YOU KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE; youve done the same dives over and over again, the Inner Strombus, the Outer Strombus, the river, up the res. It didnt really matter where we dived: the sea, the river or the res; the viz was poor in all of them.
Right at the end of the diving season and we were still raring to go. We had a load of extraordinarily keen novices and they were up for anything!
Theres a World War Two bomber in a lake on the edge of Brecon Beacons. No-one has dived it. Anyone fancy having a go next Sunday
Our super-keen Diving Officer had come up with another Phil Special.
For those of you not in the know, Phil Specials frequently involve you in a lot of driving around in a RIB, compass-diving, scenic diving, sand-admiring and very occasional descents on a spectacular new wreck, never before dived by anyone and laden with goodies.
Admittedly the ratio of new wrecks to mind-bendingly boring, featureless sand diving was about 100 to 1, but when we did find one, it was invariably fantastic!
The entire club was up for the bomber. Sea diving was out Ð spring tides, zero viz and imminent storms had clobbered that. The res, with its half rowing boat and handful of iron pipes, had been dived to death. The river was filthy, probably full of rats and Weils disease.
They wouldnt allow us to dive in the marina any more. After all, there is a limit to the number of mobile phones, car keys and radios you want to dive for and risk succumbing to any one of an endless list of horrid diseases. So the choice was to dive the bomber or not dive.
Marion, well need your diving trolley! Marion, our somewhat overweight, unfit club sec, was the proud owner of a state-of-the-art, waterproof dive trolley with big wheels for poor terrain.
Ill go on my mountain bike, proudly announced Dirk the Dentist. He wanted to cycle up the mountain with his dive kit on his back.
I wont have any problems hiking a couple of miles uphill in full kit, announced our 6ft 3in, super fit, weight-lifting gardener Jack.
After scrounging a golf trolley and borrowing half a dozen pony cylinders, Phil set about picking his team. The criteria were simple. You had to be very fit, very strong, a very experienced diver and totally insane!
There was no shortage of volunteers. Every novice in the club wanted to have a go. Patiently Phil, our veteran of a couple of thousand dives, pointed out that very experienced diver would tend to exclude them. The lake was of uncertain depth but had to be very deep if it were concealing a World War Two bomber at the bottom. It was going to be a tough, no-clear-surface, zero-viz dive, previous experience essential.
With criteria like those, you would think we would have managed to exclude the nutters. Perhaps we should have said no old women, meaning all the blokes who were real old women, and no big girls blouses.
In the end the team consisted of Phil the Farmer, Dirk the Dentist, Jack the Gardener, Maurice the Milk and Everard the overweight student know-it-all.
At first everything went swimmingly. They took Dirks Land Rover as far up the mountain as possible. Dirk set off on his mountain bike, with his lightest gear slung on his back.
Big tall Jack had the whole of his kit, including stab jacket, weightbelt and cylinder, on his back. Maurice the Milk trundled the golf trolley with two ponies, a couple of regulators and a weightbelt.
Everard had the most ginormous rucksack, from which protruded all manner of weird and wonderful dive kit, including a length of drainpipe, his own patent invention for carrying his compass, dive watch, slate, computer, knife, net-cutter, dive tables and small torch. Phil was in charge of Marions trolley.
So where was Marion She was back at the dive club enjoying a leisurely Sunday lunch. Marion didnt do mountain-climbing, just as she didnt do surface-swimming, shore dives or kit-carrying.
Some club members referred to Marion as an armchair diver, and they might have been right if only a way could have been found to get the armchair onto the RIB.
Phil proudly produced the map. This is Abercrave, and over there is Hobbs Quarry. The South Wales Caving Club has its clubhouse there. Its right over Ogof Ffynnon Ddu, so well probably see cavers working their way to the locked cave entrances.
It was an unusually hot autumn day, and all five members of the team were burdened with a variety of dive kit. Some of them tired very quickly. First to fade was Everard, with his humungous rucksack.
Can I carry this on Marions trolley he whined after the first few metres. After all, I often help Marion with her kit, he continued.
We all help Marion with her kit, replied Phil repressively.
He was struggling with the dive trolley himself, and they had barely started the uphill climb past Hobbs Quarry on the way to Top, the highest entrance to the 25km of caves known as Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. Phil was convinced that the WW2 bomber lay at the bottom of a small, deep lake some hundred metres west of Top entrance. By the time they had reached the cave entrance, everyone was covered in sweat and wiped out.
Well hide most of the kit here and collect it on our way back, suggested Phil. Well take just two sets of gear and take it in turns to dive the bomber in pairs.
Everyone was secretly relieved, but it nearly came to fisticuffs as Everard decided that all his kit, including his drainpipe, should be taken up to the lake. The other divers offered to dump Everard and his kit in the lake if he didnt shut up so, faced with this tactful and diplomatic approach, Everard gave in.
Rivers of sweat poured off the team as they crawled up to the small mountain lake. They were desperate to plunge into its deep icy water and find the pristine bomber. Phil and Dirk were first team in, allowed only 10 minutes as they were using ponies.
Their first discovery was that the lake was only 3m deep.
Their second discovery was that there was no bomber at the bottom.
Their third discovery, at the bottom of the lake, was a small chest with a brass plate.
Maurice and Jack were the second pair in. Using their torches they were able to make out the letters spelling Amelia Jacobs RIP.
Finally it was Everards turn. He had been driving everyone mad demanding to have a go. As the youngest and least experienced diver he shouldnt really have been doing the dive at all. Phil agreed to take him but first made him swear to look but dont touch, a variation on take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, steal nothing but time.
Seriously over-weighted, Everard sank like a stone. Triumphantly grabbing the casket of Amelias ashes, he tucked it into his BC pocket and set off back to the surface with all the grace and elegance of a carthorse.
You stupid idiot, dont you know what that is chorused the other divers. Put it back at once. It took all four of them to prise the casket of ashes from Everards reluctant hands and return it to the lake.
The return home was a real anti-climax after their high hopes.
Phil discovered that the lake they wanted was three miles away and virtually inaccessible. The bomber had, in any case, been taken away 50 years previously. Not barking up the wrong tree, just climbing the wrong mountain.