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In this section you will find articles on pleasure dives that have taken place with the Blackwater Sub Aqua Unit. 

Other Archives Items can be found in the downloads section accessible here.

National Search and Recovery training day a resounding success on the river Blackwater


Last weekend was the scheduled weekend for all search and recovery units affiliated to the Irish Underwater Council to partake in a national search and recovery training weekend. While many units done this in one session it was decided to do a much bigger exercise on the river Blackwater.

Search divers on the river Blackwater last weekend (from left to right) Judith O Brien, Noel Hayes, Finbarr Murphy, Timmy Carey, Ken Barry, Matt Culloty, Graham Burke, Joost Vanmuysen, Eugene Whelan, Stephane Portait and Olan O Farrell


The search unit has been successfully utilising side scan technology for a number of years on local waterways but recently it was decided to start 3D mapping of many of the local waterways. This would allow the search unit to identify any object underwater that resembles a missing person such as a large tree trunk. The next step in the coming months will be to dive all of these objects, identify them and record them on a 3D reference map; this would provide invaluable information for future search operations and should reduce down search time. While it would be impractical to cover all stretches of local rivers, it is feasible to do this for all higher risk areas. The concept was recently discussed with the manufacturer of the side scan technology in Sweden and he was only aware of one other group who had done this ( a group in Sweden). After some good exercises on Saturday scanning stretches of the Blackwater in Fermoy, Sunday would comprise of diving operations in identifying some of these marks.

     Search training in the river Blackwater last weekend Joost Vanmuysen,Finbarr Murphy and Matt Culloty

Unfortunately with the recent heavy rain fall river conditions were very poor diving with the river water more akin to dark chocolate giving no visibility. Nonetheless each of the dive teams overcame the austere dive conditions and identified a number of marks, well done to all involved.


                Between dives on the river Balckwater in Fermoy last weekend Joost and Graham Burke

IDYLLIC DIVE CONDITIONS ON THE BOW OF THE SS FOLIA

There is probably no sport in the world that can be as frustrating as scuba diving, weeks of careful planning, huge volumes of preparation and then strong winds at sea could make diving impossible or the advent of a plankton bloom could destroy visibility making shipwreck exploration impossible. On the other hand for those who persevere and practice diving skills in the bad conditions, every so often the dogmatic group who persevere can be rewarded with a truely inspirational experience. Last weekend would prove to be such a day and for the four divers who travelled to Ferrypoint they would be well rewarded, with a stiffening SE force 3 breeze for the 13 kilometer journey to the wreck of the Folia; the divers were unsure whether the sea conditions would worsen when all of a sudden a large pod of dolphins appeared and shortly after they appeared the sea flattened to idyllic sea conditions. With a fishing boat fishing over the stern of the Folia, it was decided to descend to the bow the deeper section of the wreck at 40 meters and it would prove to be an inspirational decision. As the first two divers Gearoid O Looney and Timmy Carey hit the water, the site of the wreck coming into view at 22 meters was a very good sign that visibility was excellent. Dropping down onto the impressive bow of the large steamship and seeing the two bow anchors firmly wedged into the anchor lockers , you get a sense of the size of the large vessel.
 
 
                                     Divers decompressing over the Folia at the weekend
 

The Folia was originally named Principe di Piemonte when she was built for the Lloyd Sabaudo Line of Italy in 1907. The ship was built by Sir James Laing & Sons, Sunderland, and launched on 26 February 1907. In 1913 the ship was sold to Canadian Northern Railways, renamed Principello and chartered to Uranium Steamship Co. for their Rotterdam to New York service.In 1916 the Principello was acquired by Cunard to help replace the many vessels they had already lost in the war. Cunard renamed the ship Folia and it was used on the transatlantic route. On Sunday 11 March 1917 the Folia was sailing 4 miles off Ram Head near to Ardmore County Waterford when she was torpedoed without warning by U 53, with the loss of five of the crew. Since the clubs inception 30 years ago, the Folia had always remained a favourite dive site for many club members, despite the imposing depth of 40 meters; at which divers are very prone to suffering nitrogen narcosis or rapture of the deep (which has a temporary effect on a diver similiar to that of consuming alcohol on an empty stomach !!!). While the Folia is now sunk almost a century, the shipwreck keeps changing and is never the same dive twice as it is ever so slowly decomposing. The large bow section is quite impressive and with now of the hull platings now having gaping holes it is somewhat reminiscent of the ss Justicia in 70 meters off Donegal. With almost 15 meters visibility the divers would soon be exploring the deep recesses of the bow before heading aft over the winches and anchor chains and passing the remnants of trench digging machines destined for the troops on the Western Front in WW1. On the surface Mike Reidy and George Goggin would be treated to an aquatic display of dolphins jumping from the water around the boat while the divers could hear the loud squeeking of the dolphins who could undoubtedly see the divers even though the divers could never see the dolphins due to their incredible speed.Approaching back to the shotline after an amazing exploration dive it was very sad to see that a fishing net lost at sea that was draped over a large section of wreckage near the bow had claimed many victims. With the net lost lots of fish life would still get caught in the net and inevitably perish there, with a large number of large spider crab and edible crabs stuck firmly in the net. Ten minutes later after cutting a large amount of netting 7 crabs would again be free and quickly retreating away from the net; although one of the divers got nipped from one the large spider crabs for his trouble!! 
 
                                      Closed circut diver on the bow of the Folia last weekend

Surfacing slowly to eliminate the body of excess Nitrogen bottles both were able to ponder back on a fantastic dive when the dive would be capped by the sight of a very small sea horse ; which is a very rare sight in Irish waters. The second dive of the day in the lee of Capel Island would be equally as good with George and Mike logging 40 minutes dive time in an environment teeming with marine life.

Well done also to Joost who led Peter Whelan and Matt Culloty on a intensive extended range training session. 2 sessions were completed one of 1hr and the second dive of 45 minutes practicing the various techniques, shut downs, gear change removal, buoyancy, lay down of lines, 10 minutes of diving no mask etc ! also responding to simulated emergency situations.Next is a trip to 40 meters where they will once again be practiced, before the final dive of 50 meters.Best of luck to both.
Not content with two separate training sessions at the weekend in two different locations , a full day session of search and recovery training also took place on Saturday and again this proved to be very successful

A big thanks from everyone in the club to SAMCO Engineering for the recent assistance with renovation of the search launch; as usual the workmanship was to an excellent standard.

Plans afoot for Bere Island training weekend for Blackwater divers

With dark evenings looming thoughts in the past weeks have reverted back to winter training schedules as the inevitable plummeting water and air temperatures will soon be upon us and these have a detrimental affect on diving; meaning that the autumn can be an ideal time to schedule training courses and the first weekend to hone these skills will be annual trip to Bere Island in West Cork which will take place later in the month

 

Diving the Zorrozaurre in Bere Island in 2007 (from left to right) Mark MIlward, Dick Vaughan, Olan O Farrell and John Leetch

The weekend will focus on shallow shipwreck diving with Bere Island having the benefit that diving is available regardless of the sea conditions and it should be the perfect venue for some of this years one star divers to log depth towards their diver two star while diving the remains of 4 Spanish trawlers in the area the Bardini Reefer, the Contessa Via, the Zorrozaurre and an unknown trawler. There will also be a big focus on night diving with a night dive scheduled for each of the three evenings for anyone with sufficient buoyancy skills; diving at night can an amazing experience with the diver seeing completely different marine life to what appeared in the area during the day. Extra precautions need to be taken when diving at night and anyone planning to night dive will need to bring at least two torches each with good batteries. To secure a spot contact Timmy Carey who is acting as diving officer for the weekend.

 

                          A majestic looking salmon on the riverbed of the Blackwater last weekend

Search boat renovations: a big thanks to John and George Leetch for their recent help in fibreglassing the floor in one of the search launches, as usual this was a fantastic job and following on from all the renovations carried out by the clubs equipment officers; the work made for a huge improvement.

Right; Get Involved : Blackwater divers collecting the national award in Dublin recently from acclaimed environmentalist and judge for the competition Duncan Stewart (from left to right) Willie Keane, George Goggin, Timmy Carey, Gearoid O Looney and Duncan Stewart.

 

Below: Matt Culloty practising skills for the extended range course,with multiple stage cylinders off Capel Island

Search Unit activation: thanks to everyone who responded to a rescue callout in Fermoy last weekend; having close to 15 divers responding so quickly was a very good sign of the health of the search and rescue unit. It was also good to see that as usual Eugene Whelan and Olan O Farrell had all search equipment in pristine condition.