It was a little while ago now but a few members made the trip up to Rosehearty for a day shore diving back in June. There had been a club boat dive planned but due to the SE winds on the day that was cancelled and instead of the usual plan B of heading west we decided to head north for a change.
Ryan, Wojciech, Ken, David, and I arrived on site quite early to find we had the place to ourselves (for now!). It was quite overcast but the coast was sheltered from the wind so sea conditions were calm, which was good as the entry/exit could be difficult here in anything other than calm conditions.
It has been a few years since Ken and I had dived here and it was the first time for the others so we were keen to get in.
Ryan, Wojciech, and I went in first and had a really nice dive exploring all of the gullies to the east of the entry point, visibility was good and even though it was cloudy there was still plenty of ambient light during the dive, our max depth was only 10m. The gullies can get a little confusing but after retracing our route we were able to find our way back to the entry point. Ken and David went in after us and followed pretty much the same plan on their dive although they did spot an angler fish which is a great find!
For our second dive I decided to try to find the pinnacle that sits a little further offshore than the gullies, unfortunately I couldn’t find it this time, I think we were getting close towards the end of the dive but we were running out of time so had to make our way back to the entry point, I had found this on 2 previous dives although that was nearly 4 years ago! When we surfaced we found a large group of trainees from a local dive school had descended on the site so getting out took a bit of patience, Ken and David almost had to join a queue to begin their second dive but it didn’t take that long in the end so they were soon on their way and had a good second dive.
Following their dive it and one last clamber over the rocks up the shore it was time to pack up and head home. It was great to dive Rosehearty again, a really nice site with impressive underwater scenery and lots of life to be found.
Veronica, Brian and myself traveled to Malta during their hot season. We were accompanied by my partner and her friend, (land lovers). We also met up with a travel friend in Luqa, Alan Porteous from the Netherlands. An old friend of mine was to meet us at the dive centre, Willie Thomson. All of us had been waiting for this for months. This was to be a Malta/Comino based dive trip.
12th of July 2016. Ryan Air was our transportation to the Malta from Edinburgh. Finally Landing in Luqa airport at a delayed time of 21:45 instead of our scheduled time of 20:15. All 6 of us trundled out of the airport to find our mini van who was to take us to our accommodations. Two apartments, housing three each. After one hot, sweaty and very white knuckled drive to Mellieha, we arrived to find the apartments ready. We then took the next 36 hrs to relax and acclimatize!! Hot is not the word for it!
Day 1 Dive 1
Our dive center was Paradise Dive Center, located at the north of Malta, (35°59’12.5″N 14°19’53.9″E).
One of the few that use boats on the island. Our first dive of the day a boat dive on Comino Reef. Lots of swim through rocks and crags, with a few fish and a Moray Eel. Vis was a lovely 30+m. Dive was to be a 35m depth but spent too long at 20m to go deep, it was a restful dive! Depth 21.2m (Veronica, Brian, Alan and David)
A boat dive at the Blue Lagoon. 14m depth and again full of swim through and a few caves. Alexander Cave was a huge cave but we only went in half way due to the large group of people diving. This was our first days dive finished. Easy going and vis again was 30+m. Beautiful. Depth 14.8m (Veronica, Brian, Alan and David)
Day 2 Dive 3
So day two came around and off we went for shore dives due to the wind picking up over the night-time. Dive one was an hours mini bus, white knuckle trip to Maneol Island wreck. The X127 was a fuel lighter that carried shale oil to the ships in WWII. The ship was bombed in the Marsamxette Harbor Malta. Geared up and ready we did a large stride entry of the dock into murky green waters.
The bow of this wreck sits at 6m and the stern is at 24m. Vis on this dive was low, about 8-10m due to the winds the night before and during the day also. We circled the wreck and had a good swim over it also, then a follow the leader back to the stair exit. On the way back I seen what I think was a Scorpion Fish just sitting under a rock! Maneol harbor itself was littered with broken bottles and rubbish. X127 was interesting but unfortunately murky dive! Depth 22.4m (Alan, Brian and David)
Our second dive of the day was to be another insane drive away. Arriving at the Grand Harbor in Birgu, opposite to Valletta Malta, this was to be another shore dive. This dive was on SS Margit with a depth of 19m. A surface swim to the red buoy in the harbor was a little taxing, and then we grouped up as it was to be a murky dive again.
As we descended, we definitely knew we were in for a murky dive! Less than 2m vis and a group of 10, we had our work cut out for this one. Due to the murk some metals and shapes were seen but of what we could not really tell. Paulina, our guide did her job superbly, as she guided us back to the slipway under water . In the low vis, it was remarkable for her to get us back right on the money! Needless to say this dive was a bust!! So we decided to have the next day off and let the waters settle! Depth 19.8m (Alan, Brian and David)
Day 3 Dive 5
After a great day off and a wee walk about to Popeye Village and the Red Tower in the north of Malta, we were back in the water for a boat dive and off to Lantern Point East on Comino Island.
We dropped in the water and a shallow swim to a chimney and in single file we descended into darkness. Exiting out into a beautiful vista and continued to have multiple swim throughs. Thankfully after the wind, the water had settled and cleared to make it a great dive The dive finishes with a swim through to the Right Arch. Depth 28.4m (Veronica, Brian, Alan and David)
P31 between Comino and Malta. A small patrol ship that was purpose sunk to give new and trainee divers a wreck to dive. It sits at 18m and on a flat bed of sand. This ship was a lovely wreck to swim. The hull and also the main deck had a swim through. Also around the ship was sea grass and baby sting ray. Again great vis!! Depth 19.7m (Veronica, Brian, Alan and David)
My third dive, as everyone was tired, was to the Santa Maria Caves on Comino. Wow was I in for a treat!! These caves had multiple ins and outs. Crags and gullies, this dive turned out to be the second best dive so far. Also the darkness in the caves was amazing and torches at the ready made it so colourful and amazing!! Depth 14m (David)
Day 4 Dive 8
P29 was to be the first dive of the day on Malta! This ship sits at 35m on a flat bed of white sand. A short boat ride around the point to the yellow buoy for the ship. We dropped in and then descended to the bottom. While going down in perfect blue water, the shadow of the ship slowly appeared. Haunting is the only way to explain the view!
We bottomed out at 34m and swam to the bow. The group had a small swim through of the main deck, and a good swim around. There was a Conga Eel on the top mast but I was busy else where. A large caliber mounted gun at the fore of the ship gave great photo opportunities. We then turned east and swam back to the shore to make a slow but gentle swim to the boat. Therefore an amazing dive! Depth 34m (Alan, Brian and David)
Lantern Point West on Comino. At this point we were unfortunately introduced to the Hobbit family! Father, mother, two sons and a daughter, that looked like they bumbled out of the shire! A good laugh was had and then we went diving. We had five swim through and lots of large boulders and a wall to enjoy and the dive was finished off with the Right Arch again! Depth was 26.5m (Veronica, Brian and David)
Crystal Lagoon on Comino. A lovely shallow dive. We dropped in 6m where the dive guide had bread for us to feed the fish. Vee and Brian were like kids!! Happy and excited. We then had a tunnel to go through with amazing colours and stunning light!! We turned right and followed the wall to the Alexander caves but did not go in we did a U-turn and headed back to the tunnel and to the boat! Lovely end to the day! Depth 13.5m (Veronica, Brian and David)
Day 5 Dive 11
The first dive of the day was to be a treat! Malta Inland Sea. This was to be in my top three dives of my holiday. There was a great swim through a shallow entry to a a large open top cavern, the sun spilling in through the water and making the colours come to life! We took a small crack in the wall to the inland sea where we surfaced and could see the boat. descending back down, we enjoyed a different exit to the sea. The cracks and gullies were stunning and the caves amazing! A snake through some of the little caves to the surface and then back to the boat. Depth 22.4m (Brian and David)
Santa Maria Caves. Again I totally enjoyed it! We dropped in and followed the wall to a cave, we had to keep low as the shallow waters into the cave had boats coming and going. On the entry we took a right and into a smaller cave. A swim through to the outer wall and again we took another left into another cave system where it became very dark quick. The group surfaced into a small pool that could be accessed either by water or land. Dropping back down into the darkness, we swam to towards the deep blue light of the entrance and out we went! Turning right, we swam back to an arch that we entered through. And back to the boat! Depth 10.7m (Veronica, Brian and David)
Finally, our last dive of the holiday was to be the Blue lagoon again but with the full Alexander cave swim. Dropping in at 3m we took a short but beautiful tunnel to 8m depth. Swimming to the right and found the Alexander caves. A group of us had been in the mouth of the cave before but never the full extent. We swam in and in the brief were told that torches were needed. And with in 1 minute they were needed. Darkness fell and torches on to show a sandy white bottom and brightly coloured ceiling. Following the cave to the end where we ascended to an underground pool with air.
Stopping in the pool, we had a wee talk and told there are small fishers in the rocks to allow air in. We then descended again into total darkness. Torches on again and followed the dive guide out. The cave mouth came into view and the blue hue of light filtered in was stunning. Heading straight out and around the large boulders, we came to an overhanging with a beautiful garden. Then back through the small tunnel to the boats to end it all. Depth 15.6m (Brian and David)
This was our Matla Expadition July 2016
Veronica Taylor, Brian Webster, Alan Porteous, William Thomson and David Craigie.
Back in May a group from DSAC (Dave, Callum, Vee, Joe, Lewis, and myself) spent a long weekend diving in the Sound of Mull with Lochaline Dive Centre. On the trip we were happy to have Mark, Roddy, Alex, Marc, Catherine and Gavin dive along with us.
Instead of just the usual weekend trip we decided to book three days diving, starting on the Friday. This meant an early start for some of us travelling over that morning to make the ropes off time at 11:00. A few others had taken the easier (and perhaps more sensible) choice of booking the accommodation for the Thursday night too.
Either way everyone was on the boat on time to start the trip. The plan for Friday was to do the Hispania at 16:30 so we opted to do Ardtonish Point as the first dive.
On route to the first dive
This was a really nice wall dive with large overhangs and plenty of crevices for things to hide in. With the range of different kit on the boat, singles, twinsets, and CCRs so there were a few different dive profiles going on with some going along the wall at around 25-30m and others visiting 60m.
Veronica on Ardtornish Point
Following a long surface interval and the trip up the sound we were all ready to dive the Hispania and waiting for slack. Not an easy one to judge but Alan had never put us wrong yet so we weren’t worried about missing it.
Ready to dive the Hispania
Once we were given the word everyone stepped off the back of Sound Diver I and made their way down the shotline. The position of the wreck has changed over the years, listing steeper to starboard, and there has been some degradation of the masts on the deck and in the deeper holds but it is still a fantastic wreck dive. Very recognisable as a ship with lots of deck structure still present and completely plastered in life it is easy to see why this is a favourite of many. We were treated to great visibility on this dive and there were a variety of dive plans again with those able staying on the wreck for over an hour, and most being accompanied by the very friendly and inquisitive ballan wrasse!
Ballan Wrasse (Labrus bergylta)
Following the day’s diving it was back to Lochaline and along to the hotel for dinner and a few drinks before a relatively early night.
It was quite an early start on the Saturday as the plan had been to head out of the Sound to Maxwell Bank and Bo Faskadale had the weather allowed. Unfortunately, while it was calm in the sound the wind further put a stop to this plan so after a bit of debate we decided to dive the Shuna, Rondo, then a wall near Loch Sunart.
The Shuna can be quite a dark and murky wreck but we were treated to decent visibility with good amounts of ambient light on the deck and even down to the prop on the seabed at 31m. There is also plenty of life to be found on the Shuna with some rarer things to be spotted such as the red variety of dead man’s fingers, and northern sea fans.
Northern Sea Fans (Swiftia pallida) on the deck
After the Shuna we had a decent wait before doing the Rondo so spent the time relaxing, and enjoying the views from around the small islands where the Rondo sits with a few choosing to explore the islands.
Callum – mid flip
Don’t look at the camera!
After the surface interval we all got ready and jumped in on the Rondo. We were treated to great visibility again which improved even more down below 30m. Quite a few of us decided to visit the bow on the sea floor at 48m before working our way slowly back up the wreck that curves steeply to near vertical up the rock face. In the good visibility we were treated to some fantastic views looking up the wreck and seeing the divers above us.
Lewis at the Rondo bow
The stern and rudder of the Rondo is also a great place to spend your deco or safety stops with loads of anemones and sponges covering every inch of the wreck here and plenty of ambient light.
Looking up the Rondo
Anemones & Sponges on the rudder
After the Rondo we stopped in Tobermory with some deciding to get a chippy and others an ice cream, or both! With the wind picking up a bit we decided against Loch Sunart for the wall dive and headed for Calve Island instead. A few decided to sit this dive out but a couple of buddy pairs still went in. This was another nice relaxing wall dive with lots of life including white cluster anemones, jewel anemones, large sponges, and various nudibranchs. The wall does descend down beyond 50m but we decided to stay shallower and Veronica completed her first 30m dive.
Sound Diver I
The evening was spent with another nice meal and couple of pints in the hotel before heading back to the dive centre for the night. We had an early start in the morning again to get slack on the Thesis first thing. Unfortunately after it’s collapse in Jan 2014 the Thesis is a very different dive to what it once was.
There is now only a small section in the middle of the wreck that is still completely standing, with the bow and stern almost completely flattened. However it is still an interesting dive as there are a few different bits to explore and it is still covered in life.
Stern of the Thesis
The final dive of the trip was to be the Hispania again as it was a favourite of many on board. After making our way up the sound we did have a short wait before slack and again Alan was spot on with his timings. Visibility was possibly even better on this dive that the dive on Friday so was a really nice dive finish off the trip. I even managed to see the spare prop which I had somehow missed on every previous dive (thanks to Alex for pointing it out!).
A great weekend again and it was really nice to meet Marc, Gavin, and Catherine, and catch up with Mark, Roddy, and Alex. As usual Alan was a fantastic skipper and Mark & Annabel great hosts.
Gavin Anderson’s amazing photos from the weekend can be viewed on his facebook page here.
There’s also a great video of the friendly Hispania wrasse by Mark here
David and Callum from DSAC joined up with members of the Fife Renegades, Nick from Wales and Jeremy from England for a deep technical week in Malta based out of St Pauls bay and using TechWise Malta for boats, gases and any other equipment we didn’t bring with us, and we brought a lot!
In total with our added sports allowance, we had 65kg, rebreathers aren’t usually lightweight so some careful packing was required to get everything packed without going over the 20kg per bag max weight.
We arrived in Malta quite late after a 3.5 hour Ryanair flight and met up with Allan and the Techwise pickup truck in the car park, loaded up our bags and then dumped them all at TechWise HQ. The next morning was spent rebuilding all the rebreathers and making sure everything still worked. Once everything was rebuilt and checked everyone had a short dive in the Techwise house reef to make sure we were weighted properly and try out the bailout cylinders for trim.
Here is a summary of the equipment everyone was using going from left to right in the photograph above.
Callum Mckay – AP Classic Inspiration
David Millar – JJ CCR
Jeremy Wall – Open circuit (Twinset and stages)
Stewart Braisher – AP Classic Inspiration
Nick King – Sentinal
Andrew Knox – AP Vision Inspiration
Peter Keelan – AP Vision Inspiration
Steve Haddow – AP Vision Inspiration
Later on, after lunch, it was decided our first proper dive would be on the HMS Hellespont a WW2 wreck sunk in the Grand Harbour of Valletta during an air raid on 6/7th April 1942. After the war, as the harbour was being cleared, the wreck was lifted and scuttled off Rinella, 2 miles outside Grand Harbour, where she now lies. She sits upright on a sandy bottom with a maximum depth of 41 metres and a minimum depth of 35 metres. Hellespont was a steam-powered tug also known as the Paddle Steamer. She was 46 metres long, and the wreck is intact except for 15 metres of the bow section which was completely destroyed and is now missing from the wreck.
Our group had mixed opinions about this wreck, some thought it was pretty interesting once you were able to identify some of its workings but others thought it was a dull, boring wreck and only spent 15 minutes on it. You can’t please everyone!
Gozo ferry wrecks and the Inland sea
A few beers, some food and sleep later and we’re off to Gozo to dive the Inland sea. The short ferry crossing to Gozo was made a little less dull as a film crew was filming the captain and two tanned leggy girls wearing the shortest shorts ever pranced around.
The Inland sea is a small lagoon connected to the sea through a small opening/tunnel in the limestone cliffs. We didn’t pick the best day to dive the Inland sea as the wind had picked up and it was pretty choppy in the tunnel. The tunnel is used by fishermen and tourists on boat rides so once in the tunnel it’s not a great idea to surface but today only we were stupid enough to go inside. The surging current made the swim through the tunnel pretty hard work but as it gradually slopes down it gets easier and once you’re through and into the sea it gets very calm. This sea part of the dive is basically a big wall dive (50m) with lots of big boulders creating swim throughs.
Next up after some lunch at the Inland sea, we headed for the deliberately scuttled wrecks of the Karwela, Cominoland and Xlendi. We were told the Karwela was the most interesting and that the Xlendi was upside down and not worth doing so everyone decided to dive the Karwela (40m ish) . It’s a popular dive spot and we joined lots of other divers in the ample parking area. Rebreathers are heavy so the long walk down the steps to the entry point wearing a drysuit in the baking sun was not very enjoyable. Most of us kept the run times to about an hour and everyone reported a good dive. The Karwela is stripped bare but the engine room is pretty interesting and you’re able to swim around the engines and have a good nosey.
MV Le Polynesian
Finally, we get to dive the sort of wreck everyone came on the trip to do, the Polynesian! Le Polynesian is 150m long and was built for the shipping line La Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes at La Ciotat in France. Between 1891 and 1914 it operated over a number of routes covering the Far East, Australia and the French colonies. In 1914 she was taken on by the French Government as a troop transport ship and fitted with the deck guns which you can still see on the wreck today. On 10 August 1918, the Polynesian was attacked by UC22 and sank within 20 minutes with the loss of 10 lives.
Once the shot was placed everyone made their way down to the wreck which was hard work due to the strong currents which seem to disappear you pass the 20m mark. This wreck is huge and lies at an angle on its port side. It’s still full of cargo and plates and vases are scattered everywhere. One of the holds had hundreds of car and motorcycle tyres. We were told it’d be impossible to go from bow to stern in one dive so we did it just to prove them wrong. You would need a week on this wreck and many dives to explore it fully. On the way up a Brazilian diver decided to entertain everyone with his unusual DSMB deployment….
HMS Southwold – Bow & Imperial Eagle
HMS Southwold was a Type II British Hunt-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during World War II. She served in the Mediterranean for a few months until she was sunk off Malta in March 1942.
The Bow of the Southwold is pretty broken up but there is still lots to see. Ammunition shells litter the seabed all around and a toilet block can be seen inside of the wreck.
A lot of our group chose to sit the Imperial eagle out as they thought it was a bit bland but a few of us still went in and it’s a great little wreck for penetration and everything is quite open. It lies not far from a huge underwater statue of Jesus Christ.
MV Le Polynesian (again)
So good we did it twice!
Um El Faroud
The Um El Faroud was a 10,000-ton Libyan-owned single screw motor tanker. Following a gas explosion during maintenance work in 1995, she was scuttled off the coast of Malta as an artificial reef and diving attraction.
Almost everyone on this trip had done the El Faroud before but five of us spent an hour on her having a good look around without the gas limits of open circuit. Getting through some of the narrow passageways and hatches was a bit of a challenge due to the bailout cylinders we were carrying but we still managed. It’s a fair swim out and back to the Faroud but your decompression stops can be done in the bay near the entrance point which is usually full of girls in bikinis having a swim, unaware of the bubbless perverts below.
HMS Southwold – Stern (75m)
We saved the best until last, the Stern section of the broken in two HMS Southwold was amazing. This excellent video by Steve Haddow of Shadow Marine gives you a great look at it and points out some of the best bits.
Thanks to Peter Keelan for organising the trip and to Lee Stevens from TechWise Malta for putting up with us for a week!
After the very successful club trip/training weekend at the beginning of April we decided to leave the boat stored at Puffin Dive Centre for a couple of weeks so we could have another day’s diving in the area without having to tow the boat all the way there as well as back. So on the morning of the 16th Ken, Veronica, Alberto, David, Les, and I met up bright and early at Puffin.
After all arriving on time, getting the boat and everyone’s kit ready we were ready set off on time until we discovered the brakes on a couple of the trailer wheels had decided to completely seize! Thankfully we had all the tools needed and a spare set of brake shoes with us so after 40 minutes we had the boat in the water and were on our way out into the Sound of Kerrera.
We had hoped to make it to the Garvellachs and the great scenic diving on offer down there but with the N-NW wind forecasted to build gradually all day we didn’t really fancy the long trip back going against the swell. Instead we opted to head down towards the wreck of the SS Meldon in Loch Buie where the Island of Mull would provide some shelter from the winds on the trip there and back. The Meldon is a fantastic shallow wreck which sank in 1917 after running into a mine field laid by the U-78.
The 14nm journey down to Loch Buie was pretty straight forward with no real swell to speak off and as the sun was out we were treated to some great views of the Mull cliffs to the west and the Garvellachs to the east. While getting organised at Puffin we had seen the Peregrine from Lochaline Boat Charters pass by and sure enough they were on the SS Meldon when we arrived, they had 12 divers on the wreck but were just starting to pick them up so by the time we were kitted up and ready to go they were all out of the water and on their way. They had very helpfully advised that while the wreck did have a shotline it had become tangled around the stern post (which breaks the surface at LW) so the buoy was actually underwater.
Getting ready to dive the Meldon
After approaching very carefully the buoy was located just under the surface so David dropped the first of us in. Ken and Veronica were first in followed shortly by Myself and Les. The first part of the wreck you see is the stern standing upright on white sand in only 8m, while the top of the stern is covered in kelp every inch of the underside is covered in soft corals, sponges, and anemones. Continuing down you come across the intact prop and rudder which is turned hard to port and these too are plastered in soft corals and anemones.
Stern of the Meldon
After spending a bit of time looking around the stern and prop, we all made our way towards the bow. The wreck becomes more broken and scattered the closer you get to the bow but that doesn’t detract from the dive at all. The prop shaft is visible nearly the whole length of the wreck and there are dense kelp forests covering the collapsed plates with numerous massive pollack swimming about keeping an eye on you. After a quick look around the bow (at only 13m) we made our way slowly back towards the stern where we stopped for another good look before surfacing. On previous dives here there has been a large conger spotted living in a pipe near the bow but this time it was spotted by Ken in amongst the wreckage near the stern. The top of the stern in only 5-6m makes for quite a pleasant safety stop! A very nice 43min dive with a max depth of only 13.7m.
Following our dives, David and Alberto also enjoyed a nice dive on this stunning wreck (after a little weight trouble). Once everyone was back on board we moved into sheltered water outside Loch Buie to refuel the boat before starting on the trip back north.
Thanks to the strengthening N/NW wind the trip back was a little bumpy, particularly when crossing from Mull to Kerrera, the decision to skip the Garvellachs had been a good one! Thankfully in the Kerrera sound things were much calmer so we were able to dive Aird Na Cuile.
Veronica and David decided to sit this dive out so Ken and Alberto went in followed by Les and I. David dropped us off at the southern tip of the cliff face where we descended straight onto the wall before making our way north, keeping the wall on our right.
The wall here drops straight down to almost 40m in places and moving north changes between vertical drops, boulder slopes, and sandy slopes. The rock faces were completely covered in life, with sagartia anemones, dahlia & horseman anemones, soft corals, elephant hide sponges all a common sight and spaces inbetween crammed with feather stars. Below 20m we also came across a number of the less frequently seen celtic feather stars.
Celtic Feather Star (Leptometra celtica)
Sagartia elegans var. venusta
After spending quite a bit of time going along the wall at 20m we started to move up shallower and into the edge of the kelp at about 10m before sending up a DSMB and going with the current before surfacing. Another really nice dive at 31mins and max depth of 23m. Ken and Alberto surfaced just after us so once we were all back on board it was only a short trip to Puffin to recover the boat. Another great day diving off the club boat.