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Mike Clark

ISSUE 12 ARCHIVE - BEST DIVE, WORST DIVE, MIKE CLARK

BEST: I don't have to think too far back as my best-ever dive occurred in September this year. It was my fourth visit to the wreck of the U12, a German U-boat that lies 25 miles off Eyemouth in 48 metres of water. My previous dives on the wreck were all good but the first two attempts had visibility ranging from 3-6 metres, not so good for photography! The third dive was in February when water temperatures in the North Sea are at their coldest. Visibility was good and I captured some great shots but hadn't really nailed the image I wanted of the wreck. This time though, as I dropped down the shot line, I could see the wreck from 20 metres. I could make out tiny round hatches and the conning tower over 20 metres below me. Schools of whiting engulfed the wreck.
Halcyon Eclipse Infinity
Boom Tubes As I descended, I let go of the shot line and angled myself to veer to the stern of the boat where, after drifting through the school of fish, I could view the twin stern torpedo tubes mounted above the twin screws and the remains of the rudder. This was the image I had returned to the wreck to capture and the conditions were perfect. I knelt on the seafloor underneath the stern for around five minutes capturing images. I even noted the live torpedo in one of the stern tubes which you can read more about in my new book, 'Wrecks and Reefs of Southeast Scotland'. Due to the good conditions I had decided to carry out a long runtime and spend 30 minutes on the wreck. I'm so glad I did as the light and the marine life on the wreck that day were fantastic.

Finning up to the aft hatch I noted a brass light lying on the floor. Further forward at the conning tower, I looked through the hatch to see the periscope, voice tubes, valves and another lamp. Portholes with little wiper blades could also be seen on the conning tower itself. Finning further forward to the fore hatch, large dishes from the galley could be viewed. After finning around the bow and noting the torpedo tubes, I looked back and could see divers 20 metres away happily exploring the conning tower. I drifted back taking pictures all the way. A couple of divers even posed at the conning tower enabling me to get some really nice shots. For me this was a superb wreck dive with the added bonus of learning about the vessel's history. After surfacing, the run in back to port was great with the divers all excitedly discussing this fantastic dive. It was a memorable day for me and my favourite dive to date.
WORST: Diving in the Firth of Clyde on Scotland's west coast is generally a fairly sheltered affair. On this day, however, a gale was blowing from the south ruling out the favourite dive sites. This was no big deal as the shipwreck Europa was sheltered from the wind and we planned to dive this wreck instead, which was good news as I had never dived this wreck before. Another plus was that a humpback whale was spotted in the Clyde that day and we saw it a few times another first for me. Things were going well, I was buddied with a chap I had dived shallow with a few times before. We were both happy and qualified to dive the 40-metre deep wreck.

The wind and rain were grim but as we slipped beneath the surface we experienced a serene green light with visibility of around 4 metres until we dropped below 14 metres when it turned black. Arriving at the wreck and after checking we were OK, I noticed anemones and crinoids and started to recognise parts of the ship. Then I noted light flashing behind me and saw my buddy clawing for the surface. He was panicking as he had become entangled in the wreck. A carabineer clip dangling from the line of his reel had managed to clip itself onto the wreck. I did my best to reassure him and calm him down but he was only interested in bolting for the surface. I dumped the air from his dry suit and his BC and moved underneath him to unclip him from the wreck. I held onto him, intending to complete a buoyant lift. This was difficult in the tide and we were washed off the wreck and landed on the seafloor below 40 metres. I began to inflate his suit and we started to rise. I noted the water was becoming lighter and tried to raise his arm to vent air, but he was grabbing onto me. I didn't want us to hit the surface so I pushed him away.

I sank and my buddy was soon lost in the gloom. I had made sure air was in his suit to ensure he would get to the surface, but as I ascended I was worried about what had happened to him and horrible scenarios passed through my mind. I got out of the water as fast as I could, deciding against safety stops, so that I could quickly raise the alarm with the other divers. I climbed back into the boat with no sign of my buddy, but he appeared a few minutes later after completing his safety stops. I was badly shaken after that incident. It took me a long time to feel completely comfortable in the water again and I have since revised how I dive.
RescuEAN

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