Newfoundland 2017

Reports on our previous club dive trips and some of our day diving activities
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Maria H
Posts: 1592
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:05 pm

Newfoundland 2017

Post by Maria H »

OK, it wasn't a Chorley club trip, but the invitation from Darwen club was open to anyone daft enough to sign up.

This wasn't your average dive trip. It was a full-on self-sufficient expedition, and the kit was shipped out in advance in a 40 foot shipping container:
• Two RIBs, each with main engine and auxiliary engine;
• Three compressors (one of which was a backup);
• Gas blending equipment, to set up a cascade system;
• Gas booster pump;
• The usual safety and emergency equipment;
• A comprehensive range of spares and tools;
• 12 sets of diving equipment. Most of this was sent via the shipping container, though the rebreather divers chose to take their rebreathers as check-in luggage.
It took 2 years to plan and organise. In addition to the usual research about dive sites and tidal conditions, the challenges included buying a shipping container (and finding a buyer for when it returned), fitting new (narrower) axles to both trailers so they would fit in the container, obtain adapters for J cylinders & towing hitch (North American and European "standards" are not the same!), book shipping container on each leg of the journey, including land transportation at each end, arrange customs clearance, arrange for unloading and storage of shipping container in St Johns, arrange operational base (wharf at Long Pond) and book accommodation and hire cars (2 pickups). Phew!!
There were a few logistical challenges:
• Apparently it is highly unusual for a shipping container to carry stuff belonging to 12 private individuals, and so Canadian customs stopped the container until we sent passport details for the entire group. This caused a minor flurry of activity! Once the details were sent over and they understood the reason for the container being shipped it was allowed to proceed.
Keith had arranged for us to use the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club as our base. When he contacted them to confirm a couple of weeks before our departure, they said we could no longer use their facilities. Thanks to Facebook, and a few phone calls, we were put in contact with a really helpful guy who owns a wharf, and made us really welcome.
So, was it worth it?
You bet!
The Bell Island wrecks are world class. These four 2nd world war wrecks are remarkably well preserved. This seems to be due to a combination of their protected status, the cold water, few divers and sheltered position. Each one of them is upright and looks like a shipwreck should look. The first dive started with an excited shout, when divers entered the water and realised they could see the wreck from the surface. Key features such as propellers, anchors, deck guns, a torpedo and portholes were all still there. The Marconi room on the Rose Castle was conveniently located near the bottom of the shotline, so ideal to spend a few minutes at the end of a dive.
Another highlight was the icebergs. I snorkelled alongside one, and a couple of the group dived alongside. It was resting on the seabed at 30m, and we were shocked when we returned a couple of days later and realised it had toppled over. Maybe diving it wasn't our smartest decision! An additional benefit of diving near icebergs is that there was plenty of ice for the G&Ts :D
We planned to dive on whalebones at an abandoned whaling station in the village of Dildo (yes, you read that correctly!) Unfortunately, we couldn't get access to the shore, but the 2nd group managed it and said it was a bit disappointing with some spines, but no big rib cages. It was worth a day out just to take photos outside of Dildo Post Office!!
The marine life was similar to UK waters, though there were some unusual creatures such as eel pout (looked like a cross between a conger and a wolf fish) and the 2nd group saw humpback whales.
We expected it to be cold, and it was. A couple of the group recorded -2° on their dive computers! We were generally well prepared with decent drysuits, several base layers and dry gloves plus I had a heated vest, but the cold conditions were still a challenge. This impacted on dive times, with 45-50 minutes being about the maximum that any of us could cope with. We also noticed that everything took longer, because we were wearing so many layers.
Chris Blackburn
Club Member
Posts: 134
Joined: Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:32 pm

Re: Newfoundland 2017

Post by Chris Blackburn »

Quite an achievement just getting there.

What an experience.

The wrecks sounds wonderful. The iceberg and the cold sounds a bit nasty.

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