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Wreck Diving in Åland, Part II

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Susi and I decided to end our Awesome July of 2010 by going to Åland to dive some wrecks, like we did last year. This time we were accompanied again by Gunnar, Christina, Jukka and Hakkis, but also Jori and Ville who are of a slightly fresher batch of divers.

On our way to Åland we heard that the weather wasn’t quite as great as it was the last time, and the wind went up to 10 m/s on the sea, which is quite a lot. On the way to Åland the ferry got hit by quite an impressive thunderstorm, which didn’t bode that well.

(More photos in the Flickr photoset!)

Thunder

On our way to Åland, we ran into a pretty massive thunderstorm with some impressive cloud formations.

In the end the wind was too heavy to go to the open sea, so this time around we didn’t get to see Belliver or Gävle. We stayed two days in Plus, which is the “home wreck” of the dive operator. It’s a nice three mast sailing ship that sunk very close to the shoreline, and which is shielded from the worst of the winds. Nevertheless the going was a bit rocky both over the surface and under water.

ROCKY DIVES ON THE PLUS

On our first dive I was a little bit nervous. A bit earlier on a completely different trip I had probably the most unnerving experience of my diving history – a bad fill of air. A valve in the compressor had burned out and tainted the air with smoke. I had two dives where the air got really hard to breathe when I reached 20 meters and I developed a cough that was at first distracting, but turned rather painful and downright dangerous. That dive trip ended with me coughing violently through my regulator and kicking full speed towards the buoy rope, one hand on the inflator button with the idea that if I feel I will start to lose consciousness, the last thing I’ll try to do is to inflate the BCD and get myself to the surface. In the end everything went well, apart from a splitting headache, a throat that felt really sore for a couple of days – and apparently a little bit of wariness of going under water the next time. Also, from that trip on I’ve really started to pay attention to how does the air taste like before I go under.

Pommern

Plus is the little sister of this ship, Pommern. You could recognize some of the structures.

The visibility on Plus was quite bad in the beginning and there was a bit of a current that came from the starboard side and went up the deck (the ship was listing heavily on one side). On the first dive Susi, Jori, Ville and I were in one group, so we could show the wreck to the guys. Everything went well and the slight uneasiness I felt melted away nicely.

We ended up doing five dives in Plus, which was just enough to keep it interesting. For once there was ample time to really go through the wreck, learn its layout, peek into every cabin, hole and cranny, and also to pay attention to your technique in an environment that started to feel quite familiar. I left my camera in the boat on purpose, because the visibility meant the photos wouldn’t have been good, and I wanted to concentrate on simply diving. This turned out to be a very good choice, because I think I really learned a lot on those dives.

The sea was a little bit rough for diving.

ROCK, MOSS AND LICHEN

We spent our surface intervals on Kobba Klintar, an abandoned pilot station that is on a rocky and rather barren island. When others napped, I spent my time going around the island, talking photos of the sounding sea, lichen, moss, tidal pools and other elements. In places like that I often get a very weird feeling, like emotionally very strong childhood memories of living in a wooden house next to the sea. Having been born and raised inland, it’s a bit puzzling, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the beautifully melancholy mood that gets me in. And no, I don’t believe in past lives.

The Pilot Station

The old pilot station looked really lonely up there, in middle of the island.

Wind Mills

Faraway wind mills, which made me think of some kind of a Bradburian sci-fi story about a kid in his rocky home island, looking at a faraway power station and rocket launch pad.

CASKELOT AND NEDERLANDER

On our last day we finally got on another location, which was actually a double whammy of a wreck dive: Caskelot and Nederlander. The former is a high class sailing boat from the 70’s, the latter a Dutch river barge that some insane person sailed into the Baltic and managed to sink in the beginning of the 20th century. A barge like that doesn’t really belong to the open sea, so it’s not a big surprise that it’s now found 20 meters under the surface.

The sea had calmed down a bit, but not much, and it felt like the boat listed 40 degrees when the biggest waves rolled in. The wrecks are close to a skerry with a small lighthouse, about 70 metres apart but connected by a line which you can follow when diving. Mooring on the Caskelot’s buoy was impossible, so we had to jump out of the drifting boat and wait at the buoy when the boat turned out and spat in the next diver.

The lighthouse with the wrecks of Caskelot and Nederlander close to it.

The swell was pretty intense especially when you were in the water. We had spent the previous evening in a rock bar, listening to an insane band called Made in Thailand. Basically the band consists of four Thai guys, who play incredibly good cover versions of metal and rock hits. We didn’t get completely smashed, but the few beers, a bit too little of sleep and the swell made hanging on the buoy pretty… interesting, especially so when you could still feel the waves pummeling you several meters under water.

This dive was one that made me really think about the conceptual difference between diving in the tropics and diving in a place like the Baltic Sea. In tropics, the typical dive for me is something like “going to the aquarium to see pretty fish, BRB”.  The water is clear, on a bad day you can see 20 meters and all in all it’s a very sunny and bright experience. I don’t mean that there aren’t dangers, because of course there are – I’m just talking about the mood and the mindset.

In the Baltics, on the other hand, it’s more like a space marine thing: you are spat out of a rocking ship into a clearly hostile environment: it’s cold and dark, you can only see the things that fall in your flashlight’s beam – which carries for three meters – and what you will find in the bottom is a rocky seabed, rusted metal imploded under an organic mass of mollusks and barnacles, and possibly xenomorphs. It’s just you, your buddy and your equipment keeping you alive.

The dive was very nice, although we again spent too little time on Caskelot, overestimating the time it took us to follow the line to Nederlander. We got to swim around the barge twice before Susi got cold and we had to get up.

The tidal pools were very beautiful in the afternoon sun.

BACK NEXT YEAR

Not getting to see more wrecks sucked, but in spite of that the trip was pleasant. There were plenty of chances to learn diving technique, we got to know one wreck properly and of course it was great to spend some time with pals. On Sunday we had seven hours to kill before our ferry left, and we found a nice little park island on the Marienhamn harbour. It had peacocks, humongous mutant giant rabbits and of course a playground, which we were just in the correct mood to enjoy.

Going to come back next year, this time hopefully with a slightly better weather.

(More photos in the Flickr photoset!)

A Giant Rabbit

Yes. The rabbit really is that big.

Adventureward Ahoy!

Adventureward Ahoy!

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Awesome Year of 2010 : Vornasblogi

  2. This post looks like such a successful exploration. As an outdoor lover, I was happy to stumble across such a post. I have yet to do something like this and I hope that I too have the opportunity that you have had. The pictures look great and the whole trip looks like an amazing time. Great post, thank you for sharing!

    -Sara

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