be launched. They allegedly used some of the previously jettisoned, tightly packed cotton bails as flotation devices, and the remaining 7 lifeboats then made for Shadwan (or Shaker) island, approx 2 miles to the south. The cotton bails were also used to keep them warm during the cold night experienced in this area in contrast to the heat of the day and to make a fire. The lives of 26 crew and 5 passengers were lost.
It is reported that Captain Henry Grant was dispatched by Lloyd’s of London to recover the valuable cargo of gold, a task which was completed (apparently in full) by November 8th 1869. This was quite a task and was a landmark in salvage operations of that time.
Today, some 135 years later, the Carnatic is a fantastic dive site. The outer reef of Abu Nuhâs should not be underestimated and surface conditions and the direction of the surface current can make mooring difficult. It is more normal these days for larger dive vessels to moor on the relatively safe south side of the reef and for divers to be ferried out to the wreck in small tender boats or RIBs. The wreck lies in around 22m of water at the base of the reef, tipped over onto her port side. She lies parallel to the reef wall with her starboard side facing towards the top of the reef. Now in two sections, amidships she is broken apart, but she still managed to sink and settle with dignity and lies is such a way that it is still easy to imagine how she once looked when intact. The current here can be strong and normally runs from the bow to stern, so it’s a good idea to start your dive at the stern and head forward into the current, before drifting back. The wooden decking is long since gone making it possible to swim between her decking beams which now look like a giant ribcage (take care as soft corals cover the wreck). The inside of the stern is full of glassfish and sweepers making her a photographers dream come true. The bow section is littered with the broken bottles which are left over from her cargo of wine. She is often referred to as the “Wine Wreck”.
Text courtesy of http://www.divesitedirectory.co.uk/
As usual, trips I organise have little foybles...
Our trip to Chepstow never actually took place in the end. As the weather had been sooooo cold, at the last minute the few of us who were signed up to go to Chepstow decided it would be too cold outside the wigwams in the evening and so at a very late stage it was decided to change the venue to Nemo33.
Nemo33 is a deep swimming pool on the outskirts of Brussels. It is 35m deep at its deepest point with shelves at various other depths along with a swim through and the temp is 33 C. It is the deepest pool in the world !
We left London Scuba at 05:30 to catch the Le Shuttle train from Folkstone to Calais and then drove to the pool.
We registered at 12:30, pool opened at 13:00 and we got a short breifing on the pool and procedures. We the had 10 mins free diving in the shallower sections before donning our scuba kit (all provided as part of the dive - you have to use thier kit except you can use you own mask & computer) and entering the pool again for a 45 min dive.
It is a great dive venue and I will be sorting out another trip soon.
We then spent the afternoon & evening in various Cafes and sightseeing in Brussels it self and drove back the following morning.
Details of Nemo33 can be found here