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Saturday, 21 September 2019
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Fun in the Sun - 3rd June 2001 and a visit to the Gascony Print

What was going on? Blue sky, no clouds and flat sea. Must have been because our Training Officer, Warren Gorton had got bored with Horsea Island and Stoney Cove and decided to dip his toe into the real stuff for a change.

We all arrived bright and early at East Beach, Selsea and Bob the Builder (James Newman) made quick work of launching Spare Rib down the steep, wooden slipway. So off we set for a scenic drift dive at a site called the Waldrons. This was a new site for most of us and had been chosen by our Marshal for the day - Carrie. We had no problems locating the site on the echo sounder and the seabed looked very interesting as it rose from around 20m to 13m.

We all kitted up eager to get in and explore. Pete Raison and James Newman were first down, followed by Chris Day, Pat Good, Martin Bees, Simon Gosling, Georgina Cole and Warren Gorton. Unfortunately Pete and James were the only pair to land on the Waldrons and the rest of us did a drift over flat sand with the odd rock and one dogfish. Chris was lucky managing to locate several huge scallops for Alex's tea.

Once we were all back aboard we headed off back to East Beach looking forward to catching a few rays and picnic lunches before our dive later that day. We all settled cosily around Bob the Builder's truck and watched Chris tuck into his four-course lunch, which he claimed he prepared himself, along with the fresh crab claws he purchased from the Selsea fisherman.

Well fed, rested and tanned, we prepared our kit and Spare Rib for the journey out to the site of the Gascony wreck. The Gascony was the victim of Oberleutnant Johann Lohs commanding the mine laying submarine UC-75 at 11.18pm on 6 January 1918. Lohs hit the Gascony with a torpedo while she was carrying guns, hay and charcoal from Southampton to Calais for the British Army. She did not sink for a long time and her escort, HMS-P12 stood by all night. At 8am two tugs arrived and took her in tow, but she sank just before 1.45pm. She was, for many years, upside down and there appeared to be no way into her hull. Since then, the hull has cracked apart and the bow section has turned almost upright. It is now possible to swim with care inside part of the wreck where the wheels of army gun carriages are plain to see. The propeller has been salvaged. Built in 1908 in Middlesborough, the Gascony of 3,133 tons, was 360ft long with a 48ft beam. The general depth is 30m and the wreck stands some 3m proud.

Anyhow, that's the theory. Back to the practice: our GPS marks were spot on so no problems in locating her. There was a buoy already in the area but we were unsure if it was attached to the wreck or just a lone lobster pot so we sent our own shot line down. The first pair down was Carrie and Chris. They found the wreck OK but the visibility was not good at all. The next two pairs down were not so lucky. Due to the poor viz and the fact the shot line (which resembles a concrete bath plug) had walked along the seabed, neither pair managed to locate the wreck. The last two down decided the shot line had drifted so far from the wreck, they were going to take a chance on the lone buoy found earlier and set off down that. Luckily this took them straight to the wreck but with only about one foot visibility.

But all was not lost. There's still the pub. So once we had returned to shore safely and to the fantastic sight of Bob the Builder's truck waiting ready on the slipway to retrieve Spare Rib, we packed everything away and headed for the Blacksmith Arms at Donnington. A pint of Squirrel's Delight and a packet of crisps was the perfect way to finish a hard day's diving at Selsea.

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