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Return to Scapa Flow: Beyond the Battleships

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We had the opportunity to return to Scapa Flow this fall, during the centenary year of the scuttling of the German Fleet.  As always it was with great excitement that we arrived in Stromness, added to that we were diving on a boat filled with our dive friends from around the world.  With the reunion and high experience level of the boat, it was certain to be a fun week!

The Dream Team

The itinerary for the week included the usual celebrities, the König, Karlsruhe, Kronprinz Wilhelm, Brummer, Cöln and F2 as well as some rather special dives including the Markgraf.  Following the centenary commemorations many of the German High Seas Fleet vessels have had flags placed on the wrecks, which gave an interesting new feature to search out in additon to the metal structures and marine life.

Stromness

The massive German battleships and cruisers are rightfully the stars of the Flow and for our technical divers the collosal bow of the Markgraf was the experience of the week… but we found that there are some interesting additional options if you have the time and crew to take you to different dive sites.  We were fortunate enough to dive three wrecks that we hadn’t before: the sunken U-Boat UB-116, the Bayern turrets, and the blockship Tabarka.  

Our Dive Boat

UB-116

The UB-116 was the last U-Boat to be sunk in WWI.  On October of 1918, with the aim of penetrating Scapa Flow and detroying as many vessels as possible, UB-116 unknowingly entered the minefield protecting Hoxa Sound and was destroyed.  She was raised in 1919, but foundered at the mouth of Pan Hope.  A controlled explosion was conducted to deal with the live torpedoes, and as such the submarine is very broken up with the conning tower as one of the few remaining identifiable features.

The wreck of UB-116 is pretty small, and relatively shallow for Scapa Flow, so it is usually done as a second dive of the day.  We enjoyed our short drop into the site as it was something different to see.  The detached conning tower lying about 10 meters from the rest of the hull was still intact and a delight to swim around.  The rest of the hull was mostly tangled metal wreckage but we managed to see a nice dogfish swimming around the wreckage.  Plus now we can say we have dived a submarine!

Bayern Turrets

The battleship SMS Bayern was interned in Scapa Flow with the German High Seas Fleet and scuttled on 21st June 1919.  During salvaging in 1934, the extraordinarily heavy armored turrets of the Bayern slipped out of their hull and remain upside down on the ocean floor to this day. They now sit at a max depth of 45m.

Our dive on the Bayern turrets dive site offered a look at something special: the insides of the 15-inch guns of the battleship Bayern. At 38m, our bottom time was limited, but we were still able to circle and get good looks at two of the mighty turrets.  The highlight was seeing the tracks of 10-inch steel ball bearings on which the turrets used to rotate.  This was quite a unique dive and had us wishing for more dive time.

Tabarka

The Tabarka was originally sunk as blockship in Kirk Sound in 1941, but was raised and re-sunk as a blockship in Burra Sound in 1944.  She is now one of the 3 remaining blockships in the flowing current of the Burra Sound, resting upside down at 15m, she is only divable at slack tide.

The wreck of the block ship Tabarka was a surprise favorite of ours as the best dive of our week in Scapa.   In this area of extreme tides, not only do you need an experienced skipper to drop you in at the right place, but you need to do a negative entry to get down to the wreck as quickly as possible.  One upside of the current here is that it means there are less suspended particles in the water and better visibility than at other spots in the Flow and also the tidal currents nourish the marine life that clings to the wreck.

Our dive group managed to get straight down to the bottom (it wasn’t deep, maybe 12m or so), and then fin right up to the side of the Tabarka.  The wreck was roughly split in two halves, and each side offered not only respite from the current, but an ethereal, almost zen-like atmosphere with sunlight streaming in through windows and cutouts in the hull, along with strands of kelp wafting in the current.  The floor and inside of the wreck was festooned with life and we had ample time to slowly explore each half of the wreck, enjoying the experience for around 45 minutes.  The return to our boat was a dramatic conclusion to the dive, with a carefully coordinated fast drift in the current as we ascended slowly.  Those with a keen eye spotted the remains of other blockship wrecks below us as we drifted.  Back on board it was clear from all the grinning faces that we were not the only ones totally enthralled by this wreck.

One final note … underwater photography in Scapa Flow is hard!  To my chagrin it took me 7 dives to figure out that a standard fisheye lens with two strobe setup doesn’t really cut it there, given the average visibility was about 4 meters.  The solution: as many thousands of lumens of off-camera lighting as you can manage.  A team of lighting assistants would also be rather helpful! Volunteers anyone?  The best I could manage on this trip were a few grainy black and white conversions, but at least I’ll know better before our next visit!


Follow more of CJ and Mike’s diving adventures at www.bimbleintheblue.com.

CJ and Mike are dive instructors who have travelled all over the world pursuing their passion for the underwater world. CJ is a PADI MI and DSAT Trimix instructor with a degree in Conservation biology and ecology, who has been diving for 15 years. She loves looking for critters and pointing them out for Mike to photograph. Mike is a PADI MSDT who got back into diving in 2010. He enjoys practicing underwater photography and exploring new and exciting dive locales, occasionally with more than one tank. Follow more of their diving adventures at www.bimbleintheblue.com.

Marine Life & Conservation

BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – Deep-Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler

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A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.


Deep Sea Stories From a Shadow Diver: a conversation with Richie Kohler. 

This episode of the Blue Earth Podcast is a conversation with Richie Kohler. He’s an explorer, technical wreck diver, shipwreck historian, filmmaker, and author.

Richie was featured in Robert Kurson’s incredible book “Shadow Divers ”. It’s a thrilling true story about Richie and John Chatterton’s quest to identify the wreck of an unknown WWII German U-boat (submarine), 65 miles off the coast of New Jersey. They dedicated six years of their lives attempting to identify the wreck.

Richie has travelled the world and explored many deep wrecks, including the Andrea Doria, Titanic, and Britannic. He’s the author of “Mystery of The Last Olympian” about the Britannic.


Richard E Hyman Bio

Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.

Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.

Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.


You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.

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Marine Life & Conservation

New Fisheries Act misses the mark on sustainability, but what now?

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A better future for our seas is still beyond the horizon, says Marine Conservation Society

The UK’s landmark post-Brexit fisheries legislation has now become law. The Fisheries Act, the first legislation of its kind in nearly 40 years, will shape how the UK’s seas are fished for years to come.

The Marine Conservation Society, which campaigned for amendments to the legislation throughout its development, is disappointed by the removal of key sustainability amendments and by the removal of a commitment to rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring.

The charity has committed to pushing the UK Government to go further than the framework which the Fisheries Act sets out, with greater ambition for the state of UK seas.

Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society said: “UK Government and devolved administrations must act urgently to deliver climate and nature smart fisheries under the new Fisheries Act. This is a key condition if our seas are to recover to good health. The UK Government removed key amendments from the legislation while making promises on sustainability and the introduction of remote electronic monitoring. We will continue to hold the government to account over these promises.”

“I’m pleased to see the recognition of the important role fisheries play in our fight against the climate emergency.  However, even with a climate change objective in the Act, actions speak louder than words. We must get to work delivering sustainable fisheries management, which will have a huge benefit to our seas, wildlife and the communities which depend upon them.”

The Fisheries Act has become law against a backdrop of the ocean’s declining health. UK waters are currently failing to meet 11 out of 15 indicators of good ocean health and over a third of fish in UK waters are being caught at levels which cannot continue into the future. Whilst the legislation failed to address some of the more pressing issues facing UK seas, including overfishing, there is still an opportunity to affect change in the years which follow.

Sam Stone, Head of Fisheries at the Marine Conservation Society said: “The Fisheries Act marks the start of a new era of fisheries management in the UK, but the next two years will be critical in defining what this looks like. The new Act has some good objectives, but we now need to come together to make sure it really delivers the on-water change that is desperately needed for ocean recovery.

“There is genuine opportunity to create fisheries that deliver for coastal communities and for the environment, but it means moving away from ‘business-as-usual’. The UK and devolved governments now have the powers to move forward with progressive new management in their waters. That means proper incentives for low impact fishing, proper monitoring of catches and proper commitments to sustainable fishing.

“In the short term, the four nations must work together to make impactful changes, starting by addressing the UK’s most at risk fish stocks. Recovery plans are needed for our depleted stocks, including new catch limits, selectivity and avoidance measures, protection of vital habitats and fully documented catches. Rolling out Remote Electronic Monitoring with cameras on larger vessels throughout the UK should be top of the agenda if future policy is to be as well informed as possible.”

For more information about the Fisheries Bill and the Marine Conservation Society’s work, visit the charity’s website.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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