Wednesday, August 01, 2007

White Manta, September 9-11, 2005

In September 2005, a bunch of us spent a weekend aboard the MV White Manta, based out of Singapore. I hadn't been diving for a few months, so I was very anxious to get wet again. The plan was to steam out to Indonesian waters and dive there for the weekend. The trip was arranged by Gideon Liew's shop, Living Seas. I like going on trips they arrange, because most of the divers have been trained by Gideon at some point or other. Divers of all levels show up, but their attitudes are right and that's what matters. Being on a trip with predominantly DIR divers gives me peace of mind because I know what whoever I buddy, they'll be squared away. On this trip, we had communicated our gas needs ahead of time, and Raymond and Andrew arranged for oxygen and helium tanks to be brought on board. This allowed us to partial pressure blend nitrox and helium for the weekend.

The White Manta is a comfortable dive boat but was overcrowded that weekend. Gideon's group comprised more than 10 divers and there were at least as many other divers on board. I don't know how many the boat officially sleeps but it definitely felt overfull that weekend. Food got snapped up right away, people were sitting on top of each other, and the dive deck was really crowded. We ended up staggering the dives so not everyone was around the dive deck at the same time. Apart from that, the boat is just fine. The rooms are comfortable, the food is good, and there is lots of space to hang out. I wish the air conditioned galley was bigger because it's more comfortable than sitting outside in the heat.

Friday evening we met up at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal for the short ferry ride to the White Manta. If memory serves, the White Manta was moored in Indonesian waters, so we had to pass through immigration before getting on board. Once on board, we were shown to our rooms and most called it a night. We steamed overnight to the Seven Skies.

Saturday started with a shallow warm up reef dive. The idea was to get everyone on the same page before diving the Seven Skies, which is more challenging.

Dive 1: Batu Katoaka
Depth: 13m/44ft
Dive time: 51 min
Deco: min deco

Next, we headed over to the Seven Skies. The Seven Skies is a 800ft long Swedish supertanker that sank under mysterious circumstances. I believe it broke into two pieces when it went down, but we didn't see that much of it so I don't remember. The wreck sits upright with the top of the deck around 130ft and the bottom closer to 200ft. It has a huge funnel that reaches up to about 70ft. The current was ripping and we ended up being tied into the funnel by a line that was so long it was almost horizontal. That made the descents and ascents, and especially deco, very interesting.

Dive 2: Seven Skies
Depth: 41m/138ft
Dive time: 20 min
Deco: 15 min

There were reports from divers who had surfaced that there was a whale shark down there. We were stoked! We pulled ourselves hand over hand down the line until we hit the funnel and got some relief from the current. Then we headed over to the main deck. There are lots of interesting penetration spots that I'd like to check out some time. A few minutes into the dive, and whaddya know, the whale shark decided to show up. It was a juvenile, maybe 15ft long. It was pretty curious and hung out with us for a while, checking us out for much of the dive. Claes brought his videocam on the dive and got some good footage of the whale shark going back and forth. Before we knew it, the dive was up and we began our deco along the line. Flapping in the current like a flag wasn't a whole lot of fun, but we were beaming from the close encounter.

During the surface interval, the whale shark decided to show up on the surface. Within a few minutes, EVERYONE on board jumped in with masks and cameras. It hung around for a few minutes, making a few close passes at the divers, and eventually taking off into the blue.

Here's a link to the whale shark video.

Another downside to having an overcrowded boat was it took forever to fill all the tanks. By the time we were done blending our gas for the next dive, it was almost dark.

Dive 3: Seven Skies
Depth: 40m/134ft
Dive time: 20 min
Deco: 15 min

We were the last ones on the wreck and untied the line when we were done. Deco was much more comfortable drifting with the current. I have to say, doing a drift deco dive in the dark was a new and interesting experience for me.

We made one more dive that night, a shallow reef dive.

Dive 4: Pulau Danur
Depth: 12m/41ft
Dive time: 33 min
Deco: min deco

They kicked us out of the water after a short dive in order to begin our overnight steam to the next destination, the Igara Wreck. The Igara Wreck is an iron ore cargo ship that sank in 1973. Before it went down fully, salvors managed to recover the entire rear end of the ship, and towed it to Japan, where it was fitted with a new forward section. The highlight of the dive is to go around the back section, to see where the rear end was split off.

Dive 5: Igara Wreck
Depth: 30m/101ft
Dive time: 43 min
Deco: min deco

Dive 6: Igara Wreck
Depth: 31m/103ft
Dive time: 38 min
Deco: min deco

We did 2 nice, relaxing dives on the wreck. There was no current and visibility was pretty good (I hear that the current can be ripping and vis can fall to under 10m). There's lots of marine growth because the wreck has been down for so long and penetrating the cargo holds is cool but simple.

And that ended our trip, and we started our long trip back to Singapore.

Here are some pictures. The quality isn't great because they are video grabs.

Cameraman Claes spotted the whale shark first. Vincent is in the foreground and I'm in the background.

Full body shot.

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