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Richard Walker

ISSUE 9 ARCHIVE - BEST DIVE, WORST DIVE, RICHARD WALKER

BEST: It's not easy to pick a best dive. I've been diving now since 1991, and have so many fantastic experiences that it's almost an impossible task. Up there would have to be wrecks around Oban and the Sound of Mull, like the Hispania and the Breda. The liners off Donegal, in particular the very striking Justicia also rank high. I can't forget diving in late summer off the Farne Islands when the seals are playful and inquisitive, and you can spend hours in the shallows playing hide and seek.

Laying line into an unexplored cave passage in Bosnia, knowing that my eyes were the first to see the passage way was another unforgettable dive. Scootering through the warm clear caves in Florida, trying to grasp how long it must take for the wide tunnels, beautiful structures and sharp scalloping to form purely by water's action and chemistry. Floating over the intact rigging of the 122m long Frankenwald in Norway, imagining who walked those decks and the navigation error that led to her sinking in the narrow channel of Brattholmen, near Sognefjord. Floating at 6m in clear blue water off South Africa with hammerheads and bull sharks circling around me was another breathtaking experience. Diving the wrecks of the South China Sea has to be near the top of the list. The history of the wrecks like HMS Repulse demand a great deal of respect. It is an enormous wreck, lying on her side with the railing at 30m, and the seabed at 55m. The clear warm water, an intact battleship, lots of tropical marine life and the poignant history have to make this one of my best dives. Perhaps I should return to the UK for my best dive though, and this sums up diving for me. The dive was the White Star liner, the Afric. I'd wanted to do this dive since I first heard about it. It's a big wreck at around 12,000 tons.
Ocean Leisure
Green Weather, tides and opportunity all coincided and I dived her with my good friend Brian Allen from Aquanauts in Plymouth. The visibility was a perfect 20m and the tide slack. We spent twenty-five minutes looking over the stern section, the propellers and some of the holds before returning to the surface. My only regret is that I didn't bring my camera, but isn't that always the way! The dive was great, the company good, and I got to dive a wreck that I'd wanted to see for many years.

WORST: To me, the worst dive is the one that doesn't happen. I usually find a way to have fun on all of my dives, but you can't do that if you don't even get into the water. Weather consistently hampers us in the UK, but my view is that you just have to keep trying.
London School Of Diving
Stealth Equipment failures also have the potential to finish a dive off before you even get in the water, so I do try to make sure that my gear is in good order, and that I have spares to cope with the most common failures. It's a real bind to get a few hours out to sea and then find that you can't dive because of a problem that would be fixed in five minutes in a dive shop. To think of a dive that I didn't enjoy, I guess you have to consider what makes a good dive. For the most part you can say that comfort, competence and confidence are all crucial. Take away any of those, and your dive is considerably less fun. These are all fairly tangible though and relate to equipment, experience and training.

I can take it a step further though, and consider one dive I did in Narvik, Norway. It was the wreck of the Anton Schmidt, a German destroyer sunk by the British flotilla just after the invasion of Norway in 1940. The wreck lies on its starboard side, in clear, shallow water and is very intact. The fact that she is on her side though means that much of the loose contents of the ship have spilled out onto the seabed. Personal effects including uniforms, shoes, hairbrushes, books and the other such day-to-day items that would have been found on a working ship. All owned at some point by a young sailor. It really left a deep mark on me and brought home the realities of conflict and the associated human costs. All of the divers in my group were very quiet after this dive, and remained so for some hours. It was a beautiful, yet haunting dive.

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