An Expedition To Far?
The weather outside was rubbish; the days were long and wintry. It was still 3 months until the dive season kicked off and allow the weather to lend itself to getting divers back out to the ocean once more.
It was on this fateful evening, after our weekly training sessions had finished, the dive team all sat in our favorite pub to enjoy a well-deserved pint and a crouch next to the roaring fire.
As we all gathered around the open fire the chatter started, the excitement of the evenings training and the thoughts of the season to come. What did we all have in mind for the up and coming season?
There were trips planned to Scapa, Weymouth, Swanage, Farnes, Lundy and the Red Sea. Then the suggestions turned to wistful and far flung destinations such as Bali, Galapagos and the Cocoas.
It was then that one of the instructors asked. “If you could dive anywhere you wanted, where would it be?”
As I listened to the silence of thought, I felt myself drifting back to the first time I watched the ‘Silent Ocean’ by Jacque Cousteau. The memories are vivid, as if I was that young boy still staring at the TV, mouth wide open, eyes like saucers.
I can still remember thinking, “how did they do that?”, “what is that on their back?”
Mind you looking back their methods of species collection of both fish and coral where someone dubious!
The excitement that I felt as they explored the Thistlegorm for the very first time. Sent shivers down my spin.
And that got my little grey cells thinking, what or where would I like to dive? I ran through the typical destinations such as Cocoas, Galapagos, HMS Britannic and even the Arctic, but none really got my juices flowing and that chill of excitement to run down my spin. I wanted that anticipation I felt as a little boy watching the TV, surly there must be a destination out there?
As I drove home that night my mind was running wild with ideas, the list of possible destinations started to grow. I wanted something different, something challenging and something that few others had done. I wanted something that would require real planning, not only dive planning but real effort just to get there.
Before I new it I was home. With my mind still running through possible idea’s I popped the kettle on and jump on the Internet and had a list of 5 possibles in less than an hour.
Just before my eyelids gave up the ghost I fired an email to Alan Whitehead at Divewise / Techwise.
“Alan, thinking of an expedition. Are you up for it? If so what where would you fancy?”
With the email sent and my mind now just as tired it was time for bed, well actually I fell asleep on the settee. I did what no person should do and flicked on the sky box, only to find The Deep was playing, Classic!.
The next morning I checked my email and as always there was an email waiting for me from Alan.
“Expedition sounds great, myself and Paul Toomer are very interested. Have you thought about the HMS Victoria?”
HMS Victoria? I had never hear of that wreck, HMS Victory yes, but not the Victoria?
I read the mail again to make sure that I had not miss read it, Yep it was the HMS Victoria. Then I suddenly clicked that not only did I have a possible destination for an expedition but the start of a dive dream team!!!!
HMS Victoria, right, lets find out all we can about the old girl then. I began the search and it was not long before the story of the HMS Victoria started to piece together.
What I did find is that the information on HMS Victoria is not that well published. Wiki has, as always some great information but it did not really tell you exactly what had happened. It did not give you an insight into the crew or the man who captained the vessel.
It was not until I found a book called ‘Admirals In Collision’ by Richard Hough. As I read the book the story of the HMS Victory came to life. The men, the circumstances leading up to her sinking and the man who took her to het final watery resting place.
The more I read about HMS Victoria the more the excitement grew and the more I felt like that little boy again. My imagination started to run wild, the chill down the spine kicked in and I was opened mouthed and wide eyed once again. I new this was the one.
The more I dug the more I found. Videos on YouTube, articles run in the Guardian, Stories telling of divers who had been there and treasures that had ben discovered, yes treasures!. One diver had even reported finding the sword of Nelson, one of many Nelson treasures supposedly carried on the HMS Victoria by Admiral Tyron.
Now, don’t think this is a just a quick strap of a cylinder to your back and of you pop. This is not one of your typical recreational diving sites.
This is a full blown technical dive that would require good training, good skills and use of the best diving gear on the market. Perfect, not only did i have a dive site but an excuse to buy new shinny diving gear, get in!
Her stern is only 70 meters from the surface; a deep technical dive but a depth that is common place, these days within the technical diving community. Easy you might say, not much of an expedition to be had there.
Here the HMS Victoria comes gives up one of her unique secret. She is only 70 Meters from the surface but that is only her stern, her bow is driven into the seabed and that bottom out at 147 meters!
I was straight back on the phone to Alan, this is the one! We both agreed that we wanted to try and make this an expedition where well trained divers would have the opportunity to get involved. They would not have to be full technical divers now as we wanted to put in place a structured training schedule that would provide the opportunity for divers with suitable skills and potential to work towards being part of the dive team, after all an expedition relies on many different individual functioning in key positions.
So now the real planning begins.
Our next meeting will happen on the 9th of September, In Malta, where the story of the HMS Victoria really started to take shape. This will be our first opportunity to start the formulation of the training program, travel plans, communication plans and prepare ourselves for the endless calls that we ill be required to the embassy’s in both the UK and Lebanon.
We are a long way off but the thirst to make this one happen is deep. One way or another I intend to dive that wreck!
HMS Victoria. The Birth & Death
The sinking of the HMS Victoria
Vice-Admiral Sir George Tyron, K.C.B
It is said that war is 9 tenths boredom and 1 tenth hell.
‘It was only the overpowering personality of the man and the confidence he inspired that induced Admiral Markham to carry out an order that was on the face of it insecure’
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Knyvet Wilson, Bart.
‘His Brain must have failed’
Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon
Rear-Admiral Albert Hastings Markham
‘It is very clear that the Rear –Admiral did not understand the signal…. and went blindly into the danger zone’
Admiral Sir Charles Dundas of Dundas
‘If I were Markham…I never could hold up my head again’
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher Kilverstone
What had these men done that resulted is such reattribute by their fellow colleagues?
What heinous crime had they committed that questioned the sanity of senior officers in the British Navy?
On Good Friday, April the 13th, 1893 the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet was re-commissioned at Malta.
Amongst the ironclads was HMS Victoria, the flagship of the fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir George Tyron and the Campertown, to be captained by Rear-Admiral Albert Hastings Wareham.
HMS Victoria was a marvel of her time.
On June the 16th after both Tyron and Wareham had suffered bouts of Malta fever the fleet set sail for Beirut.
At quarter to ten on the 22nd of June 1893 the fleet weighed anchor at shores of Beirut and proceeded to sea. As had become typical of Tyron the departure did not follow any orthodox naval movement but that of a movement spawned by the mind of Tryon. By 10:30 they were well at sea and the destination in Tyron’s sights was to be Tripoli.
Tripoli was to be the final resting place of the HMS Victoria. The sinking of the flash ship, nicknamed the slipper would be nothing more than a training exercise gone wrong.
Had Tyron lost his mind due to the Malta fever?
Did Wareham deliberately ignore orders due to his dislike of Tyron?
What is know is that a set of orders, given by Tyron put the Campertown and the HMS Victoria is an extremely dangerous situation, one that resulted in the sinking of the HMS Victoria.
The Campertown struck the HMS Victoria on the starboard side, slicing into the hull with little to no resistance.
The angle and position at which the Campertown hit the HMS Victoria was devastating. Immediately the HMS Victoria’s bow plunged into the ocean and never returned about the surface.
In less than 15 minutes the HMS Victoria was below the waves, her spinning props driving her bow first towards the seabed.
With props still spinning at full speed the HMS Victoria sank beneath the waves.
HMS Victoria struck the seabed, her bow thrust deep into the seabed by the force of the still spinning props.
There she sat in silence, her bow driven into the seabed, leaving the HMS Victoria a silent reminder of one mans mistake.
The HMS Victoria lay unreachable and undisturbed for over 100 years. Standing upright, bow in the seabed and stern pointing to the surface at perfect 90 degree’s.