A East German diver on the Umbria.
Jean Deas at the remains of Cousteau's underwater
village off Sudan, Red Sea
At first I spent hours in the libraries in Scotland,
writing letters and making the odd phone call. Today with the power
of the Internet, research is much easier, yet it is not always the main
answer. Musty records have to be read and quite often a person you seek
is not on the Internet so it's a good old fashioned letter. Which at
times, like E-mails comes back - 'Addressee no longer at this address'
or 'Forwarding mail has lapsed' - back to square one.
Exploring the unknown, finding out out past history,
unlocking secrets of the sea and bringing a story to life either by
a magazine article or a video production. Some of my favorite wreck
dives around the world include:
The wreck site I dived on was that of the 'St. Catherine'
a Flemish vessel from the Spanish Netherlands which was wrecked carrying
munitions, men and possibly 'money' from King Philip II of Spain to
the Earl of Errol during his Counter-Reformation rising of 1594-95.
We only found the odd bit of old timber buried in the sand. In 1840
two cannon were raised and more in 1855 and 1876.
From then I have dived on the remains of ships and
aircraft off the Philippines, Vanuatu, Solomons, Australia ( I spent
six weeks on the site of HMS Pandora wrecked in 1791 off the far north
coast of Queensland. She was carrying mutineers from the 'Bounty'. She
lay in 130 feet and I dived with my assistant twice a day filming
for a 50 minute documentary.
Umbria - Port Sudan, Red Sea
Other sites include New Zealand, USA, Eygpt and best
of all the 'Umbria" off Port Sudan in the Red Sea. An Italian ship,
first explored by Hans Hass and made famous in his book "Under
The Red Sea". 491 feet long and 59 feet wide she lies on her side
with her starboard davits sticking out of the water. At 50 feet is one
of her massive propellers. She was carrying cargo of munitions and cement,
tiles and other odds and ends. On June 12, 1940 she was taken over by
the British when Italy entered the war. The opened the ship's seacocks
and denied the British a good prize. Jean and I spent three months in
the Sudan working for the Sudanese Tourist Authority and visited the
"Umbria" when possible. With our supplied Zodiac and a run
of a few miles out from Port Sudan in usually calm seas it was an easy
dive location. The visibility was always over 100 feet, good fish life and no another diver's on the
wreck, except when we took a East German's vessels Captain and another
diver to dive the wreck in exchange for some real European food! It
was a diver's paradise.
Cousteau's Underwater Village 1963
This was an underwater "village" set underwater
at Sha'ab Rumi or Roman Reef. It was in 33ft on a terrace that soon
dropped off into very deep water. The site was called 'Conshelf Two'.
Today all that remains is the undersea hangar/garage for the little
jet-propelled DS-2 saucer-shaped submarine. The undersea research divers
lived in the specially constructed main building and worked up to five
hours a day to a depth of 90ft and were to attempt to spend a month
continuously submerged and working in and out of "Conshelf Two".
The full story can be found in the book "World Without Sun"
by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. A film was also produced.
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