Twelve members of the club headed up to the Shetland Islands to join the MV Valhalla for a weeks recreational diving on wrecks and reefs.
The steel hulled 23.95m Valhalla was built for the Royal Navy and converted to a dive boat in 2012. The Valhalla has 6 centrally heated twin bunk cabins, 5 on the lower deck, each with en-suite shower and washbasin and 1 cabin with an adjacent toilet and shower on the main deck. There is a spacious lounge and inside changing room with charging area, make up the rest of the forward accommodation, while a galley and mess are situated towards the stern. Food was excellent and plentiful.
We travelled up by car to Aberdeen on Saturday in order to catch the luxurious North Sea Ferry leaving at 5.30pm. This made a short stop on the way at Orkney at 11pm and arrived in Lerwick at 07.30 on the Sunday morning. Once our kit was off loaded we were transported a short distance to the dive boat and settled in.
Two local shakedown Dives took place along some Walls just off some shore Islands (Scorehead and Otter Point) with plenty of life to be seen including fish, crabs, anemones and corals before we returned to Lerwick. The town had plenty of shops and pubs and short walks to occupy us all.
Day two we headed out to the wreck of the Froach Ban a 15m sand eel trawler that sank in 1999 laying upright in 31m of water on white sand. The day was bright and sunny and the wreck was soon spotted as we headed down the shot line. A prominent bow, weather shelter and wheelhouse were easily identifiable all covered with anemones and dead man’s fingers. The wreck was teaming with life with huge clouds of juvenile fish swirling around the super structure. The sea bed had lots of flat fish and a number of semi concealed octopuses were also spotted. Short decompression stops were served near the shot line before re-surfacing.
Our second dive later that day was on the Pionersk which was a large 13693 tonne Russian fish processing factory ship or Klondyker which sank on 31st October 1994 in a severe force 11 south westerly storm in Bressay Sound just outside Lerwick Harbour. The ship is 180m long and has a beam of 21m It lies just off shore on White sand in 15-20m of water. Plenty to explore including the engine room and gutting plant.
Day three the weather was holding and we visited another big wreck the Gwladmena a 928 tonne single screw steam ship 67m long with a beam of 9.14m lying in 38m of water. The boat carrying coal sank at anchor on 1st January 1918 after being hit by another ship from the same convoy heading for Norway. A big wreck the bow and focsale are fantastic and the engine, two huge boilers and prop shaft are all waiting to be seen. The stern sits proud and intact. Plenty of Angler fish and clouds of juvenile fish also.
A shallower dive followed but perhaps the most spectacular dive of the week – a visit to the Bard Cave. The cave is a huge natural cavern situated on the southern end of Bressay and is large enough for local tour boats to entre and anchor up. We dropped off outside the cave and swam into its mouth finding many huge boulders. As the natural light faded the cave appeared barren and devoid of life but as soon as your eyes became accustomed to your surroundings the place was alive with all manner of animals – nudibranchs, shrimp, butterfish, delicate cup corals, massive dahlia anemones plus squat lobsters, lobsters and crabs. At the end of the cave was a resident seal not really happy to see us.
Wednesday day three, more good weather we headed north to the most northerly harbour in the UK . On the way er dived on the 30m Luna Wall with lots of cervices and boulders at its foot. Some crabs and Lobsters but not a great deal to see unfortunately here. The afternoon dive however was a classic and more than made up for the earlier dive and long transit. It was the wreck of the WW1 submarine the E49. The 55m long E class submarine was sunk by a German mine on 12th March 1917. The wreck is a war grave and sits on white sand about 500m from the Balta lighthouse at the mouth of Baltasound. The conning tower and periscope lie to the side of the hull and beneath it a hatch with two portholes still firmly clamed shut. Steering gear exhaust pipes and other mechanism can still be seen. Large fish and an Octopus or two reside within the wreck.
We dived the wreck again the next morning maximising our time on the 33m wreck and serving our decompression time near the shot line near the surface before heading back towards Lerwick. We stopped mid afternoon to dive a new site Ramnnageo. A series of walls, gorges and boulders down to about 30m with a variety of sea life.
Water temperature was about 11C and the weather remained king to us all week.
We repeated the dive on the Gwladmena as our last dive before packing up and heading for the Ferry back to Aberdeen.
A wide variety f diving with excellent visibility made better by blue skies and sunshine. Everyone enjoyed the trip.