Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Wreck of the Suddahadib (The Hardeep)

We took a little two dive day trip to Sattahip today. Sattahip is on the Gulf of Thailand South and East of Pattaya, which is South and East of Bangkok. It takes about three hours to drive to the pier and than another hour aboard the Marlin to reach the dive site.

The Gulf of Thailand was more calm than I have seen it so far. That should translate into good diving with no current and excellent Vis(ability) but it didn't. When we reached the site, another dive boat was already tied up to the permanent bouy so we had to enter the water on the fly. Our boat drove by the bouy and we just jumped. Sort of like Marines do I guess.

Once in the water, the current took us and took us hard. We fought to reach the bouy, which had an anchor line we could follow down to the wreck. By the time I reached the bouy, and began to "down climb" the anchor line into a zero visability green soup, I knew the bottom was 26 meters (85 ft) down and I could see no reason to continue this dive. Diving in poor vis is bad enough, but add a multi-knot current to it and it just seems like work. I called my dive (that means I returned to the boat) without ever going below 15 feet in depth.

My team (4 other intrepid divers) made it varying distances into the void and stayed down between 5 and 15 minutes. Not a great dive by any standard. When were all back aboard the Marlin, we headed to a calmer spot, protected by an island and featuring a small, but interesting reef (there are no un-interesting reefs.)

I "entered" and enjoyed a pleasant and easy dive with some fellow beginners and re-surfaced having had a wonderful, and not exciting dive. Not-exciting is a good thing for a dive since "exciting" usually means something went wrong and maybe you sort of .... drowned. (just kidding Mom)

When I surface and re-boarded the Marlin, my dive instructor SaN, asked me how the dive went as he always does, and I reported favorably. He then told me that he and "The Team" were going to dive the wreck again and he thought I should come. I readily agreed knowing that I could always call my dive again if I didn't like the way things were going, and I fully expected to call my dive because I could see a rip in the surface waters near the nearby wreck.

We motored over to the wreck site and bailed off of the security of the Marlin once again. I swam over toward the bouy having to look up every few seconds because the current was still strong and was taking me North back to Sattahip just about as fast as I could swim South toward the bouy.

I reached the bouy and emptied my Bouyancy Contol Device to begin my descent. I down-climbed the anchor line hand over hand for 10 meters (33 feet) in a current that had to be 3 - 4 knots. If you think that is slow.... think again. Hanging on to the anchor line I figured I now know what a flag in a stiff breeze feels like.

But at about 35 feet, the Vis started clearing up and the current diminished. At 60 feet I could see the bottom (at 85 ft) and the wreck was in full view. It was a massive feature rising from the sandy bottom in rusted steel beams and corroded metal plates.

We tucked into the "shadow" of the wreck and began to probe "foreward" toward the bow. As we reached the bow SaN poked his head out from the protection of the old ship and immediatly signaled that we should turn and go toward the stern. The current was still strong, even on the bottom, but the wreck was shielding us from it.

We turned and headed aft along the 90 degree listed deck of the wreck. About a third of the way aft, a large opening in the deck made itself too inviting to resist and we all entered the bowels of the ship. Divers call this an "overhead environment" because if something happens and you need to surface quickly, you must first reach an exit or else you will just hit your head on the overhead. I have never entered an overhead before, and I didn't expect to enjoy it. I am a BIG guy at 6'5 and 210 lbs and small spaces in places where there is no air to breath do not appeal to me. But I went in and I must say it was WAY cool. I really enjoyed it, but honestly it was not crowded and the 65 years beneath the waves had rusted away the deck (hull) enough that there was plenty of light so it was not at all what I expected. Hmmmm I wonder what cave diving might be like?

We fiddled and piddled until I was nearly out of air in my tank. At that point I headed back toward the bouy anchor line and began to up-climb the line toward the surface, once again flapping in the current like a cartoon character.

We all had such a good dive, but only after we were able to descend beyond the first 33 feet of turbulent, turbid waters and into the relative calm afforded by the protection of the old wreck. I am so glad I gave this dive site a second effort. Hmmm I wonder if there is a life lesson in that?

If you want to see more about the Hardeep (Suddahidib), go here.

One of our team had a camera, and he may send me pics of me around the Hardeep. If so I will update this post to include at least one. Til then....


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