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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

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Kimberley Ray, Founder and CEO of Marine Conservation Network (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Kimberley Ray, Founder and CEO of Marine Conservation Network, about her work and some of the issues around marine conservation.

As Founder and CEO of Marine Conservation Network, Kimberly started her passion for ocean and marine conservation as a teenager wanting to become a dolphin trainer. Her dad was a fisherman and took her boating nearly every weekend, and that is what motivated her to get involved with marine life and education. She received her marine biology degree and quickly realized that the oceans were under threat from plastic trash, overfishing, and lack of compassion for marine life. She initially began a company called “Sustainable Seafood Experience,” but realized more coverage and education was needed concerning the many issues involving ocean conservation.

She then incorporated MCN, Marine Conservation Network, and began a global effort to link ALL conservation organizations around the world so that knowledge can be shared and efforts in marine conservation could become more effective. She also developed a common language in her efforts to educate the general public on the issues facing our oceans, one that even the public can relate to and not just other scientists. To this end, she has implemented a new focus of a Youth Ambassador Program involving children around the world from the ages of 8–15 who are becoming actively involved in marine conservation efforts and spreading the word of this mission. A scholarship is awarded to those who stay with the program when they reach their majority and go on to college. Kimberly believes that the oceans are the lungs of the planet providing half of the oxygen we breathe, and if we kill the oceans, then we will die with it.

Find out more about Kimberley and her work at www.marineconservationnet.org.


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

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News

Dive Wild in Cocos!

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Cocos Island has been one of those bucket list dive destinations for all of my diving life. Back in around 2009/10 my friend was continuously encouraging me to take up diving knowing I loved the water and wildlife so much. It still took me some time to commit though and that commitment came after watching his videos from his Cocos Island trip. Seeing close up video of an abundance of sharks was something I could definitely sink my teeth into.

Fast forward nearly a decade and I was fortunate to win Undersea Hunters “Dive Wild” Instagram Photography Competition in 2019. This was a dream come true for me as having a young family meant the expense of such a dive trip was a little out of reach. Now I had the opportunity of a lifetime to dive one of the most sort after dive locations in the world. A trip was planned for May/June 2020 and the excitement with each passing day was immense BUT then Covid hit. Unfortunately, as Covid took a hold around the world the trip had to be postponed on four different occasions until I finally got my chance in May this year to visit Costa Rica and the infamous Cocos Island with Undersea Hunter onboard Argo.

My trip on the Argo began on May 16th. A 130-foot vessel that has a mix of research work ship and luxury yacht, providing 9 spacious rooms to accommodate 18 guests (14 on this particular trip). It also offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to dive a few hundred metres below the surface on the DeepSea Submersible. A trip on the DeepSea Submersible comes at an extra cost but would be such a unique opportunity that was unfortunately not available for our specific trip. Argo’s ability to transport the DeepSea Submersible meant the dive deck and outside space was more than enough for the 14 dive guests plus guides to get ready and then board the two dive skiffs to transport to the dive sites. A large and comfortable lounge and dining area coupled with a large sundeck provided ample space for relaxing on the long journey and between dives.

Once everybody was checked in onboard and all luggage accounted for, we set off on the mammoth voyage to Cocos Island around 350 miles into the Pacific Ocean. This was going to take around 36 hours and gave us plenty of time to get organised for the 7 days of diving we had planned over the coming week. Thankfully, after having not been on a liveaboard for 2 years and on a boat at sea for 9 months the crossing was very kind to me. A gentle swell meant any sea sickness was kept at a bare minimum and I was able to function and pay attention. Particularly important for the boat briefing and one that I was very impressed with.

Our host for the trip Juan Manuel was entertaining and kept us engaged throughout. The dedication to safety is what really resonated with me. It’s easy to get complacent when it comes to liveaboard diving and forget about the dangers that come with living on a boat. While Covid protocols were obviously dealt with, it was the issues with potential fires etc that I was impressed with. Unfortunately, we are probably all aware of the devastating liveaboard fires in recent years.

With times of adversity comes lessons and in some cases change. I believe safety has always been paramount, but with the fact that one of the fires was attributed to an electrical charging fault, it was particularly encouraging being told that anything left on charge in the common areas unattended at night would be unplugged for safety reasons. It was also pointed out that members of the crew would take it in turns to do 20-minute checks and sensors are used to ensure checks are being made. While we were all tired from our busy diving days and early nights were common throughout the guests, I did happen to stay up later one night to watch a film. It was pleasing to witness these checks first hand as the captain walked through numerous times marking the sensor each time.

It’s safe to say I felt completely at ease on the Argo for my trip to Cocos Island. The staff were accommodating for all our needs and went above and beyond to make sure our trip was safe and comfortable. The food was a delicious buffet and there were always alternatives if you didn’t eat a particular dish, while the diving from the two skiffs was well run with great help onboard and great guiding. I also feel I need to make a special mention for the theatre that was the scene of our entertainment – the island itself. Cocos Island was one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever visited. An island of a thousand waterfalls and dense tropical rainforest it left me amazed with each passing turn – and underwater it was pretty special too! Stay tuned for my next blog with an overview of the week’s diving and also look out for the full article in Dive Travel Adventures soon.

More information

www.underseahunter.com

www.visitcostarica.com/en


Find out more about Sean, his photography and his hosted trips at: www.greatwhitesean.com

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Competitions

Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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