Scapa August 2017
Cambsac trip to Scapa August 2017
Late on Saturday August 26th, eleven Cambsac divers boarded MV-Valkyrie for a weeks liveaboard in Scapa flow, Orkney. The plan was to dive the German high fleet, scuttled in the harbour at the end of the first World War.
The Valkyrie is a converted fishing boat, accommodation is cosy, but more than adequate for our requirements. Highlights included the large tea urn and video library, as well as on-board wifi.
Diving commenced on Sunday, with an introduction to the high fleet on the Karlsruhe II, a light cruiser which lies in 20ish metres, followed by a shallow afternoon dive on the V83 destroyer. We were also introduced to the Valkyrie hospitality, one welcome feature of which included hot beverages thrust into your hand immediately on de-kitting.
The big stuff started on Monday, and over the week we dived all four cruisers, Brummer, Dresden, Coln and Karlsruhe-some were so good we did them twice. We dived two of the three battleships, namely Kronprinz Willhem and Markgraf. Both lie keel up and are immense, and overwhelming: sobering to consider their history. We also dived an interesting array of smaller vessels including a U-boat and destroyer-barge combo.
It is difficult to describe the enormity of what is on the sea bed in Scapa. My first view of the Kalsruhe resulted in a combination of awe and excitement and the anticipation of dropping off the shotline on to a huge hulking mass of metal continued over the week. There was so much to see on the wrecks, guns were probably the most popular and discussed item spotted, but there were so many other bits of interesting machinery, anchors and historical features to see as well. It would take weeks to get to know even one of these wrecks in any detail.
Visibility was between 3-6m on the high fleet and better on some of the more tidal wrecks, sometimes up to 10m. I can only imagine how amazing the ships would look in better vis. As well as metal, of course there was wildlife, with lots of wrasse, plumose anemones, congers and the occasional seal providing good material for the budding photographers amongst us.
Fantastic and detailed dive briefs were delivered by the always enthusiastic Helen. These were presented on a large screen TV with plenty of images, including 3D and suggestions for dive plans. Of course, the immenseness of the wrecks made it impossible to see everything, although some people were more successful in this than others (or in imagining they had seen things-more guns than the ship carried in some cases).
Food, and lots of it was the second theme of the week, with Helen producing huge and delicious meals twice a day no one felt the need to eat out. Beer made a lesser appearance, partly due to difficulty in squeezing it in after the food, but also due to some local supply issues with Scapa Special; we persevered of course and managed to contribute to the local ale economy.
Equipment fails and losses were few thankfully, although we did have two epic dry suit floods on both the first (Nick and Dave W) and last (Tim and Phil) days. A few trips to Scapa Scuba resolved most issues, but not Dave’s suit which is now condemmed. He gets a special mention for completing 11 dives in 12oC in a semi-dry. Life on deck was made comfortable by Merlyn, who provided gas fills, got everyone in and out ok, operated the boat lift and generally assisted with kitting up, all under the watchful eye of Dug the boat dog, who also made sure Phil did not drop too much kit overboard (only one mask-retrieved by the other boat).
We did have some mild excitement on Wednesday morning. As we waited to dive the Markgarf, Valkyrie was diverted to pick up divers from another boat. One of their group had an immersion incident and was fast tracked to Stromness-fortunately she made a full recovery. Confusion on the part of the divers on the other boat turned to delight upon discovering the hot chocolate with marshmallow option on Valkyrie. I discovered that being always last to kit up has its advantages in this situation, poor Reni had to get fully de kitted while we organised the excess divers. Eventually, all returned to normal and diving resumed as planned.
Surface activities were limited as the day was filled with diving, eating, logging, sleeping, diving and drinking Scapa Special, although we did manage a historic walking tour of Stromess, and Dave S liked the circle of Brodger so much he went twice!
Overall a great week. 11 divers completed 132 dives, most importantly, safely and enjoyably. Everyone looked out for each other, assisting with equipment and buddying as required to accommodate all. We liked it so much that we have reserved a spot for Shetland 2020-either on Valkaryie, or her sister boat Valhara, which apparently has more head room-handy for Dave S.
Many thanks to Luke for organising, Helen and Hazel for great hospitality, Merlyn, Dug and Bruce the skipper for crewing and to all of Cambsac team Scapa for contributing to a fabulous week of diving.
Dive trip trip report scapa