Day 14 - Athel Viking

Posted on 26. Jul, 2006 by Greg Mossfeldt in East Coast

Today was a good day. I had been looking forward to this day since leaving Halifax in 2003. It was the day I'd get to return to one of the most spectacular wrecks I've ever seen - the Athel Viking.

After several days of being blown out, the weather was finally cooperating again. We loaded the boat with great anticipation.

The plan was that Harv and Doug would descend first to tie into the wreck. Once tied in, they'd send up a Styrofoam cup to indicate that it is safe to dive. We arrived over the Viking, with her image clearly displayed on the sounder. The anchor was dropped and it was time for Doug and Harv to jump in.

Within a few minutes from the start of their descent, Greg and I got geared up ready to splash at the first sight of the cup. We were sitting on the boat fully kitted up. We waited and waited, and no cup ever came. Maybe it reached the surface, but we didn't see it? After nearly an hour of waiting, they finally surfaced to inform us that they couldn't see the wreck from the anchor and consequently couldn't tie in. What a disappointment for them! They said they went to the bottom and spent several minutes looking the anchor line with no sign of the wreck. Everyone thanked the guys for their efforts.

A few minutes later, Skipper Dave dropped the anchor for attempt number two. This time, Greg and I would attempt the tie in. We splashed and scootered down the line. During the descent I was hoping that we'd have better luck than Doug and Harv. Suddenly, the anchor came into sight! My heart jumped with excitement. The excitement quickly vanished as I checked my depth gauge… 310 feet. We were too deep and also missed the wreck. I quickly thought about our options. How far could we be from the wreck? Would we have enough time to locate it? Wait! Suddenly I noticed some debris on the bottom… We couldn't be far from the wreck at all. Greg and I turned around only to see a wall towering before us like a sky scraper. We weren't very far from the wreck and had managed to miss seeing it during the descent. Wow!

Time to work. Greg and I scootered the heavy anchor line over to the wreck, and started ascending along the towering hull of the Athel Viking. After a 40' ascent, Greg wrapped the line around a life boat davit at about 275' while I pulled out a length of half inch rope from my pocket. I secured the anchor line as quickly as possible and then checked the timer. Greg attached a strobe above the tie in point. 10 minutes elapsed. That meant we only had 10 minutes left to explore the wreck.

We were intending on travelling to the bow of the wreck, as it is the only portion we hadn't yet seen. We elected to do this on a dive with more bottom time remaining. We quickly found the wheelhouse near the tie in and decided to stay in that vicinity for the remainder of the dive. We got to see all the familiar sites from the 2003 expedition like the wheelhouse littered with artifacts, life boat davits. I posed for Greg to get some video footage of me. All too quickly, we were at the end of our bottom time. The strobe on the anchor line was easily seen from quite a distance away. Seeing the beacon was very reassuring. Deco was pretty uneventful. When we switched to the 120 ft deco gas, I flicked on my electric drysuit heater. The heater consists of an electric motorcycle vest worn under my drysuit underwear. It's powered by a 12v battery in a second canister that is worn next to my primary light on my right hip. The battery plugs though the drysuit using a special impulse bulkhead connector. This heating system made the long decompression warm, comfortable, and considerably safer. In fact, I was so warm that by the 70 gas switch, I had to turn the heater off! Shortly after arriving at 70', our trusty support diver Jeff Grimson came to check on us. We let him know that everything was ok. I gave Jeff my empty stage of bottom gas and my used 120 gas tank. Now I could have a relaxing deco with only 2 stage bottles on me.

In no time, we climbed back into the boat and started steaming back to shore. We decided to leave the mooring on the Viking to avoid having to tie in for tomorrow's dive. Back to the routine of mixing, charging and working on gear so that we'd be ready for our next day's adventure.