The weather was pretty abysmal into the new year, though as we approached Monday 10th January it became apparent that a weather window was opening up that coming neap weekend. Having already dunked a few times with a couple of quarry “Ice Breaker” days at Vobster, my wife will attest my excitement of three days of diving from Dover that coming weekend.
Experience tells me to pre-book accommodation and with our hotel booked months beforehand, it was a welcome text from Chris that announced three sites of the SS Pomerania, WA Scholten and HMT Peridot for the coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. High water that weekend and minimal daylight hours dictated one dive a day and with leisurely ropes off times of 11.30am, 12.00noon and 12.15pm respectively, my plan was to drive down Friday morning and spend two nights on the town.
HMT Peridot [+1940]
My buddy today was Peter. Perfect topside conditions today. Sea state 1, not a cloud in the sky and remarkably warm. Underwater however, a very different story. A murky dark 1m visibility on this inshore wreck. Run time was 47 minutes at 31 metres maximum depth on HMT Peridot. A little chilly in the water too with temperature of 9degC. A thoroughly enjoyable dive with the added bonus of a continually flooding mask was entertaining. Not! All warmed up back on board with a hot Lumumba. Then back to port, showered, best party frocks adorned and in the pub by 4.30pm for dinner and an early night.
The regular Mutiny Diving haunt of Cullins was chosen for this evening with Tom booking a table. Tonight I was drinking sparking water, to the ridicule of the others and with ropes off at noon the next day, a relaxed evening of diving talk, beer and burgers. Obviously the word “visibility” was used on numerous occasions this evening and Tom suggested that we should perhaps scuttle the proposed dives to the east and head west towards Dungeness where he felt the ebbing tide would give extra visibility and being a little further offshore. Sites discussed were HMS Blackwater, SS Unity, SS City of Dresden, SS Excellence Pleske and the SS Nunima.
SS Nunima [+1918]
A little frost and mist overnight, but Saturday’s weather forecast was similar to Friday. Further to last night’s discussions, Chris advised an earlier ropes off time to find better visibility at an offshore was now planned.
Today’s site was thus chosen as the SS Nunima as lost in 1918. Local fishermen were reporting to Tom that the water visibility was clearer to the west as he thought. Hence the overnight decision was indeed to change the advertised site and “punch the tide” westward for an hour or so transit towards Dungeness. The ebbing tide from the Atlantic and more distant offshore location should prove dividends we were told. My buddy today was Andy as Pete was unfortunately feeling a little green around the gills.
As we approached the Nunima, the water became clearer and clearer and when the shot was deployed, I would say a good 4m.
It was a busy boat with 11 divers, so Andy and I decided to jump last. Helping other divers kit up, it was then our turn. There was no rush as we were on a good two hour neap slack window. We descended the shot from a pale Pantone 7485UP to a Pantone 362UP green shade with a good 4m to 6m visibility, light haze and some ambient light. A certain inverse from yesterday!
Preference was to ascend the shot. Lining out on the wreck, we zigzaged to traverse the large and pretty intact infrastructure. It was difficult to navigate the wreck as it seemed the shot had landed in the mass of tangled metal, the cause of her demise.
Run time was exactly 50 minutes with a maximum depth of 28m. As aforementioned, visibility a pleasant 4m to 6m. Water temperature was 9degC, thus feeling a little nippy during the 9 minute deco stop. No underwater photos as I lost my GoPro. C’est la vie!
That evening and with dapper party frocks adorned for a second consecutive evening, ten of us met at the new Rico Sabor tapas restaurant for dinner. A relaxing meal with a toast from Chris in celebration of the first dives of 2022 and what we hope will be a good year!
SS Pommerania [+1878]
A noon meeting today provided a Sunday lay in and leisurely breakfast beforehand. Although the morning was overcast and dreary, the skies cleared although a little cold around lunchtime. Sea state today was more a 4 than the forecast 3, with rolling 2m swells. Dive time was 2.00pm to the SS Pommerania as sunk in 1878. Like yesterday, a cracking 4m to 6m visibility, though a little darker than the Nunima. Some ambient light with no torch.
A very relaxing bimble around the collapsed hull on the seabed, eyes peeled for any items that glistened. We were the penultimate divers into the water. Around 35 minutes into the dive, the current started to run, so DSMBs deployed for ascent as we drifted off the wreck. Total run time was 49 minutes to a maximum depth of 28m, with the 9degC water temperature made it a little cold towards the end again.
Back on board it was good news as Maverick has gas again, so teas and coffees all round with biccies! My buddies today were Andy and Peter. All being well, our next outing is planned for 28th, 29th and 30th January.
The Pommerania was a mail steamship was en-route from New York to Hamburg with 109 passengers and emigrants together with 125 crew and general cargo. She collided with the Welsh barque Moel Eilian near Dungeness Point and sunk in less than 20 minutes. Small artefacts can still be found, here is what appears to be a wheel from a clock innards as found around the gunnels of the skeletal remains on the shingle seabed.