By Piers Boileau-Goad

By Piers Boileau-Goad

1st June 2021

After a fairly interesting transit, Maverick arrived at the wreck of SS Thornhill. I was already kitted up and ready to jump, standing on the stern waiting for the horn in the swell made me think and mentally going through the dive for the umpteenth time. Then “BOOOOOOM” followed by two splashes. The first diver, a lovely Brummie chap, jumped in rather nicely which was followed by more of an undignified fall by myself, my bailout immediately free flowing due to the angle of entry, but this was rapidly sorted.
The Brummie chap was tangled in the shot line wrapped around his fin, grabbing it, he descended into the green. I checked my suit deflate, deflated my wing, suit and then counter lung. Descending down the shot line into the green, a bubble check was done at 5m with my mirror checking for any leaking gas. On completion, the descent continued down to 33m, arriving there at minute 7. Feeling a bit strange, I glanced at my computer and checking my PO2, I noticed it was a bit low. Increasing the set point to 1.3 meant that at 33m, I was now breathing 30% O2 as I should. With the wreck in front and deciding to go away from ‘the crowd’ I turned left and swung along towards the bow, performing a bailout check once I was comfortable using my mix of 32%. With this done, but getting a bit bored of the wreck this far I swung back towards the stern to have a look at the propeller and see which way the rudder was. The propeller is still attached and while small by today’s standards it is still Impressive. The rudder turned to ‘hard a starboard’ shows that some effort was made to avoid the collision that sank her, alas to no avail.
With a decompression obligation now starting at minute 16, I decided to ascend a little to 32m and spent the next few minutes wandering around the quarter deck. Noticing a school of Bib ambling around the after cargo hold at 31m I decided to stay put. It must be remembered that I have little interest in fish whatsoever, preferring historic steel, which makes this next 20 minutes very peculiar.
A rebreather produces no bubbles, the only noise that it emits is an occasional click when the solenoid valves open to allow the passage of oxygen into the breathing loop. You can therefore get incredibly close to animals in the water. I was close, less than a metre away from the fish in the shoal. It felt like I was part of the shoal of Bib. Enjoying this feeling so much I stayed there going with them, feeling the current increasing but not paying it much heed, simply enjoying the feeling of oneness. All while trying to avoid a huge crab that would have loved to take a nibble from my fins.
At minute 43 and with 9 minutes of decompression at 6 metres, it was time to start the ascent. Going up what felt like a very shallow line and with now 10 minutes of deco at 6m, I saw the wreck slip away into the gloom. It now became a very solitary ascent. Watching the particulate pass in the current didn’t really provide much relief from the boredom at 6m, the swell above however did provide some excitement. The stop was a tad deeper than 6m, averaging 6.5m with 30cm up and down, all in all not bad. With a set point of 1.3 however the rebreather was now producing 81% O2, increasing the off gassing of nitrogen far quicker than an open circuit diver. With decompression now done, a safety stop, while not required was done for three minutes. This time the stop was a little more interesting, with the waves upstairs having increased in size from the transit down. The stop was in the range of 2.7m to 3.2m so not bad, my right arm however was working overtime while holding on. With the safety stop completed using 100% O2 the final ascent started at minute 65.
Now however the fun started. On surfacing. Maverick was nowhere to be seen. In a two metre swell and a two knot current, I was not having such a fun time. Having closed my suit deflate and making sure I was absolutely positively buoyant, I inflated my DSMB and clung onto the shot line by wrapping it around my hand (not the best thing to do, but the best in these circumstances according to my train of thought). Occasionally reaching up and trying to wave my DSMB with more elevation to make it as visible as possible, I was having to change arm holding the line every so often. Starting to get a tad concerned, I still felt hanging onto the line became the best option when all was considered. I therefore buried my face in the water, held on and settled in for the wait. Some 20 minutes after surfacing I was picked up, hearing the ladder whirring away was such a lovely feeling, but taking a seat on the boat was surreal. Apparently I looked relaxed and unfazed, internally however I was just glad to be back onboard, only finding out why there was such a delay for pick up sometime later after de kitting. I shall leave the rest to Mark to explain…
  • Max depth: 33.77
  • Dive time: 66 minutes
  • Water temp: 12 degrees
  • Wreck: SS Thornhill
  • Kit: Redbare
  • Buddies: NA