The first order of the day on Friday was to have a look at some co-ordinates for the Darya-Vand XI which was on the same chart as we used last weekend to find the Moraffi. After that successful search we had some hope but this time we were out of luck – nothing but sandy bottom was down there. The problem is that some of these co-ordinates are “last known position” which can be a long way from the actual location of the wreck even if it exists. We had some co-ordinates for the Ajman Glory long before we found it about 15km away.
The main intention was to have a go at Wreck X which is in the general direction of the Neptune / Jumbo but about 12km further on. It soon became apparent that this was going to be difficult without a lot of discomfort as we were heading straight into the waves. Abandoning this plan, we first had a look for the Jamal which we haven’t dived for a while and which was close to where we were at the time. Well at least it should have been. We know it’s there somewhere but despite searching at two possible locations, nothing was found. We need to check the co-ordinates I think.
Plan C was Karen’s Dhow which was the next nearest target. Having anchored the wreck at the second time of asking, Mike A suddenly discovered that his overalls were in the car rather than on the boat. He was compelled to dive in his trunks and a rather fetching top he borrowed from Polly thus becoming possibly the first cross-dresser in 406 history.
There was a bit of a current running at the surface but it was calmer under water. The barracuda were unusually absent and the resident turtle seems to have found pastures new but there were plenty of other fish including a large group of sweetlips. There was also a large crab lurking in a small steel drum. As normal on this wreck, we brought up some glassware to decorate various shelves and sideboards. For the second dive we decided to stay put rather than go to the Bigprop Dhow which is not that interesting now that the bigprop in question is safely at the club rather than attached to the wreck.
Much better weather this weekend but we went back to the Dara to recover the SMB abandoned there last week. We also went to look at some copper pipes that were spotted by Rob near the bow. These are distorted into some weird shapes presumably as a result of the fire that engulfed the vessel and caused the sinking. The viz was reasonable if not spectacular but conditions were good with calm seas and little or no current. The usual assortment of fishes were out in force including some very friendly batfish at the stern end and some clownfish vigourously defending their anemone from intruders just forward of the promenade deck. Both PJ and Cathy took some video footage of both dives so we might have a new movie to watch in a week or two.
A bit sad to see a dead turtle caught up in fishing nets. Perhaps the next Dara trip should be a net clearing dive. We do this from time to time and it does make the wreck a bit safer for divers as well as marine life.
Quote of the day: One of our number diving in brightly coloured overalls had a minor “fish feeding” episode during the surface interval. Said PJ: “Even the sick’s orange!”
Any plans for Eid Al Adha? This is due in early November and Mike is looking at possible diving expeditions further afield. It looks like being either Muscat or Salalah at the moment but enquiries are at an early stage. Watch this space.
The forecast wasn’t looking too promising last Friday so we planned a Dara dive, the thinking being that it’s not too far and so less chance of a complete abandonment. The waves were indeed on the heavy side but we got out there in one piece (actually two pieces – we took both boats) and got some diving in. The viz wasn’t spectacular but I’ve seen it a lot worse and there was the usual variety of fish life down there.
After the first dive the sea had become significantly higher so we gave up at that point and headed for port. This will necessitate a return trip to recover an SMB, inadvertently left down there. Hopefully it will be a bit calmer this weekend.
Derek made the outward journey on SP125 but came back on SP312. This was due to an unscheduled extra dive when Geoff, driving the boat, applied the anchors a bit too sharply. I missed this being underwater at the time but I’m sure some fines can be arranged!
Those on SP125 will have noticed the long overdue new seat covers which Mike has organized.
On Saturday Derek, Rob and Steve did a shore dive at Layyah. In Derek’s words:
“Three of us had been invited over to a friends to look at a wreck partially visible at low tide and accessible from the beach. When we say accessible, this is certainly true for snorkelers and swimmers. The nearest point on the road is a +500m distance from the water entry, the first beach divide for the Mahaba Resort and as we all know it can get a bit warm here. Fortunately our host Christo sweet talked a worker with a bulldozer to do the honours with the tanks to get them on the beach next to the sea entry.
The wreck top is visible a few hundred metres out opposite the second beach divide for the Maharba Resort. From the wreck top, the wreck stretches out for a good 50metres or so parallel to the coast. It looks like it has been down there a while as the barnicles and coral have certainly taken over. Visibility was about 5metres. We found and photographed a sink with taps, a 6 inch copper pipe,several pipes, three old radiators and lots of rusted steel and some remnants of wood probably from later wrecks. Sea bed was only 3 metres down so we were getting a bit of ebb and flow from the tide.
It was an enjoyable pleasant exploration and if there is a down side it is that due to its proximity to the beach it attracts a few water jet bikes who generally cleared off with a cheery wave but a surface buoy is a must. Fish life was varied and generally small, sergent majors, banner fish, goat fish, black spot bream. How this would look at high tide who knows , but another recommendation to avoid the major beach treck is to come via the sea, the boat can also be look out for water bikes.”
And now for something completely different. It wasn’t meant to be – the Zainab was the plan and we had 10 divers signed up and ready to go but the weather didn’t cooperate. There was a breeze whipping up the sea and we weren’t long out of Umm Suqeim 2 before we realized we were looking at a journey time of nearly two hours. A quick scan of the GPS showed something called “111AIR” not far away so we headed for that instead. I must admit
I thought it would be the pair of fighter jets that were dropped into the sea just offshore from the Palm Jumeirah and these are indeed in the same vicinity. What we found though was the remains of a much larger passenger jet which again had been sunk deliberately.
The anchor dropped on to parts of the central section including what’s left of a wing. There’s not that much to see here but around 50m away there’s a short section of intact fuselage which provides some good photo opportunities. A fixed rope guides you the nose section about 30m away. The controls are still intact, if a bit barnacle encrusted and the section is now home to a large sweetlips. Another fixed line takes you from the fuselage to part of the landing gear – again about 30m away.
All in all a worthwhile trip – we’ll save the Zainab for a calmer day. It was appropriate to dive an aircraft in one way. It was Dan’s first dive in quite a while and he earns his living as a professional pilot – when he’s not around the Wanderers swimming pool that is. Still if it wasn’t for 800 years of oppression…
By coincidence the aircraft is featured in this month’s Outdoor UAE magazine. It was originally a Pakistani Airbus A300 that crashed on landing at Dubai airport. There were no casualties. The aircraft was eventually taken offshore and sunk as an artificial reef. In the May edition of the same magazine there’s the story of Geoff’s recent trip to the Himalayas. This is online at:
Post dive at the pool, we were joined by Brian Kirman who is heading off with Elena to a life of leisure in Greece. Uwe took the opportunity to present him and Geoff with their “unter Wasser trinken” certificates which they somehow missed collecting at the last awards ceremony. We’re hoping he returns sometime for the advanced course (as well as some more conventional diving). Good luck Brian!
Also departing (again) is booze marshal Uwe and again we hope temporarily.
At the weekend we made a trip over to the east coast to dive Martini Rock. We hadn’t been there for a while and it made a change from the Gulf. It also enabled a larger than usual number to go out – we had 16 divers in total plus Forrester who’d offered to drive the boat. It’s also a good dive – you see bigger fish in the Musandam but that’s a much longer boat ride. The viz wasn’t the greatest but there was the usual abundance of reef fishes. The water is also getting warmer. Opinions differed as to whether the wet-suits can be ditched altogether but it’s certainly heading that way and struggling into tight neoprene on a hot boat (or beach) is a pleasure that I think is highly over-rated.
For the second dive we went to the Inchcape 2 – just around the corner from Martini. The Energy Determination this is not but it makes a pleasant dive and the moray eels seem to like it as well as a great deal else.
After half an hour or so swimming around the wreck, we set off up the line only to pass the boat driver on his way down. Forrester wanted a few minutes in the water and I think he deserved it. The efficiency of the whole day was greatly helped by having a dedicated boat handler. It meant we all went down as one wave on both dives, saving at least a couple of hours. I think it’s only fair to overlook him dumping the dive marshal on his rear end with a sudden and unannounced acceleration or his novel approach to anchoring on the Inchcape (drive over the buoy and pick up the line with the engines). No harm was done in either case.
We were finished by around 3.00 pm and spent an hour or so relaxing on the beach or cooling off in the sea with a can or two of liquid refreshment. A good end to a good day.
There was time for one last boat-handling mishap – Cathy, approaching the jetty a little too fast, had to put the throttles into sharp reverse. Unfortunately Brian was leaning over to fend off and… OK – draw the veil. Suffice it to say that he won’t be charged for his third dive!
While this was going on, Mike was taking another team to the Taha:
“I was actually able to see the wreck as I threw the anchor at it but in turned out that it was in the sand about 20m away when I got down there but it was holding. Heike, Peter and Bart went first and Peter filmed it all and came back with tales of a lion fish and enormous barracudas. Uwe and I went down second and the plan was to retrieve the 25HP motor that you see in the backyard so that took us a few minutes until it was hanging off the black drum and tied to the top of the wreck. Next I had a look inside the kitchen as the plan was to remove the fridge but although it is loose it is very heavy and it is stuck in the doorway that likely leads to the passageway beyond. I tried shifting it but no chance without lifting gear. So I came out and went towards the stern.
Next opening along from the galley doorway is the galley window. Then there is a doorway. I ripped out two doors, one must have been for the bathroom that is just aft of the deck door. Going further into the hull sinking down with my head looking towards the bottom of the ship I was in a shaft with a set of ladders over my head. This gives access to the main passage way running fore and aft inside the hull. The deck-plates directly ahead are painted green. On the wall opposite going forward is a round hole and to the right of that again there is a hole in the floor which surely leads to the engine room. To the left of the shaft in the passageway must be a cupboard which is open as you can see a fire extinguisher and other gear in there.
Later comparing notes after the dive Heike penetrated this shaft on her second dive and swam to the right along the passageway and it is confirmed that this leads to the cabins. She also found her way from the rear of the bridge on the port side down into the ship. I tried this on my second dive and indeed this must be the way onto the bridge from the accommodation deck. But it is very tight for a diver with a tank and the silt was somewhat heavy. I further studied the entry on the starboard side that I found earlier. This definitely is a ventilation shaft leading to the engine room. The upper part is laddered but you can see a staircase beyond leading down inside the ship. It’s likely that this is the staircase leading down off the main passageway. We suspect that the engine room is full of oil which will be lying against the inside of the portside hull by now but it looks very murky in the hole off the main gangway.
Anyway we have definitely found two ways into the superstructure now although I would have thought that a straight forward doorway from deck level must exist, communicating with the main gangway that gives access to the cabins, not as I have discovered, a climb down a shaft from a passage that is a space outside of a bathroom with access from the deck. However this wreck is slowly giving up its secrets. A good day in all!”
Thanks to PJ’s investigation I can report that the odd looking fishes on the Taha are Aluterus monoceros or Unicorn filefish. The western Indian Ocean is apparently part of their territory, but they have only been recorded once before on the Iranian side of the Gulf - dead( it was caught by a fisherman)
Ian Hussey and guest writers.