Want to experience a different type of diving ? Fancy spending a week seeing the many northern islands of Orkney and stopping off at the different islands each evening to experience island life. A mixture of scenic and wreck diving with some great visability and fantastic life is on offer. The north isles offers all this and more.....
The week starts off in the port of Stromness and where you dive depends as much on weather as what you want to do - scenic, wreck, a bit of both or searching for new wrecks. The choice is yours. From the top of Westray with its huge towering cliffs and caves underneath the water to the fast tidal flow through Eday sound. The visabilty is generally better than you would expect in Scapa Flow. Marine life abounds amongst and over the rocks and wrecks and there is always the chance of a catch for dinner whether it be crab, lobster or scallops or if you're really lucky Andy manages to catch some fish!
Below is a taster of some of the dives available on a north isles trip.....
Accidentally wrecked in 1989 off the vertical cliffs of Noup head in Westray. She was on her way to Shetland in calm waters when she ended up stuck between two rocks. So much for having someone on watch at all times! This wreck lies in 24m sitting upright in a steep gully between two rocks. The rocks are festooned with jewel and bean anenomes, dead man's fingers and sponges. Diving through the gully you come to the stern first. The variable pitch propellor and rudder are both broken off. The engine room can be seen through the hold but it is not possible to gain access. After looking in and around the wreck we headed over the bow to the rocks below. Amongst the rocks were edible crab, lobsters and then I became aware of being watched....looking up i saw 2 nosy seals watching us and paying close attention to us wrestling with a lobster. Swimming off they left us to our lobster. We slowly worked our way down the gully back to the stern and out the entrance. Velvet crabs were everywhere on the gully walls and amongst the rocks. Ascent was with an SMB. The visability on this dive was about 20m. This wreck can only be dived in calm conditions due to the surge and swell coming through the gully.
This scenic dive started just below the cliffs of Stanger Head on Westray. The visability was so clear we were able to see to the surface 12m away and watch the other divers being dropped in. There are caves below the surface of the cliff which can be explored. We slowly worked our way over the kelp rumaging amongst the rocks to deeper water. At about 18m the kelp gives way and the sea bed consists of vast sloping steps of rock covered in sea urchins. At about 28m the seabed becomes fine shingle. It was here that we started scalloping.... The visability on this dive was about 25+m.
Char / Oceania
This wreck sits upright in about 15m in Eday sound. It is fairly broken up but the shape of the whole wreck can be made out. In parts it is covered in huge kelp fronds.The side of the wreck is festooned with dead man's fingers. The boilers can be seen and two anchors. Conger eels and leopard spotted blennies can be found amongst this wreck. By the end of the dive the tide had started to run once again and after seeing the wreck we then put up our SMB and had a bit of a drift. This is a tidal site and instead of diving the wreck a fast exhilirating drift dive can be done as an alternative through Eday sound. The visability on this wreck was about 15m-20m.
This is a pinnacle off the west coast of the Orkney mainland and a great scenic dive. The visability here is generally good, being between15-20m. The pinnacle is covered with kelp, sea urchins, jewel and dahlia anenomes and elephant ear sponges. Boulders fill gullies and amongst these are lobster, velvet and edible crab. Under the rock ledges can be found dog fish, ling and ballan wrasse. Lions mane jellyfish can also be seen, though i wouldn't recommend swimming into them! The bottom of the pinnacle is at about 30m with a sandy bottom. It is possible to swim all around the pinnacle whilst slowly ascending searching for dinner....This dive can only be dived in calm weather as surface swell at the pinnacle makes picking up divers a little tricky.
This wreck lies in "the string," a tidal area of water between Kirkwall and Shapinsay. It can only be dived at slack water. The wreck stands upright in 25m of water with the bow clear of the seabed by 1.5m. The bottom of the propellor is at 25m and the deck at 18m. The deck is collapsing downwards but it is possible to swim through. Collision damage can be seen to the port side plating and this is the cause of her sinking. Companionways and gallows are still in place. This wreck was teeming with life with lobsters, edible and velvet crabs, nuddibranchs and wrasse covering the wreck. It is a photographers delight with so much macro life to be seen. The visability was about 15-20m. A big thumbs up from everyone....
Another wreck in "the string". This wreck sits upright in 24m on a seabed of shells. It is largely intact with the starboard side flat to the seabed. The engines, rudder and propellor are still in place and four winches are still on the bow. This wreck was full of life - wrasse, lobsters, velvet and edible crab. The visability was about 15m. Another great wreck.
This wreck is lying in 40 m of water and is spread over a large area extending 60 meters. The prop shaft can be seen as can the triple expansion engine and the huge boliers which are very corroded. This wreck lies clear off the seabed by about 10m. Cod, wrasse and pollack can be seen around the wreck and i'm sure that amongst the many plates there will be lobsters. The visability on this wreck was 40m when we dived it. Everyone likened it to diving abroad. This was the star of our weeks diving due to the visability.
This New Zealand shipping company liner was used as a blockship at No 1 barrier. The date on her propellor is 1896. She was raised in 1922 in order to salvage her but she broke free and sank in her present position on a reef at Kirk bay, Holm sound. She lies in 15m with her boilers standing prouding and nearly breaking the surface. This wreck is reasonable broken up. The visabilty on this wreck was 7-10m.
SS Loch Maddy
This 4995 ton vessel was torpedoed and blown in two by a U boat. The stern section was towed into Inganess bay where she now lies in 12m of water. She is well broken up. Much of the wood from this wreck is now in the Bothy bar in Kirkwall.
A 279 ton british yacht that hit a mine in 1917 1 mile north of Mull Head. She now lies in 35 m.
To read a divers report on the finding of this wreck and a picture of her click here