Trip Report

Happy Days: HSAC’s 2019 Scapa Trip


Scapa Flow in Scotland’s Orkney Islands is one of the best places in the world for wreck diving. At the end of WWI, the German navy was handed over to the British and interned in Scapa during the peace negotiations. In 1919, just before the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the German crews scuttled their entire fleet. Of the 52 battleships that were sunk, seven remain. Massive, with their huge guns still intact, these incredible ships sit in the gloomy depths; ghosts of a bye-gone era. In October 2019, to mark the 100th anniversary of the famous scuttling, Hackney Sub Aqua Club made the long trip north (for some, the furthest north they’d ever been) for an awesome week below the surface and above.

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Home for the week was MV Halton, a cosy converted fishing trawler, crewed by Rachael and Ainsley and skippered by the wonderful Bob Anderson – a man with the world’s driest sense of humour and possibly worst cooking skills we have ever met: “The spaghetti’s boiling, we’ll eat in an hour!” What Bob lacked in culinary expertise, he more than made up for as a dive boat skipper. No-one of us thought it possible to dive on a day that started with a force 10 gale. But Bob managed it. His brilliant dive briefings gave us great understanding of the wrecks and plenty to look for on our dives. 

Massive thanks to everyone on the trip and to Bob, Rach and Ainsley for making it one of the best weeks of diving any of us have ever had. We’ll be back soon.

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Wet in and out of the water

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Here are some of our favourite moments:

“We dropped down the bow shot and saw the armoured control tower and then the 5.9″ guns at towards the stern. As Bob said, Scapa is all about guns. This was what I had come for. These were the ones that had fired at Jutland. I spent quite a long time concentrating on the breech of the 5.9″. After a while I was vaguely aware of squeaking coming from the direction of Olivia. I turned, feeling guilty I had ignored my buddy for so long, hoping she was okay. She was yelling at me and flapping her arms around in quite an alarming way. I then realised Olivia was doing an impression of a nosy grey seal that had come to see what we were up to. Grateful she was okay, I turned back to the guns reflecting that, ultimately, I’m more interested in rust than wildlife.” Will’s log book, SMS Karlsruhe

“The whole F2 is covered in a lot of life with lots of juvenile fish. We had a good swim around and found the huge gear boxes. After one languid wrasse caught Jane’s attention, she signalled ‘That’s you, that is’ at it. I laughed so much that I flooded my mask … We then had a long underwater argument using wet notes about our poor navigation. Jane had missed the bloody great rope that was clearly going towards the barge.” Will’s log book, F2 wreck & salvage barge

“At one point, Garry reached into a hole and dragged out a huge, dead lobster. He arranged it neatly on top of a bit of the wreck, looked straight at me, and pointedly drew his finger across his throat.” Jane’s log book, Tabarka with Garry

“So, it turned out I forgot to switch my gas mix setting on my computer. I was diving on Nitrox 32 but hadn’t changed the setting on my computer from the morning dive – which was on 27%. As I didn’t want to lock my computer, I wasn’t keen on overriding it. So, instead of 4 minutes of deco we did 13 minutes at 6m – with Jane needing the loo. Needless to say, I wasn’t in her good books when we got back on the boat, yet again.” Will’s log book, SMS Dresden

“Really stunning dive. Lots of life. Beautiful contrast between the dark interior of the wreck and the brilliant turquoise blue of the water, swaying with kelp and fish in the current. Inside the blockship there were so many crabs, it seemed like they were falling off around us. Beautiful colours cover every surface … We squeezed over the huge boilers and Garry headed down a corridor on the starboard side that got pretty narrow at one point. I was bit shocked to see Garry get stuck, all I could see were his squirming legs until he vanished completely in a cloud of silt and crabs.” Will’s log book, Tabarka with Garry

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Andy’s tribute to Scuba Santa (the magical fixer of dry suits)

You better swash out

You better not be dry

You better have gout

I’m telling you why, Scuba Santa is coming tonight

He’s mending your suit

Perhaps even twice

He’s going to find out

Who’s diving or not, Scuba Santa is coming tonight

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re all drunk

He knows when you’ve used wax or not

So use lube for goodness sake