…but colder and clearer than the tea!
16th December 2012
Written by Kevin Thompson
Photography by Richard Booth
With a recent attempt to dive at Capernwray having been thwarted by flooded roads and leading to an extremely long drive to Ellerton Park (see The Secret of the Green Lagoon?) a plan was hatched to source an alternative but comparable dive site that might be used by the club for winter training. After a bit of online research the Blue Lagoon Dive Centre in Pontefract was identified as a possibility. Compared with Capernwray the site was marginally closer and followed a more direct route. As for costs, an annual membership fee of £5 is payable and each visit costs £10, effectively halving the cost first time divers would otherwise pay to dive Capernwray.
This provided enough of a reason to justify further research. So a reconnaissance mission was agreed and it was on a sunny December morning that we found ourselves setting off to discover what the Blue Lagoon had in store. Arriving at the centre in a little under 2 hours we were greeted by a soon to be submerged fighter jet. We entered the block unit which houses the main office, ladies and gents changing and toilet facilities, a well stocked shop and a cafeteria – and a large Canadian Newfoundland named Scuba who has been trained to assist in rescues if the needs ever arises! His smaller companion, a Jack Russell named Deco, was nowhere to be seen.
We were greeted by very friendly staff who took us through the procedure for joining. Sight of our diving qualifications was essential so we were both relieved that we had our BSAC cards and logbooks to hand!! Our photographs were taken and membership cards were produced. The centre runs a useful checking in / out system whereby your membership card is swapped for a day pass. When you have finished your diving you simply place the day pass back in its slot and take your membership card. A simple but effective method of keeping track of users and ensuring there are no divers left unaccounted for at the end of the day.
The facility also provides air fills up to 300bar and also caters for those wishing to dive using nitrox.
Having been given a tour of the facilities we pondered over the map and considered which route to take.
Access to the water is via a selection of purpose built entry points. A sturdy jetty, some shallow steps or a gently sloping incline that all benefit from railings for that extra added support. On the far side of the lake there are also two deep water entry points. These were out of bounds on the day we dived as heavy rain had left the water level too high, submerging the platforms.
For our first dive we opted to enter via the steps. After a quick buddy check we submerged into the 4°C water and headed in the direction of the Howitzer Field Gun. Visibility was a reasonable 7m. The barrel of the gun came into view first with the remainder of the weapon appearing immediately behind as we drew closer. This gun is big, with the 6m barrel almost reaching the surface. We explored the area before moving on to go in search of the mighty Sturgeon reported to patrol these waters.
As we searched we moved in and out of strange wisps of silt that hovered over the bottom like underwater Stratus clouds. The effect became more pronounced as we hunted for the elusive Guardian of the Blue Lagoon, making for a very surreal experience. Passing beyond the strange phenomenon and back into clearer water we almost swam directly by one of the Sturgeon resting on the bottom. I hurriedly grabbed Richards fin to get his attention and we moved into position to try and get some decent shots of the fish. Detecting our presence it moved off at some pace and we snapped away trying to get a decent shot of it before it eventually out swam us and disappeared off into the gloom.
We made our way to our exit point on a reciprocal bearing which somehow landed us directly in the cafeteria where we spent our surface interval munching on bacon and egg sandwiches and hot beverages of tea and coffee!
After a short break we decided to get back in for a second dive. My ‘not so dry’ suit was taking on water so we agreed that this second plunge would be relatively short whilst at the same time giving ourselves the ambitious goal of visiting three of the underwater attractions: the tank, Kit B and the Hawker Hunter Jet.
Entering the water from the jetty we followed a bearing of 190°. Moving through the water it was not too long before we saw the shape of the 8 tonne Sabre Light Tank appear in front of us resting on its impressive caterpillar tracks on a large steel platform. The main compartment has two openings leading into the vehicle which now makes a suitable home for several small fishes.
Moving off again, we went in search of our second objective – the small boat wreck of the Kit B. The wooden hull of this small sailing boat is still intact and has a smattering of small fresh water mussels attached to it. The paintwork is still visible on some areas of the woodwork and is slowly peeling away as the water goes to work.
As we headed towards our final goal the water gaining access to my suit was beginning to become uncomfortable. We got as far as ‘the cave’ when I decided it was time to signal to my buddy that I was cold. I had no problem giving my best shivering signal and we headed for the shore. The Hunter Jet had evaded us on this occasion. However, getting into warm clothing had never felt so good!
As for the Blue Lagoon, we were in agreement that this could make an excellent training site, particularly for trainee Ocean Divers and for some elements of Sports Diver training. Unlike Ellerton, the underwater attractions are not linked by guide lines, meaning that navigation between them has to be based on your compass skills rather than following your nose. The facility also pips Capernwray to the post both in terms of distance and the directness of route, and also with regard to the overall cost. There is also a conveniently located Premier Inn a short drive away, making this a contender for cost effective weekend training trips.
Those looking for deeper diving need not apply as the site provides a 7m max depth. This does of course once again make it ideal for newer divers seeking out a place to train and build up experience as well as more experienced divers wishing to brush up on underwater navigation skills.
We were also impressed by the very safety conscious attitude of the folk running the place, who demonstrated that they take their HSE responsibilities and the welfare of their customers very seriously. Future visits could well be on the cards…