DIVES NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE. I have dived the 19th century wreck of the Dunraven at Beacon Rock in Egypts northern Red Sea repeatedly since my first visit in the early 80s. Its not a very inspiring wreck, because the hull is now merely a hulk inverted and covered in sponges and corals, but it was the subject of one of my first articles for this magazine.
It was now February of this year. During my second tour of the northern wrecks this winter past, I wondered if I would be expected to do this dive yet again. I knew it inside out, and I was missing my drysuit. The warm saloon seemed more seductive than the windy aft deck of Typhoon, but I had already passed up dives that morning, so I felt compelled to get into the water. After all, I might forget how to do it!
It didnt help that I had failed to listen to the dive briefing, but I had dived the wreck at least 20 times before, so what was I likely to miss What I missed was the plan that the RIB driver would drop us upcurrent of the wreck, and that we would drift back with the current and the reef on our left.
The first time I dived the Dunraven, I recorded in my logbook a heavy current against which it was impossible to swim, and that we had needed to drop to 30m to drag ourselves along the seabed and reach the stern area.
Had we been dropped in upcurrent on that occasion, we would have drifted down with the reef on our right.
The cold wind chilled us through our still-damp wetsuits as we set off fully kitted from where Typhoon was moored near the light beacon, bumping uncomfortably into the waves.
Spray over the tubes of the RIB meant that the more prepared of us wore our masks in the boat.
It was a relief finally to get out of both wind and boat, as we plopped over the side of the RIB. I expected to see the wreck lying below me, but only the reef wall and the sandy seabed were visible.
Despite the turmoil of the surface, below was pure tranquillity. This time there was no current at all.
Clearly three other divers in our group had not remembered the briefing either, if theyd heard it at all, and swam off with the reef to their right. Three went off with the reef to their left.
I didnt recognise any part of the reef or the seabed, and was at a complete loss to know which way to go.
I knew that the Dunravens sharp end was right up against the wall. This is the classic orientation of many wrecks of vessels that founder on the reef and then slide off into deeper water.
I swam out a little over the sand to see if I could spot it in the distance, looking both ways. No, it wasnt there, and by this time I was alone with my camera.
Just as I had decided that the whole dive was going to be a complete WOFT, a large female hawksbill turtle came ambling along, not in any particular hurry, and certainly not going to be panicked by a solitary diver.
She swam right up to my cameras big dome port and took a look at herself, checked her make-up with a rheumy eye and moved onwards, with me gently finning by her side.
She knew where she was going and, as she was in no rush, I was able to take some 20 different shots of her from very close indeed.
She seemed totally unperturbed by the attentions of the flapping underwater paparazzo with his noisily blown clouds of bubbles, a clicking camera with its big glass eye and a bright flashing light in her face.
What is the favourite food of hawksbill turtles Sponges, of course. Where are there sponges There are plenty on the upturned hull of the Dunraven, and this is where she was off to for her afternoon tea. I went with her.

WE WERE SOON THERE, but not before we had been joined by a large group of mixed jacks and trevallies that formed a silvery escort and clustered aimlessly above us, as if marking time before the main event - whatever that was meant to be. I took time out to get some pictures of them, too.
By now there were no other divers on the wreck. Those who had sensibly listened to the briefing had done their dive and gone. This gave me the advantage of a wreck undisturbed by raucous tourists.
Everything had settled back to its normal serenity. There were lots of batfish schooling closely and eyeing me bashfully. They were waiting patiently in turn for attention at the manicurists, the cleaning station with its busy blue-striped wrasses. So before I made my way back up the reef to the surface, I collected several satisfying images of them for my picture library.
Not bad for a dive I couldn't be bothered to do, and one on which I virtually missed the wreck!