The Vicinity, Diving the Wear & Bega

Oh – you mean the SS Wear? Well… the week of May 7 was one full of an old feeling that had been lacking for a while, anticipation mingled with a healthy dose of nervousness. Something new was on for me: a dive to 120m on the SS Wear.

Friday night saw divers and support crew assemble in Bermagui at ‘Bygara’ accommodation, run by Keith Apperley. Armed with an additional oxygen cylinder to get past my classic KISS’s depth limitation, and a new Subsea display, the 5-hour drive down to Bermagui passed quite quickly! After a night out at the local steak house all retired early, having checked gear (in some cases, rechecking gear) in preparation for a 6:30 loading of the boat and 7am departure.

Saturday dawned still and quiet. Everyone was down at the wharf by 6:15 and the boat was loaded with 6 rebreathers, 18 stage tanks, 2 OC setups, tubs, bags, food, cameras and stuff ready to shove away early (!!!!) at 6:55. On board were Frits Breuseker, Sven Papaeke, Andy Del Riccio (A-team sand divers) Kevin Oakby, Donal Walsh and Fil Gray (B-team and wreck divers – BASTARDS!), Ian Cowie and AJ our support divers.

The team enjoyed great conditions on the steam out. Seas were a lazy 0.5m, about 15 seconds apart. A light NW breeze kept us cool as we stowed gear, checked gear, ate and drank. The Binjarra arrived on site a bit before 10am and we busily deployed the shot and deco station Mk.II into the flat blue water. There was some talk of the shot moving away from the wreck, and the line, at 124m of rope and 20m of chain being too short, however it appeared to be still to some, with Keith eventually calling it stationary.

Kitting up and getting into the water proved to be a bit of a chore, but with help from the B-team (BASTARDS!) 1 rebreather (35kg) two 11L aluminum stages (34kg) 1 6L ally stage (7kg) was quite a bit – 76kg for a 74kg person!

In the water things were different. The ally stages became light, almost floating, making it easy to swim. With a quick OK across the A-Team (remember that from your open water course?), and we were on our way. During the descent we changed positions: I was having fun, moving from last to middle, as Uncle Frits looked after us kids, then leading the way as Sven started to have some interesting alarms sound on his unit. The water was warm (19C!) and quite clear, about 20m viz.

It’s quite a thrill to see your timer go past 80m, past 90m, and then stick on 99.9m! About this time I could see the chain looming (but it was 20m long, soit should have been on the sand you say…) and some clouds of silt. Reaching the sand / silt, I saw what every diver fears, an anchor dragging along the bottom. By the time Frits arrived to see the sorry sight, I was able to get my secondary O2 tank on, recheck my PO2 (was at 1.25) and stabilise it. All this was at 7 minutes on the timer. We agreed on a short (3 minute) search, but by the time a reel was deployed, it was already 10 minutes, and clearly any search would either be unsuccessful, or leave us with no time to explore, or lead us to break our plans, which on one’s first sub 100m dive is somewhat… interesting… an approach! So we turned and started our ascent.

All this time, Sven was on the line, a few metres up, dealing with his electronics, which he eventually got up and running again. The ascent was uneventful-ish. I did learn a few things: never stow your contingency tables in your pocket, and don’t bungee up laminated tables either. They caught up on other stuff in my pocket and proved a b!tch to get out, so much so I was able to pull one bottom timer off my wrist. Luckily Uncle Frits was there again to catch it, retuning it during our 6m stop. And try the bungee on for size before the dive, it was a bit tight, so I had to break the 10 minute table off it, fold it and thread it through my wrist slate – of course, left handed divers should put the wrist slate on the right arm too… funny how this sort of stuff is never an issue or never happens on a shallow dive, but can be quite disconcerting on a deep one!

The rest of our ascent was pretty uneventful, with little current, shark shields, and no pretty critters in the water. Surfacing and getting back on bord was helped greatly by AJ taking tanks from us in water, and passing them up onto the boat. Seeing we had just undertaken a pretty extreme dive, all divers were keen to minimise their exertions post dive.

Meanwhile… the shot was recovered and redeployed, this time Pops lower the entire rode first, and then dropped it. It must have worked, as the B-Team (BASTARDS!) had a nice dive on the wreck. The dive proved only a little trickier as a NE breeze had set up a nice 1m chop. Again, AJ proved her worth ferrying tanks back and forth with Ian assisting her both in the water and on board.

The only real issue with the B-Team (BASTARDS!) dive was the manta ray that entertained them on deco. Some people have all the luck.


Images from the Trip

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