In the end of the July Susi, Jukka, I and two other divers from Finland went to Åland for a four day wreck diving trip. This coincided with an American car show, which Gunnar – who had been our guide in our Red Sea trip earlier this year – was attending.
Our dive center was Dive Åland, and although the first communications with the staff over the phone and email left a bit unclear vibe, after the four days I can heartily recommend it for everybody. The center is a ten minutes drive from the ferry terminal and it combines a dive shop and a small hostel. In practice there’s a big room with several bunk beds, a smaller private room, a sauna and a fully equipped kitchen. The pier where the boat left for the closer dives was right next to it. Extremely handy and comfortable. Additionally the staff were nice and helpful guys and the briefings & the logistics were top notch.
In any case, we had four days of wrecks. Baltic sea is a good wreck diving location, because the low salinity of the water keeps the metal parts from corroding so fast, and the wooden parts can survive for centuries. All in all we visited five wrecks:
- Plus is a large 70m long sail ship built in 1885. It sank during a stormy December night a stone’s throw from the shore. The sailors who happened to swim in the right direction survived, the others drowned.
- Caskelot is a sailing boat that sank on 1970. You can find the nylon sails next to it and read the mileage and other information on the instruments.
- Nederland is a Dutch river barge that sank with a full cargo of street bricks in 1917.
- M/S Gävle is a Swedish marine research vessel that sank on 1975. It’s heavily listed, but in a very good condition. A lot of the rigging is still intact, which made this a very interesting diving experience. The visibility was ridiculously good, something like 15 meters, so navigating through the ropes and cables wasn’t that hard. There was an equipment locker someone had recently broken into, in spite of the key still being in a “break the glass in case of emeregency” box next to it. There was a lone gas mask hanging out the door.
- S/S Belliver was the true money shot of the trip. It’s a large steam ship, which was accidentally found by the same crew that found the Soviet submarine S-2. Since the wreck was found only in last winter, it’s still relatively unmolested by stupid fucks who steal stuff from wrecks. On the deck you could find the compass, the ship’s bell, a course corrector, some plates and of course the ornate captain’s toilet. If you went outside the wreck, you could peek in from the holes in the aft and see the bunk beds of the crew. S/S Belliver is about 300 meters away from the Soviet submarine S-2, which we didn’t get to visit, because of something about it being a wartime grave and containing live ammo. Pffsh.
Here’s somebody’s video from the wreck:
And this is someone else in Plus, with tech diving gear and a professional level video equipment.
Learning to Dive
There aren’t that many photos from under the sea. I seemed to have lost my underwater camera fu, so most of the photos came out pretty crappy. On the other hand the plateau effect of diving I’ve been struggling with this spring let go and I suddenly found out I had far better buoyancy control than earlier, plus I spontaneuosly learned how to do a helicopter turn. I guess I need a bit more XP to learn how to back up.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t mistakes, the most irritating being almost locking up my dive computer. The mysterious zoology of diving: an angry Gekko can mess up 48 hours of diving, so one should treat their Gekko right. I had set up the computer on 32% nitrox mix on the previous night, but this time there happened to be a long enough a pause in between the dives for it to reset itself for air. This meant that when I was in the ass end of S/S Belliver, furthest away from the buoy line and right at the bottom of the sea, I noticed the Gekko giving me six minutes to get back up. We started heading back for the buoy line, I got some extra deco minutes from the computer but a slow ascent kept the computer happy.
The other mistake was missing a MOD warning for the gas I was using, but since I had set the alarm on 1.4, it wasn’t that bad – I got maybe down to 1.5 and so I was still meters away from actual danger. For those whom which the previous was complete Hebrew: with enriched air you can go only so deep, depending on the percentage of oxygen in the air mix, because oxygen turns poisonous in certain dephs. MOD is the maximum depth for a given gas mix and the 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 are partial pressures of oxygen. The higher it goes, the more certain you are to get oxygen toxicity and to start convulsing. 1.6 is considered the maximum safe limit, but those that play safe (like me) use 1.4.
In any case, the trip was really great, even with all the sunburns from falling asleep on the boat in direct sunshine, and the back muscles that are screaming bloody murder after lifting the tanks and kits for four days straight. If you are interested in wreck diving, Åland is well worth a visit.