5th August 2012
by Richard Booth
We headed out of the Tyne with bright sunshine and a relatively flat sea powering around the South pier and across the bay towards the wreck site of the Oslofjord. Slowing down and with eyes peering at the sounder screen it was not long before a solid trace appeared and the shot was hastily dispatched over the side.
Kitted up Fiona and Richard descended down the line and almost immediately the tops of the huge diesel engines began to materialize out of the green gloom. Visibility for this site was excellent, no doubt aided by the fact that we were the first and only divers on this site. Indeed we spent the entire dive exploring around the remains of the engine room of the Oslofjord. On the seabed itself areas of the tiled engine room floor had emerged out of the silt, whilst all around us the distant shapes of the huge engines could be made out rising imposingly up towards the surface. Swimming around each engine block it was evident that numerous small crustaceans had taken advantage of the many nooks and crannies to colonise them.
Once back on the surface and with kit safely recovered Seaflea headed across the harbour entrance and around to the outside wall of the harbour North pier. The aim of this dive was to locate and recce the site of the SS Empire Knoll, wrecked after coming to grief against the outside harbour wall whilst waiting to load her cargo for her maiden voyage on the 17th February 1941.
After 15 minutes of searching Andy’s DSMB arrival on the surface indicated success. The shot was relocated close to the ‘bobbing’ DSMB and the next group of divers prepared to enter the water. By now the sky had darkened and the first distant grumbles of thunder could be heard.
Once in the water the dark clouds overhead clearly impacted on the visibility by cutting back the ambient light levels. The seabed consisted of numerous large rocks, some of which looked like they were man made, presumably debris from the construction of the pier. By now the flooding tide was very evident but the numerous rocks and gullies offered some shelter from the raging current. Hidden amongst the rocks and gully’s was wreckage, including the bottom of a hull which rather intriguingly appeared to have been filled with concrete; was this the remains of the Empire Knoll or the remains of another vessel sacrificed to provide some form of shelter during the construction of the new harbour wall? Who knows…
Numerous lobsters and a very large patrolling Pollack provided our marine life ‘fix’.
All to soon it was time to return to surface to be confronted by the dramatic sight of a darkened sky lit up by frequent flashes of lightning and a heavy downpour of rain. All in all quite a memorable end to a dive.