Issue 20                                                            November  2009
(Web Version)

                         Thanks to everyone who attended the Dinner Dance

                                         an excellent night out , as usual.


Plymouth  -  RIB Vs Hard Boat


So, what are the best type of trips to go on?  Is it a rib dive, where you are in total control of where you go and what you do, or a hard boat, where the skipper is responsible for getting you to a good dive site?  Having had the opportunity of doing both trips within a week of each other, I thought this would be an ideal way of looking at the pros and cons.

First of all, the rib.  There has been a lot of discussion in the club about whether to keep the rib, replace it, or just not bother with a boat at all.  If you are willing to spend a little time in preparation, the rib is great for a do-it –yourself weekend.  You decide what you want to do, when and how, with the added bonus of driving it around and having the time of your life doing it.  Yes, you have to allow yourselves more time to get it launched, but as long as you follow the basic rules of boat handling and have someone with some experience with you, there is a sense of achievement. 

The rib allows about 6 divers comfortably.  It is up to the group whether you just a designated cox, or a diver/cox.  A lot of people enjoy the freedom of coxing the rib and organising the challenge of picking up divers.  That is also interesting.  Getting back on the rib isn’t difficult, but its not graceful.  As long as everyone helps out, there is no problem.

 Next, the hard boat weekend.  Basically, you turn up with kit at the specified time, and your skipper will do his utmost to take you to a decent dive site.  You are out all day, which means sometimes that things can get unpleasant if seas are rough, but generally it is a relaxing way of diving and with twice as many people as you would get on the rib. You do have to be organised, but a hard boat does give you the opportunity to dive deeper or longer and can take you to sites that aren’t accessible by rib.  It also give you the chance to socialise with the skipper and find out more about the sites you are diving. Oh, and one more thing you can do—emergency repairs to kit!
 A little repair to a neck seal

So, two totally different ways of diving at sea that we, as a club, are lucky enough to have the opportunity of experiencing.  The rib weekend worked out about half the price of the hard boat which is a consideration, but the group needs access to a vehicle capable of towing, launching and retrieving the rib.  Both have pros and cons and are really totally different weekends away, but knock either until you have tried it.  So, next time you hear about a rib trip, sign up for it, as it’s fun and satisfying in a number of ways.  The same goes for hard boat weekends - always a laugh and the  chance of trying something different to a quarry can’t be bad!

Remember also, both types of diving always have the fall-back option of the pub if everything doesn’t go to plan and the weather is inclement.  All in all, everyone’s a winner. 

Wreck of the Month - The Maine
Lat / Long : 50 ° 12 ' 45 '' North - 3 ° 50' 53''
Atlantic Transport Line. Sierra Blanca was built in 1904 for the Sierra Blanca Steam Shipping Company of Liverpool (Thompson, Anderson & Co.). In 1913 she was sold to the Leyland Line (an IMM company) for $38,500 with, according to Haws, "the intention of the Atlantic Transport Line operating her." She passed into Atlantic Transport Line control and was renamed Maine.            

The Maine came to a sticky end on a misty day in March 1917, when a torpedo from a lurking U. boat hit her in the port side, round about her number two hold when she was about ten miles off Bolt Head. The Maine, a 3600-ton cargo ship, was loaded with horsehair, goatskins, and five hundred tons of chalk, outward bound from London to Philadelphia. Very soon the holds started to fill up and Captain Johnson, after sending off distress signals, set course for the nearest land in a vain attempt to beach her.

The crew of forty-three must have been terrified that the U. boat would finish them off, but for some reason the U. boat never pressed home his attack. He was either very confident or just lost the Maine in the mist. In any event it did not really matter because that one torpedo was going to be enough to sink the Maine. As the miles drifted slowly by the Maine became more and more sluggish until the water level rose high enough to drown out the engines. As the Captain ordered the lifeboats swung down and prepared to abandon ship, the Royal Navy torpedo boat appeared out of the mist and soon took off most of the crew. Because Hope Cove was by now so close, the Captain of the torpedo boat offered to try and tow the stricken steamer to safety. However, by now the Maine was almost half full of water and the towropes kept parting under the terrible strain. After a while the main bulkheads collapsed, and the Maine sank slowly and gracefully to the bottom about two miles off Bolt Head.

Nowadays the wreck lies upright on a bed of fine shale and sand in approximately 30-35m of water, with its bows towards the shore across a strong current.

 For several years its masts broke the surface and posed a hazard to mariners. The wreck has since been cleared to deck level, with most of the debris swept to its port side. It is not as well dived as she might be. This is largely due to the fierce tidal streams that run in this area, making it impossible to dive on the Maine except two hours after, or two hours before high water. Even then you only have about forty minutes before the tide starts turning so you have to get it right. The marks for the wreck are very good except for the fact that the Hamstone blends in very easily with the mainland in the background. Once you pick up the marks however you just cannot miss it. A lot of people thing that they have however, because they forget that the tide is now completely slack and so they sometimes have difficulty in ‘hooking’ the wreck in a small boat because the anchor tends to just go straight up and down. Still if you trust the marks you will be right in the middle.

Underwater the Maine is a fantastic sight. Because of the sandy bottom and slack water, visibility is often thirty feet or more, and the sunlight bounces up from the seabed illuminating all the dark holes deep inside the wreck. You can swim down inside the holds and gently push your way through the shoals of pouting and Pollack, then glance over the side of the hull through a myriad of fish to the seabed below. The boilers are massive, and on top of them are large round brass valves gleaming duly in the sunlight. Down by the side of the boilers is a jumble of metal that once was the engine room. You realise this when you look through some of the gaps and see large con rods with big brass bearings on them. As you make your way towards the bows, there are other smashed in holds to swim down into littered with scrap iron and broken railings. Small brass and copper fittings are to be found (and left, remember) here as well. Best suited to reasonably experienced sport divers and above. It is not a dive for novices or newly qualified divers.
Creature of the Month - Urchins

Sea urchins or urchins (Aristotle’s Lanterns) are small, spiny, globular animals that compose part of class Echinoidea. They are found in oceans all over the world. Their shell, or "test", is round and spiny, typically from 3 to 10 cm across. Common colors include black and dull shades of green, olive, brown, purple, and red. They move slowly, feeding mostly on algae, but can also feed on a wide range of invertebrates such as mussels, sponges, brittle stars and crinoids. Sea otters, wolf eels, and other predators feed on urchins. Left unchecked, urchins will devastate their environment, creating what biologists call an urchin barren, devoid of macroalgae and associated fauna. Where sea otters have been re-introduced into British Columbia, the health of the coastal ecosystem has improved dramatically. Sea urchins are also harvested by humans and their roe is served as a delicacy.
"Echinoderm means prickle skinned, an appropriate term for the unlovely sea creature that looks like an oversized chestnut burr. Legless, living mouth downward on the ocean floor, the sea urchin depends for food on whatever is swept its way by the lowest currents. It belongs to the same family as the starfish, members of the phylum Echinodermata, which also includes sea stars, sea cucumbers, brittle stars, and crinoids. Like other echinoderms they have fivefold symmetry (called pentamerism) and move by means of hundreds of tiny, transparent, adhesive "tube feet". The symmetry is not obvious at a casual glance but is easily seen in the dried shell or test of the urchin. An outer skin covers a thin, globular shell divided into 5 sections. The prickles are attached to the shell by a ball-and-socket joint, and are used primarily for protection, sometimes for locomotion, occasionally for urging bits of food toward the mouth.   "Aristotle came upon the little creature during a 2-year sojourn on the island of Lesbos. The philosopher, then some 40 years old, had left Plato's Academy in Athens and was engaged in a series of investigations into 'these beings that are the work of nature,' the 1st time anyone had systematically gone about sorting, taking apart (hardly dissecting, as we know it), identifying, and classifying. With the large number of facts thus assembled, he reasoned, it would then be possible to search out common attributes, to generalize, to discover the universals embodied in the particulars.
'In all nature there is something of the marvelous,' he wrote in his History of Animals:'. . . we should study every kind of animal without hesitation, knowing that in all of them there is something natural and beautiful.' This is how he described the sea urchin:

…the urchin has what we mainly call its head and mouth down below and a place for the issue of the residuum up above. The urchin has, also, five hollow teeth inside, and in the middle of these teeth a fleshy substance serving the office of a tongue. Next to this comes the esophagus, and then the stomach, divided into five parts, and filled with excretion, all the five parts uniting at the anal vent, where the shell is perforated for an outlet... In reality the mouth-apparatus of the urchin is continuous from one end to the other, but to outward appearance it is not so, but looks like a horn lantern with the panes of horn left out.

Thank you to everyone for their contributions and comments and if you have anything that you would like add anything to the newsletter, let us know by 20th December so it can be included in the next issue.
Coming up in the next issue — review of the Dinner Dance and AGM, news of the new committee and highlights of coming year.

Thanks to the Editors: Lin Noakes, Wendy Munday, Phillipa Cresswell,                                                  Back