Friday, 25 June 2010

A long way for fish and chips...

My turn to Blog again – not sure how that happened so fast. Mary refuses to take her turn so I guess I’d better write something.

Waiting at the quayside in Lochaline for the boat to arrive in the drizzle – anyone would think we were in Scotland.

Today we are informed that our dive boat Sound Diver will run out of fuel – not a good idea in the Sound of Mull – so an afternoon’s excursion to Oban is suggested. Diving operations on the John Preston will end at 3pm and we will head south to Oban for fuel before the garage closes at 5pm.

In order for us to achieve all the archaeological dives before 3pm we will had to be slick. Mary becomes ‘mother’ for the day and chivvies everyone along so that divers are ready as soon as we are on site, and 2nd wave divers are ready for the water as soon as the first wave are back on the boat. Mother did well – we had 3 waves of diving and were back at the Dive Centre for lunch before 1pm.

Visibility on the John Preston has generally been exceptional with a slight tide running most of the time helping to keep the site clear. Unfortunately the tide has been predominantly from east to west and our two trenches are at the eastern end of the site. At times during dredging operations I have been reminded of conditions in the Solent, where wreck diving if frequently done by brail. When the dredge is running it has been hard to even locate some of the features which we are trying to survey as the spoil cloud covers the site and visibility can reduce to nil. This is the excuse that Dan and I used today when we were unable to carry out all our assigned tasks – sorry Mary – couldn’t find it, let alone measure it!

Soup and sandwiches devoured and we are off again for a final dive on the John Preston before heading for Oban. Having refuelled at Oban we were all offered the chance of a fun dive on the wreck of the SS Breda.

The SS Breda was requisitioned for war duties in WWII from her owners the Royal Netherlands Steamship Co. She left London for Oban on 12 December 1940 with a crew of 42 and a valuable cargo including 3 Hawker Biplanes, 30 De Havillard Moths, military vehicles, cement and a huge range of other general cargo. She was at anchor in Oban waiting to join a convoy when, on 23rd December a German Heinkel III bomber dropped its load over the ship. The bombs missed the ship but caused serious damage to a water inlet pipe. Captain Fooy managed to ground his vessel in shallow water in Ardmucknish Bay just 600 yards from the shore. The following day, as salvage was being attempted, she slipped off the shallow bank and sank. She lay undisturbed until the 1960’s when she was heavily salvaged and swept. She now lies with her bow in 24 metres, facing the shore, her stern in 30 metres and she stands some 6 – 8 metres tall.

Five of us had a great, relaxing dive on this wreck, but I felt quite ‘naked’ without my tape measure, ruler and slate!

After the dive we returned to Oban where we had to spend half an hour in the pub whilst waiting for our fish and chips to be cooked – shame.

Back to the boat – refreshed in every way – we head back to Lochaline.

Another perfect NAS Fieldschool day.

Sara Hasan

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