Sunday, September 22, 2013

OC Trimix Diving Alive and Well, Don't Believe The Hype - A Trip Report From SS Warilda

Everything Above;

I had seen a few videos of dives done on the SS Warilda and each one looked as amazing as the last. 20m visibility extremely intact super structure of which there is loads and if you're in to, enough squidgy stuff to keep the most avid fish freak happy for as long as your gas will allow. Being in the middle of the Channel and at a depth of between 51 and 42ish metres it is perfect Tech1 level diving. With amazing vis common here that is rarely seen on wrecks closer in to shore. Also to reiterate the wreck is albeit broken in two but largely intact as well as completely and I mean completely covered in fish life. All this topped off with a long overdue catch up dive with my buddy and fellow Tech1 course partner Rob Waran makes for a very happy diver. I was chomping at the bit to this dive and after some tooing (sp?) and throwing I managed to get the time off and the van ready for 29th August.

All the dive kit, bedding and electronic entertainment

The dive kit assembled, gas analysed and ready to go.
I decided to drive down to Brighton the night before as ropes of was a bright n' early 7:30am. The back of the van was turned in to an appropriate nest for the night with a multitude of duvets, sleeping bags and pillows and of course all the relevant dive gear. One last minute mod to an old pair of wetsuit boots, as the appropriate sized ones seem to have gone walk about. Nothing my old friend stanley couldn't fix though and turned out to be more comfortable and less cramp inducing dive than their predecessors. After a pretty cushty sleep and an easy rise at 6am I headed down to the Marina which, I had managed to park 2mins away from on a long stretch of road with lots and lots of laybys, winning. I was feeling pretty smug at my new found stop over and even more smug as I was the first to place all my dive kit assembled by the marina gates, early!?.

My new MTF wetsuit boots, surprisingly comfortable.
My nest for the evening, again surprisingly comfortable
Despite everyone being ready, all 6 of us, at 7:30 we didn't leave until 8 for the very comfortable just over 3hour ride out there. Not quite mirror like but not a wave to be seen and enough room to swing a large dog, made for a boat load of happy divers. This combined with a brilliant skipper who regaled us with tales of diving of yesteryear, clear skies and beaming sunshine, you'd have been hard pushed to wipe the smile off my ever so slightly sea sprayed face. All of this combined with a few tales from Graham and Butch to keep everyone chipper.

This is in the middle of the channel!?! Look how flat it is. :)
Look at that smile.

Everything Below;

The dive could easily have been a disappointment. With so much excitement in the build up, watching videos, reading reports and researching info on the I can happily say it was far from it. The vis looked good as we looked straight down the shot (the guide rope to the wreck), the tide was barely running and our slack (time without water movement/tide) window was to be more than comfortable for the whole dive.

I politely allowed Rob to be the dive leader and deco captain leaving me to fire the bag on the ascent and be dragged round the wreck at his mercy. Then again I've never been very good at letting anyone else take charge. After what felt like for me a slow ascent I decided to take over and pull hand over hand down the shot barely injecting any gas in to my suit and none in to my wing. To be honest I like to get as close to feeling like I'm at free fall on the way down to the wreck, not least of all to conserve precious trimix (the gas we breath on dives below 30m made up of helium/He, oxygen/O2 and Nitrogen/N) but partly to get a little kick out of it. Not strictly DIR or GUE so I'm not advising it but boy it feels good racing down the shot and skidding to a halt just before chin hits rust. The visibility wasn't good though, it was bloody amazing! We could see the whole stern of the wreck with her list to port and she is massive. Like a lot of wrecks she is broken mid ships. After a quick nudge to remind Rob to reset his avg depth and time and a miffed returned look as if to say, "please, b!@ch I got this," we headed over the starboard side and swam down the wreck towards the nearest diver sized hole. We had swam probably 30m down the starboard side when we came to the entrance we had been looking for and the opportunity for some reel penetration. We had a quick swim around inside to check there was a way on. Another nod and Rob got the reel out while I tried to enlighten the situation. This is team diving at its best. I don't care what you say about solo diving when you dive with people you know and trust things just flow beautifully.

We spent 20-25mins inside the wreck, swam past some big boilers which, I presume to be for water aboard the ship, they were big but upon reflection perhaps not big enough to be the main boilers (I culd be wrong and they could be the main boilers so don't quote me on this, maybe someone more in the know could comment below), we continued to swim down some tight passage past some huge pit bull headed congers. We did find a find a way out but Rob being the pikey diver he is decided he wanted to save line and reel back to where we started from. God knows why, the reel was fit to burst and the paid out line looked to be a much needed relief. After our return we still had ten minutes on the wreck and our average depth was a joyful 42m giving us a much welcomed extra 5minutes with out being penalised in deco (deco - decompression is needed to allow time to let the on gassed nitrogen out of the body). Back outside we swam a little further along the starboard before we headed over to look at the sea and waves of fish covering the mid ship. Massive cod, pollock and lots of other well sized fish in large numbers. Because of this and despite the wreck being mid channel, perhaps slightly closer to France she does attract fishermen and is thus quite well snared with mono-filament and a few nets, nothing that isn't easily avoidable though.

Me and Rob spent another ten minutes swimming around in the sea of fish doing a loop before finishing our dive back where we started at the stern. We took a quick swim around and look at the propellor and rudder which is huge. The rudder has come away from the wreck and looks to be laying there ready to craned away. I couldn't guess how much it weighs though. We called the dive on 35mins and began our ascent. It is a real pleasure to look over the wreck as we ascend especially with so much ambient light. I need to remember this for the future to ascend slightly mid dive as it great to get a good feel for the wreck this way, probably something else I wouldn't suggest as the ensuing saw tooth profile could cause some silent bubble formation and I don't want anyone blaming me for a helicopter ride home,  perhaps one reason to slow down the descent and case the wreck out in good visibility before beginning the dive. Still she is an incredible wreck and we really only saw half of her 125m long hull. Definitely to appreciate this wreck I would like to do two more dives on her, one with a scooter and another to do some more ferreting. 

Deco was deco, bag shot, some new hand signals and facial expressions invented. We were both completely covered in rust so did the honourable thing and cleaned the rust off of each other. That is what buddies are for. You know you have been wreck ferreting when you both do barrel rolls on deco and the rust and squidge that falls out of the space between your tanks lowers the visibility. We did 30 mins deco, 3mins up, 15 at 6 and then 1m a min from there. Again the joys of diving with people you know and trust its such a joy. I always feel like it is such a shame to get out in that last metre where I could just stay, float and reflect for a while longer, the joys of a pee valve, thanks Graham.

Back on the surface the sun was still beaming down and the skipper smiling to greet us with a few fish he had managed to catch while we were immersed. The other 4 all dove together, Graham, Butch, Jon and Stephen and they were up about 10mins after us. Doing a slightly longer dive than us but who's counting. Smiles all round as we helped them de-kit back onboard. This is what UK diving is all about.

We steadily motored back lying down in the ample room on deck. Brighton Diver the boat we were diving off is huge with enough space  to put more benches in, this combined with only 6divers meant we could relax with out worrying about treading on anyone's toes, fortunate for me as this what I had cut off my wetsuit boots. It took about 3hours to get back as the wind picked up very slightly but I mean slightly it was still an extremely comfortable ride back and everyone looked happy.

Big massive thank you to Rob for organising this trip, it really was one of my best UK dives and such a joy to dive with a true champ. Thank you everyone else for being good sports and nice to meet you Jon and Stephen hopefully we will catch a dive together soon. GUE and OC trimix is alive and well in the UK, don't believe the hype.

Apologies for no photos below but the photos I got above definitely capture the mood.
Brighton diver. A mahusive brilliant dive boat with a great skipper and only 6 divers so loads of space.

Jon trying to get that all over tan on just one finger?
 Everything About The Wreck;

I have taken this without permission from I could paraphrase it but I would simply be changing what someone else has all ready written so here it is. To see the original please go here;

Vleggeert Nico19/09/2008
The Warilda was taken over for government service as a troopship during the First World War. After several voyages she was fitted out as a hospital ship and engaged upon the Southampton-Havre run. On August 3rd, 1918, when returning from France with about 700 wounded she was torpedoed and sunk with a very heavy loss of life. The weather was thick but the white hull and red crosses of the ship were fairly discernable.

The Warilda remained afloat for about two hours and then sank, taking with her 123 persons. The number saved was 678, including the commander, Capt. Sim, who was later decorated with the O.B.E. by King George V. Up to the time of her sinking the vessel had carried over 70,000 troops and wounded.

Warren Ivan25/11/2007
First dived by divers aboard the "Michelle Mary". The bridge bell was recovered 22.8.92 also seen on the dive was the main bell, this was recovered 26.8.92.
ref. used

Lettens Jan06/08/2007
7.713 tons. 16 knots. Adelaide SS Co Ltd Adelaide. Manned by Australian officers and (during part of her service) Australian crews. Torpedoed and sunk by submarine UC-49 in the English Channel 3 August 1918, while transporting 700 wounded from Le Havre.


passenger ship
date built:

weight (tons):
7713  grt
dimensions :
125.4 x 18.3 x 10.39 m
2 x 4 cyl. quadruple expansion engines
16  knots
yard no.:
IMO/Off. no.:

Thank you all the dedicated wreck detectives out there that have put so much work in to make wreck site such a brilliant resource.


Rob looking like he's about to perform some egyptian burlesque show.

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