After last week’s non-dive we got back into the water at the weekend. It was another trip to the Sea King 5 followed by the Dara. The Sea King is beginning to grow a few barnacles as you would expect and hopefully the fish will follow. At the moment there’s not much in the way of either interesting artefacts or nice fishes. Still give it time!
The visibility on the Dara continues to be good and the dive was excellent although the current was quite strong. We hung around at the bottom of the cathedral watching some barracuda and batfish facing the current mouths open to collect whatever snacks drifted past. There was also a ray which I didn’t see myself but couldn’t dispute because Chris had a photograph. Good also to see Ronan back with us for the first time since his move to Abu Dhabi.
Friday night was also the DSDC 30th birthday party which was a great party. The wine flowed to the tune of the house band and the food was excellent. Here’s to the next 30!
Last Friday’s diving looked promising: good weather, neap tides, calm seas and two full boats – what more could we want? Well the SP125 registration card would have been nice. Unfortunately instead of sitting in the green folder in the boat it was lying on a certain Boat Officer’s kitchen table. The coastguard didn’t accept our plea of mitigation and two boats became one at this point. Enormous thanks to Dan and Neil who volunteered to go and drink beer instead of diving.
The dive itself was memorable. Getting hooked on was a bit of a hassle with a strong current and no echo sounder, the transducer having fallen off. We threw the anchor at the zero coordinate and Mike jumped in and tied the anchor line to the stern end. The viz was excellent and there were monster barracuda, leopard rays, a large group of batfish and lots of other smaller fish. The wreck itself has only been down a couple of months but the fish have already found it. A return visit is planned next week weather permitting.
The week following, 8th April, will be the Dara 50th anniversary barbecue on the beach. DSDC and ADSAC are participating so it should be a good day. Don’t miss it!
This photo shows the vets team taken a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to Lamjed for sending it to me. Others will be going on the web site shortly. The usual suspects are:
Back row: Suzy Cottam, Val Bates, Nick Bates, Clive Frost, Peter Blanchflower, Geoff Taylor, Stevie Macleod.
Middle row: Rob Gough, Karen Adamson, Harry Adamson, Mary Taylor, Yvonne Parker, Graham Wilson, Lamjed El Kefi
Front row kneeling: Joff Cottam, Dee Gregory, John Gregory, Laith Haboubi
One of our number, Geoff Patch is off to Everest Base Camp shortly. I don’t know how much diving he’ll get in (do the BSAC tables stretch to 5,500m?) but maybe that’s not the priority for this trip. Let Geoff tell it:
“Just a quick update regarding my EBC trek. Just two weeks to go before my nephew and I set off for Nepal and preparations are coming along nicely! We depart from Sharjah on 8th April for Kathmandu, where we will spend the night before the short flight to Lukla (2800m) and the start of the trek in earnest. Day time temperatures in Lukla are currently hitting 2 degrees Celsius, dropping to -10 degrees at night and will only get colder as we gain altitude on the trek to Base Camp! Recent weekend hikes in the Hajar Mountains are helping with fitness and the ‘Altivit’ vitamin supplements I’ve started taking will hopefully help me cope with the altitude in Nepal. Headaches, nausea, sleep deprivation, fatigue – I’ll be glad to get away from that and start the trek! In all seriousness I am looking forward to breath-taking scenery, an amazing experience and raising money for a good cause.
I am hoping to raise some money for the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK and I'd really appreciate your support. It's easy to donate online with a credit or debit card - simply go to my JustGiving page:http://www.justgiving.com/Geoff-Patch
JustGiving sends your donation straight to the Fund and automatically reclaims Gift Aid on all eligible donations, so what you give is worth even more. I hope you'll join me in supporting the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK.
Through the generosity of family, friends and colleagues (many thanks to those of you who have already shown your support by donating), over £2,500 has been raised so far, which takes me closer towards my target of £5,000 (about €6,500 or Dhs 33,000). Some way to go yet, but heading in the right direction.”
The diving got wiped out by the weather again this week. A shamal brought in 7 – 11 foot waves off-shore. Dive Marshall Simon’s only duty was to send an SMS giving the bad news.
As it happened, at least one of our number managed to get a dive in. Let PJ tell the story:
“Jutta and I were invited by the Environment & Protected Areas agency to join a group of officials and volunteers to visit Sharjah's island of Sir Bu Nair for the weekend. As the island has no civilian facilities, this was an opportunity not to be missed. My diving gear went ahead by Police boat, while we all flew from Sharjah airport in an Air Force Casa military transport on Thursday afternoon. The island is approximately 4km in diameter with an area of 1,500ha. It houses a military base, police station (where we were most hospitably hosted) and a military airstrip. Next to the small fishing harbour is a small 10 year old prefabricated 2-bedroom chalet, home to EMEG - the Emirates Marine Environment Group, led by Major Ali Saqr Al Suweidi, who joined us for the weekend. The exceptionally stark moonscape interior is a salt dome, rising to 81m, very rich in igneous rocks and minerals, and extensive surface and tunnel mining has taken place over the years, in particular haematite (iron ore).
I made one shallow beach dive, accompanied by Laurence Vanneyre of EMEG, snorkeling above me, as I explored the outer side of the marine jetty rich with table corals, sponges and fish. three large black-spotted rubber-lips provided testament to the healthy state of the coral. Apparently the reefs to the north and west of the island are spectacular. The beautiful rocky and beach perimeter provide the largest turtle nesting area in the Arabian Gulf. We saw many gazelle, a colony of hooded gulls preparing their nests for the breeding season, as well as a Hawksbill turtle laying her eggs. From the beach we also saw a turtle apparently reconnoitering the beach, and a couple of black-tip sharks in the surf - one bay is famous for breeding, where up a 100 might be seen when the water is clear.
Very well worth the trip, we learnt a lot about turtle conservation and tracking by EMEG and WWF. We even brought back a 4 year old barnacle encrusted Hawksbill on the return flight for rehabilitation at EMEG's centre at Ghantoot. If BSAC members are interested to spend a weekend camping and diving, permissions can be obtained, through Major Ali, or the Police. It is 120km i.e. a two and a half hour boat trip from Al Khan. (or 70km from the nearest slip just south of Taweelah) Worth considering - last year the Club went over for the day and had very good sightings of manta rays. I am now just awaiting the return of my new tanks, courtesy of Sharjah Police, as these cannot be transported by air!”
A few of us without access to military aircraft decided to take the opportunity to give the sand dunes a bit of a bash. Leading the party was a very familiar face in his blue Wrangler with the unfeasibly wide tyres – none other than Uwe Oldenburg, back in the UAE after an absence of several months. We toured round Fossil Rock, Shadow Rock and Dhaid dunes before emerging at Maleha to blow the tyres back up. Uwe marked his return by parking his car backwards against a rock in a bowl pointing uphill in soft sand. He was pulled out eventually but not before the whole episode had been witnessed by a large party of tourists who just stopped at this exact bit of desert at exactly the same time. The audience wouldn’t have looked out of place at Madison Square Garden. Welcome back Uwe!
A bit unusual to be talking about last Tuesday rather than last Friday but it was a rather good night. The vets reunion duly took place and we were able to welcome back some former members that in some cases we haven’t seen in quite a while. It was mainly Geoff Taylor’s night as he was saying farewell to the Emirates after… how many years? He came in ‘76 I think he said – correct me if I’m wrong. Geoff brought with some brass from the Dara, some old photos and some 406 logs from almost 30 years ago. The logs made fascinating reading and the photos will end up on the web site as soon as I can scan them.
As you may know, Geoff and Harry Adamson were the two guys who built the present Club building after we were evicted from the premises at the old airport. We took the opportunity to present them each with a glass tankard engraved with the 406 logo (designed by Geoff incidentally). I’ve attached a photo of the two club builders to this email. Other pictures from the night will go on the web site as soon as I can get hold of them.
Friday’s diving turned out to be a bit of a struggle for various reasons. Filling up SP 312 with fuel the hose came adrift from the fuel cap. As a result instead of filling the fuel tank, I filled up the front locker. This drained into the bilges so when we got to Hamriyah our first task was to drain it on a patch of sand. So we were a bit late before we even got to the Dara. That dive was pretty good though – flat calm, no current and reasonable viz.
For the second dive we went to Cathy’s barge – recently discovered and about 8km away. By this time the current had picked up and although we could see it on the echo sounder, we couldn’t hook it even after several attempts. In end Mike volunteered to dive in at the zero point and fix a rope by hand. This was successful so we got the second dives in, albeit both short.
For Aaron, Matt, Jules and Jen these were qualification dives for Ocean Diver and they all performed very well. They’ve also just passed their theory test – congratulations to them all.
By the time we got back to the club the post-dive drink had turned into a sundowner but it was all the more welcome for that. Did I say drink? Well Simon, Matt and Aaron all bought rounds of Guiness to get the free T-shirt and there were a few other rounds as well. I like to call it team building!
The barbecue on Hamriyah beach for the Dara 50th anniversary is going ahead on 8th April. DSDC and ADSAC are also getting involved so it should be quite an event.
Also one I forgot last week – Brian and Derek are trying to organize a weekend on the Ekatarina, a luxury yacht. The target is 2 days, 2 nights with 7 dives on 1st / 2nd April and the cost is Dhs 2,500 per person. There’s a bar on board which I assume is extra but everything else is included. Anyone interested please make yourself known. The minimum number is 12 people and the maximum is 18.
Last Friday had to be called off due to some seriously strong winds causing some seriously big waves. The forecast was 13 – 16 foot offshore at one point and although it moderated a bit on Friday morning it was still too much to contemplate taking the boat out. Next Friday will probably be Dara / Cathy’s Barge as promised for last weekend.
Speaking of the Dara, on Friday 8th April it will be 50 years to the day since the explosion on board that caused its sinking two days later. It was in my mind that we could use the occasion to have a barbecue on Hamriyah beach with a couple of trips out to the wreck. We’ve done this sort of thing before and they’ve always been good events, particularly before the weather gets too warm. Perhaps also, it might not be inappropriate to remember that nearly 240 people lost their lives on that morning half a century ago.
Here are some interesting links for more information and pictures about the sinking of the Dara:
BI passenger/cargo liner Dara sank 2 days after an explosion and a devastating fire on board. The disaster has been well documented as the loss of life was so considerable the final figure was 238 deaths, the greatest number of fatalities during peacetime after the Titanic. The wreck now lies in three main sections, although the mid section is smashed beyond recognition.
Ian Hussey and Dive Club writers.