A Little Background
Back in 2022, during both the first and second times I was invited to dive the Klein Hollandia, there was an embargo on publishing any photography or videography. At that time, the wreck site was known as the “Unknown Wreck Off Eastbourne” and the Nautical Archaeology Society were still waiting to finalise and confirm their beliefs before announcing the name in BBC TV’s popular archaeology series Digging For Britain, airing in January 2023. Season 10, episode 4.
Being unable to join the NAS team in August this year, it was a keen desire to again visit the wreck on the Society’s first official Protected Wreck Day. Having also previously booked and surrendered an earlier date this year to Ollie, his day was blown out and with Andy, this visit on 22nd September 2023 was greeted with great expectation by the three of us. We had been discussing plans via email for the previous few months and as the week opened, horror as high winds and sea state suggested that this date would be blown out too. Disaster on Tuesday as Andy and I had to cancel our hotel bookings before the free cancelation clauses expired.
Go Or No Go
Wednesday came and went, then Thursday’s weather report for Friday was confirmed as good-to-go. The winds had somehow disappeared and with fair sea conditions, Andy and I travelled to Eastbourne in readiness for an early boat loading time. Looking out of the hotel bedroom window on Friday morning, it wasn’t looking too shabby at all! Having not met Ollie before, plans were made to meet in the car park of Sovereign Marina.
Although our kit was setup, it’s always nice to arrive a little earlier and just after Andy and I arrived, Ollie turned up along with a host of other divers. Everyone introducing themselves, including a lady called Kath who I was told to look out for as she will be joining the Scillies trip next year. Even though everyone had never met each other before, it was if it was a gathering of long lost friends. Everyone was keen to dive this morning!
We were diving today with Dave Ronnan of Sussex based Dive125 on the specially designed dive boat “Our W”. Safety briefing and dive explanation was made in the marina lock and then it was off on our way.
There was no need to don drysuits up in a rush as the Klein Hollandia site was around an hour transit away. The plan was that two NAS divers would secure the shot in the middle of the site, allowing guest divers to descend with their site plan and to easily navigate the area. The plan for Ollie, Andy and me was to visit and identify the eight bronze cannons. Having only seen cannon 6 with Nick last year, our objective was simple.
Even though we had been speaking for three months or more, it seemed we could not organise a piss up at a brewery! Ollie; back gas air and 50% deco. Andy; 32% back gas and 50% deco. Me, 32% back gas and 80% deco. It was with Pete that we discussed the possible benefits of a higher O2 content in a deco gas in Scapa Flow last year. Having been out of the water for the majority of the summer, it was an 80% mix that remained in the January filled deco cylinder for me.
With this information at hand, we bench marked the dive plan on Andy’s gases with a bottom time of around 45 minutes at 32m. iDeco Pro suggested a TTS of 15 minutes and a run time of around an hour. Perfect! With my deco gas at 80%, I would in theory surface the water 4 minutes earlier than Andy. Thus between Andy and I, his TTS would be around 15 minutes and mine around 11 minutes.
In comparison, Ollie’s plan would mandate a shorter bottom time or an extended deco obligation. Ollie however, wanting to match Andy and my bottom time, was happy to concede an additional deco obligation. Entering in his gases, iDeco Pro suggested a run time of 71 minutes with the same bottom time of 45 minutes, hence 26 minutes deco and around 11 minutes more than Andy. One idea was to swap Ollie’s 50% for my 80% meaning that I would match Andy and reduce Ollie’s obligation by five minutes. Ollie was happy to stay on 50% and hence the plan was set; a plunge to 32m for 45 minutes and ascend. Clearing first, I would wait for Andy and when he was clear, Ollie was happy for us both to surface leaving Ollie on his DSMB for the remaining 11 minutes.
As per normal protocols diving this site and that of Dive125, the shot will be recovered during the dive. The last divers in would send the shot to the surface, all divers having to deploy a DSMB, one per diver. Whether that was two or three up one reel or three reels, it would be one blob per diver.
We were team two. Once the shot was secured, we were lined up and ready to jump. Splish, splash, splosh and the three of us were on the shot, then descending to the seabed. A lot of snotty plankton to 10m but then it thinned out. The water from above suggested an ambient light at depth and we were not disappointed. Andy had the site plan and once we were orientated, it was simply a case of following the map.
The Klein Hollandia site is around 35m in length and perhaps 20m in width. It is on a sandy seabed and with a NAS “no take” policy, littered with scallops, edible crabs and eels making the cannons their home. The site includes an extensive wooden hull structure, thought to be it’s starboard side with various iron cannons and eight bronze cannons, Italian marble tiles and pieces of northern European and Italian pottery. There are bricks/tiles which are thought to be the ship’s galley and a cargo which is suspected to be marble. With that in mind, here’s the GoPro video we made.
A textbook Tec45 dive. Well, nearly! LOL! A square profile to 32m on 32% for me and Andy, 21% for Ollie and 40min bottom time as aforementioned. A TTS of 15 minutes for Andy. Andy and Ollie switched at 21m to 50%, I switched at 9m on 80%. This higher percentage deco gas getting me out of the water 4min earlier than Andy, but I staying a little longer which maybe my default profile since the Zenobia bend. In contrast and leaving the bottom with us at 40min, Ollie’s TTS was 13 minutes longer with total run time of 73min. A cracking dive with NAS in ambient light to 32m with (I’d say) 4-5m clean but snotty visibility and loads of bronze cannons and a warm 17degC at depth.
Discovered in 2019, the Klein Hollandia was considered so important that within three months it was granted the highest level of protection under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Only licensed divers are allowed to dive to the wreck site. The wreck was discovered by Eastbourne dive operator David Ronnan and reported to Historic England. David Ronnan and Mark Beattie-Edwards from the Nautical Archaeology Society are the licensees and have been investigating the wreck since its discovery.
At time of writing, the Nautical Archaeology Society Dive Club (NASAC) as affiliated to the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC Branch 2574) has spaces on their last dive of the year on Friday 20th 20th October 2023. Loading Eastbourne at 07.15am at a cost of £65.00 to include a dive on the Klein Hollandia (32m) and then the nearby Normans Bay Wreck (12m). You do not need to be a member of NAS, simply contact Mark Beattie-Edwards to book.
You do not have to be a member of the Nautical Archaeological Society to dive the Klein Hollandier, but there are a number of benefits of membership including discounted prices on events like this and courses. Individual membership costs £40.00 and you can join here. Take a look at last year’s dive to the Holland No.5 pre-WWI submarine.