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When we awoke in Lodingen it was still raining, so we sat it out for a bit and JG taught us to play dominoes. Eventually things improved and some of us made it to the shower block, where we sympathised with the campers and motorcyclists who were having an even worse time than we were, weatherwise. Then it was a quick trip to the supermarket and another to the garage to get our compressor petrol topped up and we were ready for sea.
We were trying to get another 30 miles to the west, but found the combination of wind and rough sea was getting the better of us, with the bananas jumping off the food shelf with some regularity to join the selection of grill-pans and coffee-pots that were crashing to the deck in the saloon. So we compromised and aimed for a much closer destination of Hinoy, where we managed a sheltered dive on a rather sterile bottom, finding the odd angler fish and flattie, together with loads of dead shells from big round clams, but little to interest the diver below the first 6 metres.
The next day we made it to Svolvaer, on the way giving Simon and Trev the chance to dive on a steep wall of granite with promising-looking splits in it, which the echo sounder suggested would go steeply down to 50m. The water was really clear, but there was an absence of interesting sealife and our photographers were reduced to sessile subjects like urchins and starfish, - oh - and themselves of course. One of the starfish even hopped aboard Trevor, lending him a 'star-wars'enhancement to be proud of.
Frank Bang, the Chairman of Narvik Dykkerclub, had told us we should visit Svolvaer to dive a wreck lying in the harbour there, so, no sooner were we there than we found the wreck, just a few metres from the shore, with a cardinal mark at one end and bits of not-yet-installed fish-farm floating over the other end. JK and JG prepared to dive it and JK was already in the water when an awful cry rent the air - yes - JG had forgotten to zip up his drysuit!
With some difficulty, we got John out of the water before he shrivelled up and looked too much like a walnut, and then JK did an exploratory dive on the wreck anyway. What was found was a large steamship, lying on its starboard side, in very good condition, with masts and rigging still in place along with its wooden decks. The bottom was muddy and 24m deep, while the shallowest bit of the hull sported flatfish, queen scallops and weed and was about 6m down.
We found ourselves a secluded anchorage for the night in a little bay with a church and a couple of houses, and went on the internet to find out more about the wreck. It turned out to be the SS Hamburg, which had been sunk on March 4th 1941 during the "Lofoten Raid", an attack by British and Norwegian troops on the German occupiers. The ship, 9000 tons, had been the most modern fish-oil processing ship in the world and was presumably processing the winter cod catch when it got sunk. The stern is a terrible mess, perhaps due to salvage, while from the funnel forward, it is pretty much perfectly intact, with the most marvellous forest of plumose anemones growing upside down on her starboard bow. You can read more about the sinking by clicking Skovheim.org 'Worldwide shipwreck database'
We all did a dive on this wreck, and Trevor did another one, just using the pony cylinder, photographing a lumpsucker he had found near the port side (= top of) the bridge. Is 45 minutes on a 3 litre cylinder a club record? Give it to Trevor, then!
The dive was also notable for being the first time we had seen any type of scallops in the arctic circle. There were colonies of queen scallops clacking away on top of the hull. Some of the bigger ones joined us for dinner that night, as we had an excellent saithe/coley pie, with prawns and a few clams as well.
We left the Lofoten islands behind us in sunshine and, with a light northerly wind, made our way south towards Bodo. Unfortunately, even with the wind in the right direction, we didn't get any sailing, since it was so light. Rather than going into town straightaway, we decided to spend Thursday night at Bliksvaer, a small island group about 10 miles west of Bodo, and near a couple of other wrecks recommended to us by 'Polardykk' in Bodo. So it was that early Thursday evening we put Trevor and Simon on the shallowest bit of much newer wreck called the M/V Tanto, which is just north of a small rocky island called Flesan, and sank about 5 years ago. They emerged an hour later, having had a nice dive, with a canyon, and even collected "proper" scallops, but "Didn't see a wreck anywhere". John and John determined to dive the wreck as soon as the bottles could be filled, even though the wind had now got up to a good force 4 and the yacht was rolling like a good'un whenever we were beam on to the sea, as we had to be for the approach to the site and the pickup.
Once in the water, we also found the canyon, but also found that one wall of it was made of steel - the bottom of the ship! We made our way to the northeast, picked up a largish crab and a couple of scallops on a large sandy patch, and found the bows, the ship laying over 90° to port, and a fine sight it made. However, the amazing thing we found was the "crab farm" which was on the "hold" side of the ship..... there must have been hundreds of really huge edible crabs, and there were flatfish too, galore - at least three different species. Some of the flatfish were even settling on top of the crabs, there was so little space! We suppose the cargo must have been some kind of nutrient, maybe phosphate, and that the wildlife flourishes on it still. Further round, to the stern, the wreck is more upside down, and the rudder and propellor are the shallowest part of the dive in only 5m of water.
Back on the seabed, we found a small anglerfish who wanted to join the party, so he came with us in a goodybag, along with the good quantity of scallops we found to the west of the wreck. A pair of happy Johns did a minute's deco on the way up, and surfaced with bulging goodybags to find an even windier evening above. We moored up to the guest pontoon at Bliksvaer, narrowly avoiding the express "Hurtig" ferry, turbochargers whistling, wake churning, heading out of the harbour towards Bodo, and found a Norwegian visitor busy with a knife on a barrel of fish that he had been catching with a deep line. Not only did he teach us how to separate Monkfish tail from the rest of it (you can see the tail-less head on the planks), he gave us a huge quantity of red snapper as well!
He had pulled these up from several hundred metres depth, hence the bulging eyes of the ones in the tub. Fish suffer the bends just like us, but they don't have no pot - or at least, not one that mends them.
As we stood watching our fish-expert, so people were filing onto a fine varnished traditional norwegian fishing smack. Soon she fired up her Sabb engine and we heard (and felt) that wonderful semi-diesel sound.... fat - fat - fat (100 rpm - she's only idling now), engaging gear.... fat -- fat -- fat (louder but slower - it feels like its going to stall) and then she speeded up to full revs of about 250 RPM and off she went, each "fat" blowing a smoke ring from the 8" diameter exhaust and making a little water ripple all around her hull. Wow! They don't make 'em like that anymore!
So we had a fine feast of scallops with ginger, garlic and onions, and as it was only half-past midnight, decided to go and look for the midnight sun. A walk to the northern corner found a path which petered out, so we had to climb the hill to get a glimpse to the north. Up we went over the rocks, moss, juniper, blueberries and even cloudberries until we came out on a rather damp summit. We were rewarded with a fine view of where the midnight sun should have been, but wasn't quite.
If it looks dark in the previous picture, its because we were shooting against the light. Here we are, full of beans (and a little aquavit besides), taking in the view and wishing Worcester had a midnight sun too.
I'm not sure what time the sparrows fart in Norway, but its not early. Neither were we on Friday morning, as we had no distance at all to go, and all day to get there. T & S dived the Tanto, marvelling at the profusion of animals around the wreck, and the J's had a go at HMS Effingham - a trickier site than the Tanto, as there were some submerged rocks at dangerous depths nearby. In fact, it was these submerged rocks that were the downfall of the ship on 17th May, 1940. The light cruiser had been intending to transfer reinforcements to Bodo, and the navigator had carefully pencilled his safe track just up the course we had made from the south, skirting the rock-garden to the northwest of Skjoldsholmen..... and then his pencilled track had gone right over the 1.4m rock as he began his turn to starboard thinking he was in 10m of water. The ship was exactly on course, and ran onto the rock. The damage was severe and unrepairable, and the ship was perched on the rock.
Much of the stores, food and all the crew were rescued by the Bliksvaer residents, or transferred to the other RN ships in the vicinity and three days later the Royal Navy had to torpedo and shell the ship make her sink. She has been extensively salvaged, but there is still a huge amount of ammunition down there - from 6" shells and shell-cases to 2-pounder pom-pom shells, in bands ready to be used in the A-A batteries. A lot of brass! I couldn't resist a couple of the 2-pounder shell-cases - the shells had corroded away, just the back ends were left in the cases. And bundles upon bundles of cordite straws - presumably these were the propellant charges for the 6" shells. Now they are just heaps of macaroni on the seabed. They still burn quite fiercely if you dry them out, though!
You can read about the sinking of the Effingham at
Wikipedia and also at dykkepedia.com.
So that's what makes them go "bang"! I'll never look at macaroni in the same way again.
We were beginning to like Bliksvaer, so we poddled back to the harbour again after we had finished diving. We fried strips of monkfish in a rather-too-thin batter, which was enough for us as an evening meal as we had pigged out on red snapper and rice at lunchtime. We were a bit late for the quiz, which we had seen advertised on the noticeboard last night, but in plenty of time for the open-air concert, featuring a young lady who rejoiced in the name of Tine Hole. We thought we should turn up for the quiz anyway, so set off to walked across the island to the village hall. On the way there, we found a wooden sign with "Konzert" scrawled on it, pointing to a clearing in the waist-high weeds just off the path, with a mountain behind it. Eventually we got the the hall, with lots of bicycles outside, and voices inside. This was very much a family affair, and we took to the waffles with homemade raspberry jam, served by the local kids, with enthusiasm. We even got free cops of kahvee! This finished at 9pm, and the winners were delighted with their Lofoten-box as first prize - presumably full of heavenly scented dried cod! Good job we pretended not to know the language!
At 22:45, after fortifying ourselves with ham sandwiches and a round of drinks, we set off back to the Konzert sign, clutching our 50-NoK tickets to show to the usherettes. Ushered we were - up the mountain! Everyone and his granny and his grand-daughter were there - all 300ft up and leaping from rock to rock. A couple of cats had even followed their owners along, and were miaouing plaintively at the unaccustomed exercise.
On the dot of 11 pm the concert got started with Tine (our soloist and sole performer) singing plaintive folky-type songs about how we haven't got long on the planet so why aren't we getting on with the important stuff?, with (you've guessed) English lyrics!
It was delightful, but rather bizarre! Here we were - up a hill, the beautiful Lofoten islands stretched out in front of us, a Norwegian lass singing in English to an international audience.... you had to be the sort to get on with "important stuff" if you had bothered to climb up the hill! The performance lasted about half an hour and after a formal vote of thanks and polite applause (but no encores) some daylight fireworks were set off - very bangy - not dark enough to see the colours, and we all were left to descend the precipetous slopes as best we could.
I got talking to a local who turned out to be one of the instigators of the "Bliksvaer Days", and who remembered his family kitchen containing a cupboard and table and chairs from the Effingham. He was owner of a couple of magazine titles in Oslo but was being torn by his wish to come back to his island home, and had even changed his surname to "Bliksvaer". He was the owner of a large part of the island and practially ran down the mountain like a chamois, while I slithered and stumbled along behind.
Another bizarre thing - this view of Voltair at the quay, taken around 1am. It'll soon be time to get up again!
Actually, we were up at 7am, which was the earliest we had risen the whole trip. We waved goodbye to magic Bliksvaer and soon were waving hello to Bodo. It took us a while to find the wreck of the M/V Rabat, since on the electronic chart the symbol moved when you changed scale. So we used the paper chart and the knowledge that the wreck was lying in about 35m, only a few hundred yards from the harbour entrance. Eventually we got a solid fish-finder signal and marked it on the radar/gps screen so we could get back to it easily, and then we made our way into the harbour proper for refuelling, rewatering, laundry, etc such as one has to do when about to leave a yacht.
A Norwegian historic boat jamboree was going on the whole weekend, so there was no room on our preferred jetty, and not much room anywhere else either. Eventually we got the chores under control, and edged out of the harbour again in company with 30 or so Viking ships mainly being rowed out into the windless bay. We shotted the wreck quickly (since we had heard that Polardykk were on the way with a boatload of divers), and Trevor and Simon were first down. The wreck was an excellent one, very intact and also upright. SS Rabat had been a German freighter built in 1929, and was sitting anchored just outside Bodo when an American bomber sunk it on October 4th 1943.
It is 10-15m deeper than the other wrecks we had done, though, so the time was restricted. We found large cod at the stern, one large blue catfish amidships, (though JG swears it was two, and S&T, with the cameras, missed it AGAIN!), and some most beautiful and huge long-tentacled arctic anemones in two colourways - white and purple - up towards the bows. Here's an underwater picture borrowed from Jerome Konen's report on Norwegian wreck diving at Scuba Lu, an Icelandic dive company.
So we took our leave of Voltair last Saturday, taxied all our baggage to the railway station, and embarked on the overnight return journey to Trondheim. There we had a relaxing day in the countryside, where we admired the greens and blues of Norway's inland lakes and forests, and even stopped off at a ski-centre. It's rumoured that Trevor was already showing withdrawal symptoms from the water, so he stripped off and went swimming in his underwear!
Back at the airport now, and three of us home by midnight Sunday, while Trev continued his sojurn in Scandinavia with a holiday in Sweden. Now they tell me that that is where you have to go for a bit of action in the sauna!
Best wishes from John G, Simon, Trevor and JK
If you missed the earlier postcards, click here to be redirected:
part one Bognes to Narvik
part two Narvik to Lodingen
Or return to Voltair's Index page
For the next postcard (our return to the south)click here