The three cruisers, is one of these want-to-dive experiences. A scuba dive that keeps people talking on both sides of the English Channel and all around the North Sea.
The dive by itself is demanding and not for the faint hearted. These three historical WW1 wrecks lay like a pile of scrap metal on the bottom of the North Sea and have a special lure for any advanced diver.
To reach the battle cruisers the conditions need to be optimum, mild on land breeze, flat seas and then a rigid inflatable boat can take a dive team there in less than an hour. If using a standard dive boat the trip there takes close to 3 hours.
The closest harbor to the cruisers is Scheveningen on the west coast of The Netherlands, a large fishermen’s town which is famous for its herring catch every year.
Divers will spend a long day out at sea, and conditions might change fast, and intelligent divers prepare for less then sunny conditions and take all safety precautions for an adventurous wreck dive like the three cruisers
A dive instructor should be part of the dive team as he is qualified to instruct the less experienced people in the team about the dangers, the precautions and the bail out plan if things might go wrong. Instructors or divemasters also have the ability to link the dive team so that everyone is getting the best out of the dive.
Dive Charters and Liveaboard
Dive charters or liveaboards leave from Scheveingen and many other harbors all week, but teams need to book early as places are limited and pre booking is a must. Most charter boats offer basic accommodations and divers are asked to help out on the handling of the boat if it leaves harbor for more than one day.
Arriving at the jetty before daybreak makes sense, the charter will be waiting for the new arriving dive team with some hot beverages and some snacks, introductions are quickly exchanged and then the job of loading all dive gear onto the boat can begin. Depending on the level of divers the dive equipment can be quite a pile of gear. Dive cylinders or scuba tanks, dive suits, torches, rebreathers, camera equipment and safety gear like oxygen kits and first aid kits. One has to come prepared otherwise the team is planning for failure.
The long three hour journey on the boat gives ample time to prepare scuba gear, dive kit and the preparation for the dive plans and decompression plans. And above all meet the rest of all the divers on board. Once the boat arrives on site the Shot line or descent line is brought in and forms the anchorage for the dive boat.
History of the Three Cruisers
During the second month of the WW1 (first world war) on the early morning of 22nd September 1914 three UK based royal navy cruisers were engaged by one German U-Boat. The 7th cruiser squadron patrolled the Dutch coastal waters and the North Sea. The German submarine U-9 spotted the 3 cruisers just after daybreak and fired the first torpedo at Aboukir, flooding the engine room. When the ship started listing the other ships arrived to help. Aboukir sank within half an hour. Time enough for the U-Boat to reload and take a clear shot at the other two cruisers Hoque and Cressy. With the loss of nearly 1500 men the 3 war graves lay close to each other in their final resting grounds. Headlines of sadness appeared on one side of the English Channel. And headlines of glory on the were printed on the other side. It was the first successful attack. The believe in submarines as effective weapons of war was established.
Diving the Three Cruisers Wrecks
The North Sea can be unpredictable and during the time of a dive the weather can swing from a mild breeze and sunny skies to rain and storm with one meter high waves. Divers need to plan for all scenarios or even plan for not diving at all. But on a good day, the dive is enjoyable. Normally divers engage a mild current, while swimming over the heaps of metal. All three wreck sites are close to 40 meters depending on the tide. Awareness need to be given to sharp metal objects and live bomb shells which are still scattering the area. Even after nearly 100 years the cordite in the shells still works as amazing fire work. Dive torches are a must to find your way around among the wildly overgrown metal deck plating. Large sea anemones cloud the scenery and an abundance of fish life swims around the sunken ships. Large North Sea crayfish can be found in every nook and cranny.
Back on board of the ship, everyone will agree that this is a dive laden with history. And it will inspire the historical curiosity in any diver.
– Book – Eerste Wereld Oorlog – de Noord Zee
– Personal experiences of the author