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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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The Scuba Genies head to Bonaire! Part 1 of 2

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In the first of this two-part blog, The Scuba Genies share their trip report from the Come Dive with Us hosted trip to Bonaire in September 2021…

Travelling during the Covid pandemic has been challenging for some, impossible for most, and missed by all. We have been scanning the rules and regulations daily, and as soon as the UK Government allowed us, we were off!

What was supposed to be a trip to Mexico for a gang of 12 of us, just like most trips over the last 18 months, we were forced to change as the travel rules changed – we have been trying to get to Bonaire for ages, and this became the perfect opportunity – at last!

With our bags packed, negative test results and completed Bonaire health forms in hand – we made an early start for Heathrow, prepared for an 0630 departure. A quick flight and we landed in Amsterdam. As a Dutch Caribbean territory, all flights from the UK to Bonaire on KLM go via Amsterdam. In the airport, we met up with the rest of the gang who had travelled from Birmingham. After a quick layover we took off for Bonaire, where we arrived about 9 hours later. Our health documents were checked at the airport, and we grabbed our bags. It seems odd to have to fly East to then go West, but as we stepped out of the minibus at Buddy Dive Resort, only 10 minutes after leaving the airport, the sunshine and blue sky told us it was worth it!

Our accommodation for the group was made up of two 3-bedroom apartments, a stone’s throw from the water, dive shop, dock and Blennies, the main restaurant and bar. Buddy Dive also has 1- and 2-bedroom apartments along with studios, all comfortably furnished with either a garden or ocean view.

Each 3-bedroom apartment is spread over two floors – but a floor up from ground level. The ‘ground’ floor of each apartment offers a double bedroom (beds can be configured as twins or double in all rooms), a bathroom, lounge with balcony, and a very well-equipped kitchenette. Microwave, toaster, hob, fridge/freezer with ice-maker and enough pots, pans and utensils to satisfy the avid cook! On the upper floor, there are two further double rooms with ensuite bathrooms, both with balconies of their own. Each bedroom is air-conditioned, and the lounge and kitchen have celling fans. All in all, quite perfect for a home away from home for a fortnight!

The rules of group travel say we must unpack (empty bags onto floor or bed), sort kit out (look at dive bag and save it for later), put cameras together (er….NO!) and hit the bar – so being rule-abiding people that we are, this is what we did. Picking up the rental van for our stay would have to wait!

The next morning after breakfast, served in the Ingridients restaurant and right on the water, we attended the Buddy Dive orientation. The staff gave us a quick tour of the dock and resort including the famous drive thru tank shed offering both air and nitrox tanks ready and waiting to be loaded into your vehicle. Check in at the dive centre was easy… we all completed our diver forms online before arrival so with a quick hello we were handed locker keys for our kit storage. Time to head back to the room and get ready for our first dive!! That is why we’re here after all!

As with all trips, the first dive was a check dive, so we climbed down the steps into the water off the dock to go an explore Buddy Dive Reef. Finning over the sandy bottom, past the coral restoration project ‘trees’ and following well laid lines with directional markers we hit the reef after just a minute or two where you can drop to 35+ metres over simply stunning corals. This reef, just like the rest of the sites we dived, is super-healthy and teeming with juvenile fish wherever you look. Moray eels, turtles, octopi and HUGE tarpon on our first dive! What a great start!

The following day we decided it was time to explore the island. We picked up our 6-person minibus from Reception, pulled up to the drive thru tank station and grabbed 12 well filled Nitrox 12l aluminium (A-Clamp – not DIN) cylinders. With our guidebook in hand, off we went driving on the right of course, in search of marine life.

There are over 50 dive sites scattered around the coast of the main island, and even more on the island of Klein Bonaire accessible by boat. We chose a comfortable start by picking dive sites to the South where the entry seems to be a little easier on old knees and hips. We packed up sandwiches we made after a quick shop at the supermarket the day before, along with waters and a few essentials – towels, sunnies and bug spray.

I won’t bore you with every dive site name and description – the guidebook is the tool for that – but it is more than safe to say that we dived, dived and dived again! Every dive gave us far more than we expected, and the marine park surrounding the whole island delivered the goods without fail. Super healthy corals, plentiful marine life, warm and very clear water at 30 degrees made life easy. Parking the van up at the marked dive sites wasn’t difficult, and a few strides across the sand was far simpler than we had expected.

I will say that some sites are a little more challenging to get into the water from – anything more than three or four steps doesn’t float my boat! We adapted our entries for the group – some kitting up in the water, some not, but the rule of thumb quickly became step in up to thigh-depth, inflate bcd, fall flat on your back and paddle out before putting your fins on. Simple! Getting out of the water was pretty much the reverse of the above – stand up when you can, remove fins, and then navigate the rocks and sand channels before you walk up the beach. Nothing that an over-weight, under-tall chap in his mid-50’s with dodgy knees and even dodgier hips couldn’t cope with! (That is me by the way…..no offense to anyone else intended and no animals were harmed in the writing of this either).

We saw stuff – lots of it! Huge tarpon, French and Grey Angelfish, forests of Christmas Tree worms, anemones with Peterson, sexy and cleaner shrimp, clinging crabs, nudibranchs – especially lettuce-leaf slugs, coral-banded shrimp, lobster and so much more. Turtles everywhere, trumpet-fish in unbelievable numbers, and that was generally the story – all in very good visibility too! The corals and huge sponges were stunning with fascinating reef-structures offering all sorts of hidey-holes for critters!

There were some really special sited that we loved, and Salt Pier was one. The Cargill solar salt facility is easily found with its distinctive line of white salt pyramids.Each pyramid, roughly 50-feet high, can contain up to 10,000 metric tons of 99.6 percent pure salt. Even more noteworthy, in addition to the acres of salt ponds, the facility is also home to largest pink flamingo sanctuary in North America. Our very own Chloe has written an in-depth blog about Bonaire and its pure salt so be sure and check it out!

Back to the diving! We were given a hint to drive just past the pier to park where we would find an easy sand entry to the site. We kitted up and finned out through the shallows where we encountered three juvenile hawksbill turtles along with a few smooth pufferfish fighting to feed on patch of sponges, and then made our way under the immense structure of the pier. There are several platforms supporting the conveyor belts that move salt to the container ships and there wasn’t much diver-traffic to contend with. We were amazed by all things weird and wonderful – big scorpion fish hiding under the metal work, angelfish battling for food, schooling fish up above you, and frogfish! Barracuda, Caribbean reef squid, spotted drums, octopus, oh! and more frogfish! Even a flying gurnard in the shallows! What a dive! And as it is shallow, it can be a very long dive too, especially with the 200-210 bar fills the drive-thru often gave us.

Check back for Part Two of this Blog tomorrow!


Find out more about the worldwide dive itineraries that The Scuba Place offers at www.thescubaplace.co.uk.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Ahmed Fadel and Elke Bojanowski from Scuba Scene Liveaboard in the Red Sea (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Ahmed Fadel and Elke Bojanowski from Scuba Scene Liveaboard in the Red Sea, Egypt.

Ahmed started working as safari guide in 2000 giving him unique experiences exploring the southern Egyptian Red Sea. It gave him a great opportunity to learn and gain a lot of experience in the nature of the Red Sea, and also qualified him to become the author of the book Southern Red Sea Dive Guide.

He is also an experienced dive instructor since 1997 and an experienced Tech instructor up to the level of Advanced Trimix.

Working for a number of reputable companies has given Ahmed an in-depth understanding of the nature of boats and the way they have developed over the years, as well as great connections to the local crews and staff.

Elke moved to Egypt in April 2004 after completing her Ph.D. in biology (focusing on the behaviour and communication of bottlenose dolphins), to combine her interests in marine biology and diving.

Using Egyptian liveaboards as a platform, she started collecting data on shark populations, while working as a guide in the Red Sea since October 2004.

In 2012 she founded – and is still running – the Red Sea Sharks Trust, an officially registered charity in the UK. This is the umbrella organisation for a variety of projects on sharks, including the biggest database for Oceanic Whitetip Sharks in the world.

The general goals of this charity are to collect as much information on sharks as possible to be made available for shark conservation, and to increase the awareness among divers about the problems and conservation issues that sharks are facing worldwide

Besides collecting scientific data, Elke is giving educational presentations and seminars for the guests on board her Marine Park trips, covering shark topics such as: species identification, biology and behaviour, and conservation and research.

Since January 2019, all diveguides working on liveaboards in the Egyptian Red Sea have had to attend a mandatory seminar on guidelines and safe diving practices for interactions with Oceanic Whitetip Sharks. The seminar written and presented by Elke has been attended by more than 1400 guides and other dive professionals to date.

Find out more at https://scubasceneliveaboard.com


Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Competitions

Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 04 – 11 November 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1275 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk.

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