Dive Report – Princess Elisabeth

DIVE REPORT – Sunday, 23 March – 09h00 – Princess Elisabeth (Pisces Divers) – 30min – 30m – 14deg – 12L 21%

This morning at 08h30, while the majority of Capetonians were still firmly nestled in their beds with the rain and fog that arrived in the night, myself and Stephen were sitting in the back of my bakkie at Miller’s Point, contemplating whether we should drive back to Pisces to find out if the dive would still be happening with the seemingly never ending bout of rain that struck on the last day of the weekend… Luckily the arrival of some more divers supported the notion that it would in fact be happening which was a welcome sign seeing as, despite the miserable weather, the surf was absolutely gorgeous and flat with not so much as a breeze in the air.

All loaded and kitted up we took to the water and shortly after arrived in my personal favourite part of our coastline: Smitswinkel Bay. Below us lay 5 ships aching to be explored, but sadly a single cylinder is barely enough to take a look at a single one. We entered what felt like lukewarm water, I suspect due to the colder than usual ambient weather and light rain we experienced on the boat ride to the site. I think we probably took three or four breaths before starting our descent (or rather “plummet”). The first 15m or so was amazingly clear, warm, and blue… then the thermocline hit, followed by a much greener, darker ambience surrounding the wreck. The overcast weather meant very little sunlight even on a shallow dive, not to mention 36m below… And me being the genius that I am, forgot to properly check my torch before we started our descent which led to a flooding JUST as we reached the wreck, and consequently an overall lack of light for the remainder of the dive. Luckily I brought the camera out which has a flash, so an additional light would really only be to look into the crevasses where no light was present, and for that purpose I was happy that Stephen tagged his light along!

The bottom temp was around 14 degrees and comfortable enough to just enjoy the wreck, and boy was there a lot to enjoy! Big gaping cargo doors open into the darkened cargo hold below the deck, each beckoning a closer look. I got Stephen’s attention, pointed at my reel and into the cargo hold, and just giggled at the idea… I would love nothing more than to have a look, but with a complete lack of the multiple redundancies required to make a safe penetration, it would not happen on this dive.

I’m pretty sure I found the factory where Frilly Nudi’s are made. They were pretty much everywhere on the wreck, but in one spot specific I sometimes found as much as 4 or 5 in a single shot! It was crazy… They really flourish there.

After around 25 minutes it was time to head back. We still had enough air to do another pass, but had already passed the no-deco limit by two minutes (which was easily caught up during a slow ascent).

Now. The ascent. I could write many a paragraph about this particular ascent. Let it be known that between Stephen and myself, I don’t think we’ve ever launched a SMB as that usually falls on the DM, but alas since we did this dive on our own, we had to deploy the one Stephen’s birthday present. And the entanglement began.  It was lots of fun!

Overall it was a great dive, like all dives on Smits wrecks. Even in the coldest, wettest weather, there lies beauty and excitement under water. This was my first dive since the 15th of February, and it was an awesome welcome back!

PS: It was also the first dive I did with my new Fourth Element gloves, which, other than my now worthless LED Lenser, works like an absolute dream!

Big thanks to Pisces for chartering, and of course my friend in wreck Stephen for being one of few people who enjoys deep wrecks as much as I do!

Frilled Nudibranch