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2009 Norway July

Five of us from Wantage Dive Club set out on the evening of Friday 26th June for our long anticipated dive trip to Western Norway aboard the ’Jane R’ a fifty year old Scottish herring boat. We flew to Bergen and met up with the ‘Jane R’, and her skipper Gordon Wadsworth at around midnight – it was still light! After a beer (£6.80 a glass!) in a local bar we settled into our cabins, and early next morning started getting our kit ready for the first dive. We also met the other five divers on the trip who came from Crawley Divers.

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The UK was experiencing a heat wave with temperatures in the 30s, and so was Norway! During the whole week it only rained for around 10 minutes and soon dried out. We left Bergen and started cruising north at steady 5 knots to our first dive site.

After a breakfast of porridge and some kit fondling on Saturday morning we were ready for our first dive – the ‘Spring a 1914 cargo ship that ran aground metres from the shore. My buddy didn’t have enough weight so we surfaced while he added a couple of kilos and then had a short dive around the bow of the wreck, and made our way around an adjacent wall for our 63 minute dive. There were dozens of hermit crabs that all ran away as soon as I got close and didn’t want to pose for photos! http://www.wantagediveclub.com/trip-reports/2009-norway---july/2009%20norway%20anemone.jpg?attredirects=0

The afternoon was spent catching up with sleep, before our second dive in Fedje harbour another one hour dive where we saw a range of marine life such as colourful dragonets, angler fish, common crabs, and flatfish. After a shower and evening meal most of us went for a walk around the Island and on to the local pub to watch one of our group doing karaoke with the locals – a guitar and accordion were the backing music.

Gordon was a relaxed and laid back skipper – there weren’t any hard and fast rules like you get on some liveaboards. We all mucked-in and helped with mooring the boat, filling nitrox, etc. Which added to the feeling that we were on an ‘expedition’ rather than a conventional liveaboard where everything is done for you.

Nitrox was via an O2 Haskel pump, using the air compressor to pump from the O2 cylinder to our dive cylinders.

Our first dive on Sunday was a modern wreck called the ‘MV Server’, a 20,000 ton cargo ship, which sunk in 2007 causing an environmental incident with the oil spill. As with all the wrecks it had an interesting story explained by Gordon before the dive. The ‘MV Server’ was empty and on its way to Murmansk in a force 6 – the Greek skipper who hadn’t been to the area before, didn’t fill with water ballast as he thought it might freeze – this made the ship too high in the water, the props were cavitating and couldn’t bite, and it was swept onto the rocks and sank. It was an interesting dive with penetration into the bridge, and crew accommodation (the holds and forward section were salvaged). It was strange to see plumose anemones growing on the radio equipment on the bridge and to be diving a wreck that was only two years old.

After each dive Anita the Norwegian cook supplied us with coffee and pancakes or cakes. Although the water temperature was around 10 degrees I didn’t feel cold on any of the dives. The food on the trip was really good, and although I don’t usually eat fish, the fish dishes had enough garlic, cheese, etc., so even I enjoyed them. We had three meals a day to cope with our ravenous appetite due to diving.

In the afternoon we went for a walk around a WWII German gun emplacement on Fedje Island – part of the ‘Atlantik Wall’ WWII German defences. Gordon the skipper has a wealth of knowledge and gave us a detailed description prior to each of our excursions on land and in the water.

http://www.wantagediveclub.com/trip-reports/2009-norway---july/2009%20norway%20wolf-fish.jpgOur second dive on Sunday didn’t start well as we missed the wreck – the ‘Kilbulk’ lying in a steep sided valley – it was deeper than we thought and as we were diving on nitrox, our max dept was around 30m, I did catch a glimpse of the masts, but they were gone before I could catch the attention of the others. It was quite gloomy, the vis wasn’t all that good on this particular dive because of the plankton, and we were about to call the dive off. And then I saw a wolfish lying on the slope! I frantically waved my arms about to attract the other two and managed to get a few photos. We only saw one all week, but I was particularly pleased as it was one of the reasons I wanted to dive Norway.

On Sunday evening we moored at a newly built boat hotel and walked to the top of a hill to take in a view of the fjords all around.

Monday took us to Norä Fjord and a dive on the ‘SS Frankenwald’, which sank in 1940 after a navigation error while under German control. It’s arguably one of the best wrecks in Norway and was a great dive – 45m to the seabed and 30m to the deck. It was so good we dived this wreck twice. Disappointingly my camera started playing up, first the housing buttons started sticking and operating themselves causing custom white balance to make everything red. And then I somehow got condensation on the inside of the lens, which never really cleared, for the rest of the trip. At least I got the wolfish photo before it started playing up, and I know next time not to open the housing when it’s wet, and to pack some silica gel sachets. I think the condensation must have been related to the extremes in temperature, 30+ degrees on the surface and 9 degrees in the water, as I’ve used the same camera setup on liveaboards without any problems before.

In the afternoon we visited a stonemason’s factory where they cut and polish the local conglomerate stone (sulestein) into tabletops, pizza plates and other things. Gordon the skipper noticed an old but unused 1983 gearbox for the ‘Jane R’ lying in the corner – which was a surprising coincidence as the Jane R’s was playing up! He eventually bought and fitted the gearbox at the end of the week.

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Our third dive on Monday was a scenic dive around Faeröy harbour, which we called the lucky crab dive, as my buddy and I wrestled with a particular crab to get it in the goody bag, only to feel sorry for it on the surface because it had put up such a fight and let it go!

 

Tuesday’s first dive was the Havda’ wreck off Luta Island, followed by the ‘Macbeth’ – two interesting square profile dives at 23m and 37m. I was surprised at the size of the anemones on the Havda – when closed they were the shape and patterning of marrows, at least 150mm diameter. At lunchtime we moored on Luta Island for a walk around another WWII German fort – this one had German writing on the walls and even drawings of the surrounding mountains for range finding the guns in the control room. Tuesday afternoon we moored at an isolated unmanned lighthouse at Geita Island, where we had a look at even more amazing views.

For our evening dive we were back near the stonemason in Buskoy harbour, where Gordon negotiated the price of the gearbox. And three of us dived against a wall covered in anemones and sunstars. Wednesday was the best day of the trip with a climb of 480m to the top of Aralden Island, a rapid descent back down to cool off with a swim in the fjord, followed by our first dive on the ‘Welheim’. This was another amazing dive – for the first 10m it was like diving in milk, but then the vis suddenly became very clear and we could see the whole wreck below – we descended to 46m and made our way back up to the bow. It was so milky at the top we couldn’t find the shot which was only a few metres away so we surfaced with a DSMB. Our second dive was a scenic dive in Norddals Fjord, before making our way to Florø – described as the “prettiest town in Norway” to moor up for the night.

https://sites.google.com/site/wantagediveclub/trip-reports/2009-norway---july/2009%20norway%20swimmers.jpg?attredirects=0Thursday morning was spent walking around Florø and visiting the Tourist Information Centre, before heading off for a second dive on the Welheim’, where we reached 47m and managed to find the shot on the way back this time. Our second dive was a scenic dive at Skorpa. In the evening we moored at a disused sawmill where we had a barbecue – the place is nicknamed ‘midge bay’ so insect repellent was essential!

Friday was the best dive of the trip on the ‘Ferndale and Parot’ - two wrecks one above the other ranging in depth from 5-70m. It was a personal milestone for me as it was my first 50m dive. Again the vis was poor for the first few metres, but under the algae it was amazingly clear. We got to the stern of the Ferndale and could easily see most of the Parot, so we dipped down another few metres before slowly making our way back up the Ferndale. We went through a hole under the Ferndale where we saw huge plumose anemones – accurately described by Gordon as hanging down like: “cauliflowers on the end of long stalks”.

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We had started our return journey south and our second dive of the day was another dive on the ‘SS Frankenwald’. Friday night was spent moored at Fedje harbour, before continuing our journey to Bergen.

On Saturday we dived the ‘MV Server’ again, and our last dive was just outside Bergen at Mjatveitstø – we saw a reasonably sized ray on this dive.

Our return flight wasn’t until early evening so Sunday was spent walking around Bergen and present shopping – Charlie my dog got some reindeer salami, and Herself some jewellery and perfume.

Overall it was a fantastic dive trip, and one that we all want to do again – probably out of Narvik next time. The diving was excellent, the Jane R has a relaxing aura, and the trip was made by the skipper’s character and knowledge…

Bill Larnach

Wantage Dive Club