I’ve mentioned the British Loyalty a few times in this blog. It was a small oil tanker, sunk by the Japanese, Germans and Brits in 1944-46. Today, it’s a great dive site which I’ve dived a couple of times over the last couple of weeks.
I first became interested in wreck diving in my early days of diving in Jersey, Channel Islands. As the Channel Islands were occupied by Germany (the only part of the British Isles that was, as you’re constantly reminded in Jersey) in WWII, there are more than a few lumps of steel lying around under the sea there. The problem with wreck diving around Jersey is that they’re all fairly deep-ish, around 30 meters, giving you limited air and non-deco time at the bottom. You basically drop as fast as your ears will allow, scoot around, and rise as fast as your dive computer will tolerate without beeping. My first wreck dive lasted all of twenty five minutes from start to finish- I was so nervous I was panting like a doberman.
Finding the local wreck is an interesting task in itself- these wooden dive dhonis don’t have ANY instruments- definitely no fish finders- the usual method of putting divers on wrecks. The captain simply looks for oil patches- yup, this old hulk is still polluting the oceans sixty years after its sinking!
The resort dive guides don’t like diving the ‘Loyalty. It’s on a silty sandy bottom in a spot inside the lagoon with limited tidal circulation, with correspondingly low visibility- less than ten meters each time I've been there.
The colours are very flat, just varying shades of sepia with a green tint. It reminds me of the sepia ‘colour’ film we used to use as hard up architecture students, to get the black and white ‘artistic’ effect without the cost or hassle of black and white film.
But it’s the low viz and sepia colour range that give this wreck its character. You are only exposed to a section of the wreck at a time, so you’re constantly linking the pieces together from recognisable features- the funnel, handrails, winches, etc, to form a picture in your head of what the whole must look like. Each consecutive dives allow you to slot a piece or two of the jigsaw puzzle together.
Thanks to a gapping hole, apparently the same one that finally sunk her, it is easy to swim inside the cargo hold itself. There is a distinct lack of life inside, sharply contrasting with the profusion of life outside, making this an artificial-teaming reef.
The moodiness of the ruins, combined with the wealth of life now calling this manmade structure its home, and the history and stories that took this ship to the sand at the bottom of the sea, add a facinating dimension to the scuba experience.