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Return to False Bay

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What an incredible day at sea. It started off overcast and windy, more like a winter day than summer here, and a contrast to the bright sunshine of yesterday. I had forgotten how quickly the weather can change in False Bay and regretted my lack of a waterproof as we left the jetty. We soon perked up at finding a bait ball with common dolphin and gannets dive bombing the fish as we headed out to seal island though. It was the first dolphin sighting of the season and they were wonderful showing us their acrobatics in the early morning light. It is always incredible to see these feeding events and watch the dolphin herd the fish into a ball followed by the elegant gannets diving from on high. The wind picked up as we arrived at the island and it was a slow start waiting for sharks and watching the weather approaching from the south east. I was concerned we wouldn’t have much time if the wind chased us off the water sooner than expected. We often find that storms liven the sharks up however (possibly the change in pressure affecting their behaviour) and after a little while of waiting we had six sharks being lively around the bait that morning!

 
It was awesome watching one 3.8m female that our skipper is thinking of naming Trixie. She was so agile and liked to twist and turn fast as she approached the bait and then suddenly veered off for the decoy seal and vice versa. She is quite the madam and our guests had incredible dives with her and the other sharks. Everyone also loved the cute little shark that was only 2.8m long.

 
We also saw three predation events on sick seals close by the island. We don’t generally see the sharks hunting the seals at this time of year as they focus on other prey in the bay (fish and smaller sharks for example). It was like a day I’d expect later in the season with the hunting activity and the number of sharks we saw. Such a treat for us all.

 
And to top it all off we saw a short tailed devil ray by the bait, cory and sooty shearwaters brought in by the storm and then another bait ball on the way home with dolphin, gannets and seals as well. And I saw a whale breaching on the way to work….

 
We are hunkered down now as the south east winds blow through. I can’t wait to get back out after the storm and see how it has affected the wildlife behaviour in the bay.

 

It really is wonderful to be back in South Africa again with these magnificent sharks and Apex Shark Expeditions.

Kathryn has a Masters in Environmental Biology and is a PADI scuba diving instructor. Her passion lies with raising awareness of and conserving the sharks within our oceans and also writing about her experiences under and on the water. She is currently a wildlife guide and crew member for Apex Shark Expeditions in South Africa.

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Where History and Diver Meet: Wreck Diving in Narvik

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Guest article by Petra Pruden

Cool, clear waters provide exceptional conditions for preserving shipwrecks, and a one-of-a-kind opportunity for divers seeking to explore them. There is one particular location in Norway, near the city and fjord of Ofotfjord, Narvik, that, due to its ideal conditions and historical significance, make it remarkable for diving. Not only are the landscapes spectacular, but during WW2, three significant navy engagements took place there resulting in 16 wrecks accessible to divers today. It’s no surprise that divers such as Australian diver and wreck enthusiast, Edd Stockdale, have been drawn to this location to discover and learn about the wrecks left behind.

Diving with a Story

Located just north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, the coastal city of Narvik offers ice-free access to the North Atlantic. Narvik was a particularly important location in years past as iron ore from Sweden could be shipped there by train, loaded onto ships, and distributed. The city’s strategic foothold caused tension between the British and Norwegian navies and German forces, and they eventually fought to control the transport of iron. From April to June in 1940, three major battles were waged in this fjord resulting in many lives lost and numerous sunken ships. Today, the Narvik fjord is a popular wreck diving site, as the pristine, yet chilly, waters of this protected harbor offer divers and tourists alike an unforgettable, historical experience.

Edd Stockdale and His Trip to Narvik

Edd Stockdale

One such diver who found himself drawn to the history and wonder of Narvik is Edd Stockdale. Edd first picked up diving as a boy, and his passion for the sport quickly turned into a lifelong career. Originally from Australia, Edd followed his love for cold dives and made Sweden his new home. With over 5,500 dives in his logbook, 20 years-worth of diving experience, and his name gracing the cover of several prominent training course manuals (RAID instruction manuals), Edd is the kind of guy to take you on a true adventure. Given that his home in Sweden is (relatively) close to Narvik, this last year he made the drive to the famous location to discover some of the wrecks for himself.

Once Edd reached the harbor, he was joined by a group of Swedish and Finnish wreck divers, explorers, and historians aboard an old Swedish minesweeper, the Galten. “Our days generally consisted of getting up at a reasonable time, having breakfast, and getting our rebreathers ready for the day’s diving,” described Edd, then further adding, “We dropped a shot-line at each wreck we visited, then staggered the entry teams to allow time for decompression. Each dive took between 2-3 hours, and after we were finished and the shot-lines recovered, we got to enjoy a relaxing evening on the ship, which, in true Norwegian form, even included a sauna.”

The Erich Giese

With as many as 16 wrecks in the vicinity of Narvik, it’s difficult for divers, Edd included, to choose a favorite dive. “On past dives, I enjoyed visiting the Erich Giese, a German Z class destroyer that sits in about 65 meters of water,” recalled Edd. Back in the late 1930s, the Erich Giese was part of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine, or, in other words, the German navy. During the early stages of the Norwegian Campaign, this ship engaged in naval combat with two British destroyers as it tried to make its way out of Narvik Harbor. Although it was temporarily successful in defending its escape, narrowly dodging five torpedoes fired by the British, it was eventually reduced to a burning wreck after enduring as many as 20 turret shots.

Aft Torpedo launcher Erich Gise

The Landego

Apart from diving the Erich Giese for the first time, Edd was also able to explore the D/S Landego, which he described as “stunning to see up close, with many of its details remaining intact, if not for the Arctic marine life that has taken to living onboard.” The Landego also shares a rather intriguing war story. According to Norwegian reports, the ship was requisitioned by the Germans and used to lay cable for military communication purposes. However, as it turned out, the exact spot chosen by the Germans for laying the cable was an active minefield. The Landego struck a mine, exploded on impact, and cost the lives of 9 men onboard. Today it sits approximately 300 meters offshore and provides divers with an extraordinary diving experience.

Diver on port side of Landego

If Wrecks Could Speak

It seems the more you look into the history of each wreck in this area, the closer you come to understanding the difficult circumstances many of these men were forced to endure. For Edd, learning the stories of the wrecks he dives has become standard practice. “As with every dive we go on, we are briefed beforehand on the history of the site, which we can then use to compare with the photos and videos we later capture on our dive. This provides our trip with extra meaning, especially in a place like Narvik, where such a large naval conflict was carried out in a relatively small body of water.” It’s interesting, yet also harrowing, to think that a German invasion from 1940 ultimately turned into what is today seen as one of Europe’s top wreck diving destinations.

After learning about the ships’ backstories, Edd and his team are eager to get in the water and start exploring. Edd dons his Liberty sidemount rebreather which allows him to better pass through some of the smaller doorways and access points of the wrecks. Once in the water, Edd and his team take their time searching the sunken ships, combing over details such as torpedoes and bullet holes, and comparing what they found under the water with what they had learned during the briefing. They also take care to document everything they see with their underwater cameras, and even go so far to share videos of their experience on YouTube. This is the perfect way for Edd to relive some of the moments of these dives, while also providing newcomers with some insight on what to expect before getting in the water.

Ladego Stern Deck

Plans for the Future

When asked if he would recommend Narvik to fellow divers, Edd replied with enthusiasm, “Basically, if you like brilliant wreck diving, clear water, stunning scenery, and impressive, historically-relevant dive sites, Narvik is the place for you.” He then went on to add, speaking as a professional diver, that one of Narvik’s greatest advantages is that many of the wrecks sit in 10-30 meters of water, meaning even shallow range divers can discover these remarkable WW2 shipwrecks.

Plus, with so many wrecks located in one fjord, Narvik is the ideal location for divers to make return visits. Edd is already planning his next trip to the area, adding, “Narvik is one of the greatest places to go and teach wreck penetration courses. And, given that wreck photography is a hobby of mine, there’s no better place for me to keep visiting and get all my amazing shots in one place.”

A Destination to Dive

For most divers, just the fact that 16 accessible shipwrecks can be found within such close proximity of one another is reason enough to visit this unique spot. Plus, with the striking landscapes of the Norwegian fjords, the rich history to be discovered, and need we mention the saunas, it’s easy to see why Narvik could command the top slot on divers’ bucket lists. If you’re ready to see for yourself what Edd Stockdale and his team have been so enchanted by, pack your gear and head north to this unforgettable place. Perhaps you could even join Edd there!


Edd Stockdale is an Ambassador for Divesoft. Find out more about the CCR Liberty at www.divesoft.com/en/products/ccr-liberty

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

The BiG Scuba Podcast… with Christine Dennison

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Next in a new series of podcasts shared by our friends Gemma and Ian aka The BiG Scuba Podcast…

Christine Dennison

Ian and Gemma chat to Christine Dennison.  She aims to empower women through exploration, adventure and role models. “Quest for knowledge, Thirst for Adventure” is a great motto. Christine is the Co-founder and President of Mad Dog Expeditions, an internationally-recognized technical scuba diving and exploration company based in New York City. For more than 20 years Christine has been diving and exploring in remote regions of the world. Among her accomplishments, Christine is the first woman to dive and explore beneath the Arctic Sea ice and ice caves of the Canadian High Arctic.

To date Christine has logged over 80 dives in this harsh polar environment.  She is also the first woman to dive the dangerous piranha-saturated waters of the Amazon’s Rio Negro and its tributaries. Her additional diving expertise includes technical mixed gas wreck diving of historic shipwrecks around the world including the scuttled WW1 German Fleet of Scapa Flow in the Scottish Isles, and the Bianca C, a luxury liner and the deepest wreck in the Caribbean.

Christine is an experienced technical Divemaster and mixed gas diver with cave, wreck and ice certifications. Her expertise in operations and logistics of remote regions has been invaluable in consulting, organizing and leading expeditions for numerous film crews and scientific teams throughout the world. Her experience extends into working with advanced underwater ROV technology as a pilot and camera operator with over three years of ongoing exploration and documentary expeditions to the WW2 US R12 submarine in the Gulf of Mexico.

Christine is very active in oceanographic and wildlife conservation issues surrounding indigenous peoples. She is a role model for young women everywhere and passes on her expertise by mentoring, lecturing and presenting to student groups throughout the country. She is an ardent traveler and explorer spanning more than 30 countries. An International Baccalaureate graduate of New York’s Anglo-American School and University student in English Literature and Art History, Christine is Spanish and bi-lingual as well as conversational French. She was inducted as a Fellow of both the prestigious Explorers Club in New York and the Royal Geographical Society in London. She serves on the Board of several nonprofit organizations that promote education, exploration, Ocean Outreach and animal rescue and takes her adopted Husky Ava on expeditions with her whenever she can.

Find out more about Christine at:


Find more podcast episodes and information at www.thebigscuba.com and on most social platforms @thebigscuba

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