Sheephaven diving responded to last week’s weather change in the best fashion possible – by getting into the water.
With the calm conditions of the previous weeks giving way to the more normal Atlantic conditions of wind and rain, out at sea the wind kicked up a bit of a swell that made some of the best dive sites inaccessible.
Wednesday evening in particular was quite poor but it allowed a number of club divers to complete a Gas Blender dive course under the tutorage of Paddy Lambe, which qualified the divers involved to blend their own gas mixes in the future.
In general divers rely upon compressed air with no modification; however the Nitrogen element of air creates a consequence to divers that if not carefully managed that can create the ‘bends’.
One way to reduce that risk is to dilute the Nitrogen fraction by adding a higher proportion of Oxygen, but this requires additional training for the divers filling the bottles and last Wednesday training was the practical element of the course involved.
Using Oxygen enriched gas blend does not allow the diver to go deeper, but does allow the diver to stay longer at depths shallower than 40 metres or so – to go much deeper a diver needs to train as a Technical Diver and learn how to use and mix Helium enriched gas mixes.
Sheephaven is very fortunate indeed to have one such diver a club member, in the person of David Mc Gloin.
In addition to supporting Sheephaven in recreational diving he is a member of the Search and Recovery Unit, while at the same time providing professional dive services using modern Hardhat dive equipment.
Last Sunday David was called upon to assist a large commercial vessel berthed in Rathmullan that had fouled a 3 inch rope in a propeller.
His kit involved is a Kirby Morgan Hardhat, with HD camera, lighting and communication for the surface crew to monitor and respond to real time works.
Unlike the metal hardhats of the early days of diving the modern hardhat is made of fibreglass composite and the equipment is surface fed by umbilical to a depth of 50 metres on air and is managed by contactors specially acquired to provide these services.
In contrast to all this modern technology that is needed to get David safely to his place of work, it took old school technology of hammer and chisel an hour to cut through the rope and free the propeller.
While all this was going on last weekend normal Sheephaven diving activities carried on with dives at Dungap Head on Saturday and Sunday mornings, made just a little bit challenging with a lumpy sea rolling in from the north.
This site falls away from rock to sand over 25 metres and has a very diverse and abundant marine ecosystem, with everything from Conger Eel, Ling, Pollock and Wrasse through to Lobster and Brown Crab and a wide variety of sponges and anemones to be observed.
Dive times of up to 40 minutes were recorded in reasonable water conditions of over 5 metres horizontal visibility and a very cosy 14 degrees Celsius.
While the divers were out at sea on Sunday the club snorkelers continued with their own activities from the pier in PortnaBlagh and enjoying the first day of August 2021 in the water.