Last Friday the sea was again very smooth. We decided to go to the Ajman Glory on the grounds that it’s easy to navigate around if the viz was as atrocious as last week. Well you couldn’t call it crystal but the viz had nevertheless improved – perhaps around 3m. The wreck doesn’t seem to have come to any harm in the recent bad weather and is still the same as the last time we dived it. After the Taha last week this was a relief. There were a family of batfish around the mast and rigging who were friendly as usual.
For the second dive we went wreck hunting. We have a few sets of co-ordinates in Sharjah waters to be investigated as and when we can. One of these was called the Beatrix Maria and since the given position was on the way home it seemed like a good opportunity. The search proved to be a bit of a puzzle. We were very excited when a large bulge appeared on the echo sounder near the zero point but successive dives revealed nothing but sandy bottom. I’m not ready to give up on this one just yet and we’ll have another look next time we’re over that way but on this occasion we came up empty.
After a period sailing around the Greek islands the Kirman’s are back in town for a couple of months. We hope to see Brian on the dive boat once or twice!
It was day of mixed feelings on Friday. It least we got a dive away – in fact the sea was so calm we didn’t stop at the Taha but carried on to Wreck X which is another 18km out in the same direction. Like a couple of weeks ago, the surface viz was very clear – the Burj Khalifa was visible from 45km offshore and the shorter buildings on the Dubai and Sharjah skylines could be seen from not much less.
Mike and Geoff were first in the water and Geoff performed a backward roll entry that will surely pass down into 406 legend. His reel was clipped on to his BCD and became caught on the side of the boat as he went over the side. He found himself hanging from the boat, vertical but upside down, fins waving in the air and unable to move in any direction. It took two of us to haul him back on board for a second attempt (once we’d stopped laughing).
After this though, the fun stopped. The surface viz might have been 45km but the viz under water was that many centimetres. Not only that, but the anchor had missed the wreck which couldn’t be found despite a circular search. It can’t have been far away but in the dark and dingy murk you didn’t have to miss it by much and at 35m there was not much time to hang around finding it. We decided that Wreck X would wait for better conditions and headed back to the Taha which unfortunately was even more disappointing.
A short geology lesson may be needed here: the floor of the Gulf consists of sand on top of a thin (70 – 80cm) layer of cap rock. Below this is a variable layer of white nasty goo which is mostly silt but is usually known by a similar four letter word familiar to most of us. Below this is a hard layer of sandstone. What can happen to a wreck in stormy conditions is that it starts moving, punches through the cap rock, sinks through the silt (which has a bearing capacity of nil) and ends up sitting on the sandstone, a lot deeper than it used to be.
This happened to the Mariam Express four years ago, and now to the Taha. Much of what was visible has now been swallowed by the seabed. Exactly what it now looks like is difficult to say as the viz was even worse than Wreck X. We groped our way from stern to bow and back but there wasn’t much incentive to stick around too long down there. The sea was now mirror flat so we made good time back to Al Khan and thence back to the club and the dive table.
Former club members continue to emerge from the shadows. This whole thing was started by Barry Thomas who was a member in the Ajman days and plans to visit us on 19 February when passing though on the way to Australia. Since then John Lewis, Gavin Halling, Mark Hampson and Stuart Shaw have all been in contact with us (and with each other). Who needs Friends Reunited anyway? Stuart wrote the following:
From an old member circa 73/76.
We didn’t make it out last weekend and we weren’t alone in that. Despite the uncertainty over which weather bulletin to trust, the forecast for Friday was unpromising to say the least and threatening to become worse condition as the day went on. No-one seriously argued when Mike called it off and his decision was entirely vindicated by the gales on Friday causing huge waves on Ajman Corniche. What it was like further off-shore one can only imagine.
So no diving to write about but Barry Thomas’s email that I included last week has caused some comment.
Gavin Halling sent the following from Australia:
You may recall my visit of a couple of years ago when I was lucky enough to be able to dive with the club on the Dara some 20 years after my last dive there. I was a club member from ’75 – ’79.
Gavin came diving with us (the Dara of course) in May 2009 on his way through the area and a photo taken on Hamriyah beach is attached. Gavin I think has a Dara porthole on his porch in Australia.
It was John Lewis who returned the “Trucial States Sub-Aqua Club” plaque to us from Alaska. John sent a couple of then and now photos (attached). He met his wife, Vicki at the club bar in 1978 and they look to be enjoying themselves in Alaska. I don’t suppose a 3mm is enough though!
Welcome to 2013!
If you’re doing a dive on the first weekend of the year, what better place to go than the Dara? As it turned out there may have been several better places to go than the Dara but the first decision that had to be made on Thursday evening was whether to go diving at all. The previously reliable weather bulletin that was issued by the meteorological office at Dubai Airport has been shut down for some reason (perhaps Sheikh Ahmed is saving up for another A380 or two). Alternative sources of information on the web were inconsistent to say the least ranging from flat calm (good news) to 5-7 foot off-shore waves (not such good news). We decided to take the optimistic view but going to the Dara seemed prudent as this is closest to shore if we had heavy seas to cope with.
After leaving port we found a slight swell but the sea was otherwise very calm and got progressively flatter as the day wore on to the point of being almost mirror smooth on the way back. 5-7 foot waves?? Some weatherman was still suffering his New Year hangover I think!
Arriving at the wreck, the anchor went over the side attached to a buoy with the painter looped through and “secured” to the boat. After a few minutes, the boat had not stopped moving and we concluded that the anchor was dragging. Looking up we noticed that it wasn’t the anchor that was the problem but the painter which had come free and the buoy was now 30m ahead and steadily receding. It would be unfair to reveal the name of the careless individual who had fixed the painter as I’m sure Geoff would agree.
The diving was not to be all fun and games however. Although there wasn’t too much current, the viz was atrocious and the Dara itself was covered in nets to a degree that I’ve never seen before. A major clearing operation is urgently needed – until then the wreck is hazardous and great care must be taken to avoid becoming entangled. We did a short tour through the cathedral section and along the deck towards the stern before doing an ascent on a DSMB. Mike freed one large jack that had caught itself but generally we were more concerned about each other and keeping ourselves out of the nets.
For the second dive we went to the Tek, a small tug boat a few km to the north. The viz was no better but the wreck is small and getting lost is difficult. There were a few nets here as well but mainly they were a danger to fish rather than divers. We did a small favour to the environment by cutting them off.
A few club members from days gone by have tracked us down via the web site and I received the following email last week accompanied by the attached photos, Barry and his wife are stopping over in the UAE on the way to Australia and should be at the club in February. We look forward to seeing them.
Ian Hussey and guest writers.