Shetland Islands Wrecks and Kelp!

Club trip to Shetland on board the MV Valkyrie. 21 – 28th July 2018 – By Nic Faulks

Stern of the Fraoch Ban

A whole week diving the clear waters of Shetland, what could be better, and with the UK basking in sunshine and calm seas, surely the weather would be fantastic too? We all 8 met up at Aberdeen ready to load our kit on to the trolleys, so we could board the ferry as foot passengers. Once on the ferry we staked out a corner of the bar, where we could bask in the glory of Geraint Thomas looking more and more likely to win the tour….

On Sunday morning we arrived in Lerwick, where we were met by Hazel and her trailer. It took about 6 journeys to ferry two boat loads of kit from the port to the boat, with lots of help either end. Trafford dive club were on the Valhalla. Once we moved on to our boat, we found that our group of 8 was augmented by Collin, Peter and Stephen, all of whom were really nice guys! (Thank goodness!).

Once we had the boat brief and got our kit together, we went out of the harbour to do the first dive, the Fraoch Ban, a small fishing vessel, lying on a sandy sea bed, in 25-29m of water. The visibility was really good, and we could see the whole wreck in one go. Great for photographs. The second dive was the Munger boulder run, which is a series of gullies and walls with so many fish just pootling by. We returned to port, did some shopping for essentials, and had a wonder around the town, finding that there was a really nice bar in the cinema complex, not far from the boat. As always, we were fed on board, 3 course meal, far too much food and loved by all.

Wreck of the Gwladmena.

Day two, the day we picked up our new crew man Lee. Commercial diver and covered with the most amazing tattoos. Today’s dives were the Gwladmena, lying in 35-40 metres of water, and upright on the sandy seabed. The wreck isn’t covered with life, but the bow has a bit of metal sticking out, which looks like a bow sprit and is covered with dead man’s fingers. Inside the moved engine can easily be found, as well as the boilers. The stern however, made for some quite atmospheric shots. After racking up about 16 minutes of deco, we slowly returned to the surface. The second dive was the Giant’s Legs, a dive I have wanted to do for ages as it is covered with life but needs a calm sea of entry. It did not disappoint, with a big wall on entry, some caverns and loads of nudibranchs. Lots of them, crystal sea slugs, purple ones, yellow ones, so many I lost count (but did do a seasearch form!). Following the dives, we returned to port to discuss the plan and eat…. Eating is a common theme here – sleep, eat dive eat, dive eat sleep… and repeat!!

The Lunokholds, at 42 metres.

Day three: despite thinking that the weather was calm, we were informed that the weather in the north of the islands was too rough and that we would spend the week day diving out of Lerwick; so no E49 submarine or the huge jewel encrusted walls of Muckle Flugga…. Disappointed doesn’t explain it… ☹ For day three we dived the Lunokholds which lies in 42 metres of water. I last dived this 7 years ago on air, and remember it being so dark and dingy, but on trimix, it was light and recognisable! We followed the wreckage up and in to the gully to about 6 metres, where is it covered in seaweeds. We then bagged up and swam away from the cliff (where it was wrecked) to get picked up. The afternoon dive was called Darwin’s Pocket. Before we dived, Nick F went for an open water swim, just to see the caves! We all found the caves, and the swim through, descending to 16 metres before surfacing (almost) to swim through the wee headland cave then back down again. That was quite interesting, but from that point on the dive turned in to KELP HELL!! We navigated back round the headland, but still couldn’t find this beautiful wall…. Turns out that no one on our boat found it… but all 12 on the other boat did. Hmm, me thinks that something was lost on us in the dive brief!

Back into the harbour again, for a three-course meal followed by a stroll around Lerwick and a beer at the Cinema. The weather looked calm, if wet and not very warm…. We were all longing to see the E49.

Bow of the Glenisla

Day four, a dive on the Glenisla, this is a wreck I didn’t doo last time, as I through that 44 metres was too deep for me and that I wanted to do a scenic dive. So now on a rebreather and tri-mix we descended the line, to find a relatively well-lit wreck, sat upright on the sandy seabed at 44 metres. There is quite a bit to see, not least the dramatic stern and bow (both photogenic!). Inside the wreck, the stem bell with nipple can easily be found, as well as a few lumps of discarded cheese (I mean phosphorous), but the most interesting bit is the engineers machine room, where you can still see a vice on the tool bench as well as a spanner. Amazingly preserved. There were also quite a few young ling on the wreck, hiding out under bits of wreckage. Quite a nice dive this one. The second dive was a scenic dive, but as I jumped in something terminal happened to my dry-suit. I just felt all the air coming out of my neck seal, and water coming in. I lasted about 26 minutes, till my feet started to get wet, where upon we ascended, back to the boat. Brrrr. Dave and Andy stayed down for 74 minutes, Andy by then freezing and bored, but Dave does like his minutes underwater…..

Day 5 dawned a little bit warmer, with some blue sky. The wind was starting to increase, so for the first dive we dropped on to the Gwladmena again. I thought it would be boring to redo the dive so soon, but far from it, it presented a great opportunity to go and look at new things and take photographs gain, to hopefully better the previous attempt. We were the first group on the wreck, so visibility was clear, but we paid for that on the way up the line. As we were ascending, the next group were coming down the line, some dragging them selves down, others, trying to keep them selves up. This resulted in a total tangle on the line, with it being variously dragged down or being ripped up. In just 10 seconds, four of us sent up blobs and came off the line to do our remaining deco…. It was an utter nightmare, something I never want to experience again. On surfacing we found that the other boat was already picking up divers! They must have literally descended, bagged up and ascended. When we were all safe back on board, we told Helen and hazel that we NEVER wanted to be put in that position again, some of us were on the line with 16 minutes of deco and with no warning the line just became war zone!

Crystal seaslug

The second dive was Kebister Ness, a dive I have done before and found loads of octopus, but this time there weren’t any. Boo, but we had a chilled time just floating around and prodding bits of wildlife! After 50 minutes Si bagged up and it seems that as we ascended, the boat drifted on to and snagged the DSMB. It then started dragging us, as the wind blew the boat. Si had to cut the line. Then turned to me and I realised to my horror that my DSMB wasn’t on my clip. So we had to swim in to land and ascend in 3 metres of water, where we knew the boat could not go. We then had to swim out to the boat to get picked up – all safe, and I found the DSMB on the deck, it must have un clipped. We then went to pick up Si’s DSMB. Dave W and Nick F were put in further towards the rocky nose of Kebister, where they found quite a bit of wildlife.

We returned to port, the last full day of diving, loads of food and a few beers.

The final day, day six dawned windy and with heavy showers. The plan was just one dive on the Glenisla,

Dave looking like a superhero!

without meeting the other group on the line. The dive was lovely, nice again to do the same dive a second time. Took lots of photographs, racked up about 18 minutes of deco, and descended without incident up the shot line. Yay! Lots of disassembling and packing then ensued. Although the ferry wasn’t till the afternoon, everyone was in packing mode. After lunch the sun came out and it got quite warm on the boat, too warm. To avoid the heat

in the boat, we all went outside for the group photograph. Then worked together to load Hazels trailer to return the kit to the Ferry and the line of trolleys. The ride home was uneventful, and we all hit the hay pretty early as we were all quite tired after 6 days of diving.

All in all a fun trip, just a shame we didn’t end up going to the north of the islands to dive the E49, but there will always be a next time. Also learned a valuable lesson about shot lines…. Always beware that another group may land on it too! Everyone had a good week, and will take back some great memories, and likely as not a few additional pounds due to all of the voluminous and fantastic food that we were fed all week – Thank you Helen.