Sep 202016
 

Bow of the Schnellboot

Built in 1939 and sunk in 1942, the Motor Torpedo Boat the S31 had a short life. She had a thin metal hull with a mahogany wood coating, to assist her in slipping through mine fields. With 3 diesel engines on board she had a maximum speed of 38 knots carrying her crew of 24. In the early hours of May 10th the S31 was one of 7 MTBs lying in wait for the Welshman, who was expected to arrive in Valletta Harbour. The S31 had just finished placing a new minefield to the north west when she collided with a mine. Less than 30 minutes later she was underwater with 13 men still on board.

Diving the Malta Schnellboot

The Schnellboot lies in about 70m of water with her mahogany hull casing rotted away to reveal her interior. We descended in fantastic vis to see the length of the wreck laid out before us. She sits upright on the sand. I headed to the bow to find I could see straight through the pointy end and into the wreck. Dave squeezed inside through the ribs of the hull to poke his head into the front of the ship for this photo.

Above the front of the bow were the two torpedo tubes with torpedos still intact. The starboard torpedo tube has fallen to the sand on one side, while the port side one is sitting high on the wreck.

With more than a few divers descending with us the good vis quickly deteriorated. Finding good photos was about finding clear spots of water between the sandy clouds. I like this second shot across the middle of the hull as it shows the clear water inside and out. The deeper wreck had more growth on it than the more recently sunk checkout dive in 21m we did the day before.

Torpedo on the Schnellboot

Sep 132016
 
Tanks in Cocklebiddy

I spent last week off the grid, merrily moving tanks from one location to another and back again. By the end of five days on site we had relocated over a tonne of dive gear from the east coast to the Nullarbor, from the vehicles to the water, and from the water’s edge to over 4kms inside the cave. The cave of course, is Cocklebiddy. The quick trip had a goal – to return to Toad Hall with my Dad, nearly 34 years after he was the first diver to surface inside it. It was a family trip with Mum, Dad and I joined by Steve and Ryan and a film crew. You can see our documentary early next year on [read more…]

Aug 172016
 
Underwater tank wrestling through Elk River

Our Elk River supply trips are now down to a fine art. Each push trip requires two or three resupply trips – removing the empty tanks from the previous exploration, taking in full tanks, plus caching other gear as required. We are now using a lot of carbon fibres tanks for the longest swim through sump 7. The carbon fibres are much, much lighter than equivalent steel or aluminium tanks and can hold higher pressures. The drawback of the carbon fibre tanks is their buoyancy characteristics in the water.We have placed kilos of lead weights at the diving gear up spot. Each 9L tank takes 6kgs of lead to sink it. We are definitely not carrying this lead backwards and forwards. [read more…]

Aug 022016
 
Humpback whales

I’ve just got back from a magical weekend on the water. Packing light and leaving the dive gear behind we headed for sunny Queensland with snorkels at the ready. Light winds and flat seas made a nice difference to some of the ocean conditions out of Melbourne recently. We launched out of the Gold Coast and tried our luck both up and down the coast. We hadn’t been on the water for long before we spotted some fellow travellers. The humpback whales migrate north up the Australian coast at this time of year. They are moving from their cold water feeding grounds with full bellies, heading into warmer waters to give birth. With a big migration underway, there are whales everywhere. [read more…]

Jul 272016
 
Overnight exploration in Elk River

We had an interesting weekend in Elk River with the longest trip underground to date. After multiple set up trips to replace empty tanks with full ones we headed in to use them. The trip was complicated by large floods that swept through Buchan two weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what effect the raised water level might have had on the cave, or the gear cached throughout. The first victim of high water levels was the first aid kit, laid out on a beach before sump 4. We found most of the items from the kit floating in the water just before sump 4 and were able to rescue them all. The bag itself had made further progress and was [read more…]

Jul 192016
 
Exploration and photography in Timor

The joy of Timor is the big tunnels. And the white walls, and the clear water. The karst landscapes creates a lot of dolines and only a few go to water – the countryside makes you work for underwater success. So when one of the beautiful blue surface pools finally does drop into massive going tunnel the elation is incredible. In this series of photos Dave and Sandy had carefully manoeuvred their way into an entrance pool they discovered last year. This time the water was still clear when they got in. Sandy was able to find her way through the small hole at the bottom of the pool and into the big blue passage beyond. This particular entrance pool [read more…]