Stratford on Scapa 2023

Nine intrepid Stratford divers headed to the wilds of the Orkney Isles on the 10th September 2023 on another of Alastair’s brilliantly organised trips. We arrived in the historic harbour town of Stromness to be met by Emily Turton, skipper of Huskyan. Huskyan is a purpose built dive boat, designed to Emily’s personal specifications. She is a woman of precision and exceptionally high standards; Huskyan is therefore an exceptionally good boat. Our kit was all winched aboard and set up ready for diving to begin on the 11th. We stayed at Number 15, Huskyan’s own divers’ lodge, which is similarly well fitted out as Huskyan.

We were a mix of diving configurations and preferences and the buddy groups fell into obvious groups. Chris Hastie and Josh Evans, Alastair Manning and Andy Dale had all worked hard to get themselves ADP (Accelerated Decompression Procedures) ready for the trip. They were kitted out like the proverbial Christmas Trees with nitrox twin sets, 80% deco stages, massive torches and other bits and pieces. They got the longest, deepest dives by a mile and saw the most though, so were happy with all the faff. Jon Arthur, Andy Bacon and Nick Todd Jones were simple air twin sets so had plenty of gas for time but were limited by deco considerations. Mark Jeffery and Sophie Hastie had single nitrox cylinders, so got longer bottom times and were happy a little shallower with the good light.

We dived all the classic WW1 German Fleet wrecks—the Dresden, Cöln, Karlsruhe, König, Kronprinz Wilhelm, Markgraf and Brummer. We also dived a couple of smaller, shallower wrecks—the F2 and V83. Emily’s legendry briefings gave us lots of background information on the history of the fleet and their place in WW1. The guidance on what to look for was invaluable as some parts of the wrecks looked like a pile of twisted junk metal. I have developed a new obsession with huge guns and reckon that the best place for them is at the bottom of the sea and covered in anemones and starfish. Most of the wrecks are covered in squidge life, congers and fish. Some of us were treated to diving guillemots and a seal on the Cöln.

The 11th was Chris 60th birthday and he woke to find the kitchen festooned with banners and balloons. The celebrations continued with a humungous cake on the boat courtesy of the amazing Emily and a slap up dinner at the house thanks to Alastair. A second cake followed dinner which had been smuggled into the car for the journey to Orkney by Sophie.

We managed to cram in some exploration of the island too. One surface interval was put to good use to visit the fascinating and informative Scapa Flow Museum on Hoy. This gave some excellent background to the history of Scapa Flow and its military importance. Some of the group visited Skara Brae Prehistoric Village, The Ring of Brodgar stone circle and St Magnus cathedral in Kirkwall which had an impressive model sun exhibition. A foraging otter was spotted at Ness point near Stromness one sunset by Sophie and Chris!

Thanks to everyone on the trip for being such great buddies and friends. Especial thanks to Alastair. His careful planning and attention to detail meant that the trip went without a hitch and everyone had a great time.

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