Divernet

The 1915 Gallipoli campaigns, both naval and land-based, were ill-considered and ill-conceived. The idea of marketing a vacation to dive the wrecks of Gallipoli was probably equally ill-conceived, but that is what Crusader Travel had been working on all through the year.
An expeditionary group composed of three journalists, a freelance radio reporter and a number of fare-paying divers set off with the promise of spending a week on a luxury live-aboard dive boat, the Artemis, diving the wrecks of HMS Majestic, Triumph, Irresistible and Goliath and the Turkish battleship Messudiah.

It was a seductive idea, made even more promising by the fact that one of our number was a direct descendant of the man who drove the Gallipoli campaign forward, General Ian Hamilton. He even shared the same name.
When asked for a quote, this good-natured Canadian betrayed his optimism by suggesting that while his great-uncle had famously told his soldiers to Dig, dig, dig!, he thought we should get ready to Dive, dive, dive!
During a stop-off in Istanbul at the museum he runs, Selçuk Kolay added to our building expectation by beguiling us with stories of the deep wrecks he had dived on tri-mix.
Unfortunately, the only major intact wreck we were to see during the week was still afloat and ostensibly operating as normal - our own luxury live-aboard. The Artemis was 167ft long but had clearly seen better days. Some damage above the waterline at the stern had been made good with plastic filler and a sheet of plywood - an unusual way of repairing a steel hull.
Ever-optimistic, we moved our things on board, trying not to be disconcerted by cabins barely bigger than the combined lavatory and shower cubicle they included. I believe that they were in fact lavatories with en-suite sleeping facilities.
The only air-conditioning was that provided by the occupants own bowel movements. At night the generator was turned off, denying us light and accurate use of the windowless cubicle. There were some tense moments in the morning, as we lay hoping that the engineers listless awakening and the restarting of our bodily functions would coincide.
Passengers were given strict instructions to avoid putting any used paper in the lavatories and to use instead the bin provided. We were also instructed to remove the unused roll before attempting to take a shower. The shower hose was so short that it was necessary to sit on the lavatory to wash, but the water provided was merely a cool and brackish trickle.
Some were luckier than others. Those with cabins below decks enjoyed a greater quantity of water from the surrounding sea. It found its way through the perforated hull on to their cabin floor or, worse, their beds.

These were another issue. That the bedlinen had not been changed since previous occupants departed was substantiated by incontrovertible evidence beneath our pillows. Neither was it ever changed during our stay. The never-emptied bins in the toilets became unbearably pungent, too.
One redeeming factor was the food. This consisted mainly of beans for the first three days. Though described by some of our number as of very poor quality and devoid of meat, it must be said that only the most sensitive stomach detected anything unhygienic about its preparation.
Breakfast was normally fetta cheese, jam, and bread so dry it defied belief.
Some among our party became very vocal, while others made tight-lipped observations regarding their cabins and swinging cats. The more stoic simply looked forward to the diving.
We were all surprised to find that the Artemis was not a live-aboard dive-boat. We needed to board another vessel before heading for the first dive site.
A local historian and former captain of a Turkish submarine gave us an exciting and emotional account of the battle. His pleasure at meeting General Hamiltons great-nephew was as palpable as the younger Ian Hamiltons bemusement.
The dive-boat was a modern steel vessel in the style of a trawler, complete with crane and on-board recompression chamber. This thoroughly professional equipment seemed wasted on a crew which took until four in the afternoon to find the site, reputed to be the wreck of a people-carrier.
It didnt help that the visibility was rather English and the water temperature likewise. We were equally stunned to find that we were diving on what appeared to be nothing more than the equivalent of a ships lifeboat.
After a particularly disappointing night dive in 4m of water, one lady diver took off her tank and threw it on deck in disgust, injuring her foot in the process. It was not a happy evening. Overnight, worries about the seaworthiness of Artemis were reinforced when it was discovered that she was left to motor with her helm lashed in position with string and no one on duty in the wheelhouse. But we survived until the next day to dive a small support vessel, the Lundy, and then a reef.
We had to wait until the third day before we finally got the opportunity to dive on the Majestic off Cape Hellas.

For this, special permission had to be obtained. A Turkish police diver, complete with gun, joined us as escort. It was only during the dive briefing that it was revealed that the Majestic had been systematically salvaged by both a German and an Italian company over a period of 12 years. A feeling of foreboding ran through the assembled company. Was this just another wind-up
We watched the policeman overseeing the divers under water and wondered what the authorities could be concerned about. The Majestic was no longer a wreck, just a pile of rubble and unwanted trash left by her salvors.

Surfacing beside the dive-boat, we discovered that it had been penned in by fishing vessels. A torrent of threatening abuse was being levelled at the crew. Not only were they diving in a prohibited zone, it was alleged, but they were also allowing foreigners to do so.
The policeman climbed aboard and took off his tank and BC to reveal the word Polis emblazoned across the back of his wetsuit. The fishermen immediately backed off, and we understood why he was there.
Next day, more confusion and misinformation resulted in us abandoning any attempt to dive and settling for a day on shore. Back on the Artemis that evening, we found that a pump failure had denied us even the tepid trickle of salty water we previously enjoyed from our showers.
A severe failure of our collective sense of humour resulted in the passengers finally mutinying. Removing any semblance of dignity from people by denying them cleanliness or a good nights sleep can have dramatic results.
Some took actions or said words in the heat of the moment of which they would later be ashamed. Crusader Travels representative sensibly, though not before time, re-settled us in a nearby hotel in Canakkale (see map, previous feature).
After all the drama, an air of quiet anticipation hung about the dive-boat next morning as we chugged up the Dardanelles Straits towards the final resting place of HMS Irresistible, close to the narrows at Canakkale. We were privileged to have finally received permission to dive this wreck in some 60m of water, and there were assurances that it had not been salvaged.

One diver rigged a twin-set. Others checked pony-bottles or planned the rigging of drop-tanks. Inevitably, disappointment was looming. What are the chances of diving this wreck safely asked the radio reporter, offering his microphone to me as I watched the current ripping over the site.
Take your passport with you. Youll probably come up in Russia, I said. No one took the chance.
The Turkish battleship Messudiah was said to lie in calm, shallow water. Some later suggested that it was near a sewage outfall. It was another disappointment, nothing more than a few ribs poking out of the mud.
One veteran diver called it the worst diving holiday of his life. Others referred back to the sales brochure. We were hardly likely to invite four journalists writing for the national and diving press if we thought the trip would be an unmitigated disaster, was Crusaders comment. There are no plans at present to repeat the experience.
So what did Ian Hamilton make of all this On the last day he was seen sitting thoughtfully, his eyes narrowed, next to the Turkish trenches on the high ground overlooking the landing beaches of Gallipoli.
Why did the British wait on the beaches for those four hours If they had pressed on and taken this ground as originally planned, we could easily haven beaten the Turks. It seems a badly serviced and organised dive trip can undo a lot of reconciliation.



The Ghosts of Gallipoli  
The World War One campaign to force a passage through Turkeys Dardanelles was intended to enable the Allies to bolster Russia, the traditional enemy of the Turks, in its fight against Germany.
The Royal Navy embarked on an ill-conceived action. Its guns outranged the Turkish land batteries at the narrows of ‚anakkale, but its mighty fleet of 63 Dreadnought-class battleships, so named for their supposed invulnerability, supported by 180 other vessels, proved no match for the actions of a solitary little Turkish mine-layer, the Nusrat.
HMS Ocean, HMS Irresistible, the French battleship Bouvet and five other cruisers were sunk within hours. The strong currents and geographical bottleneck of the Dardanelles also set up the fleet for easy attack by German U-boats.
Equally ill-conceived was the expeditionary land-force of British, ANZAC and other Empire soldiers, under General Ian Hamilton, sent to capture the Gallipoli peninsula from the Turks. The forces ill-placed confidence was evident when, on landing at Suvla Bay, it stopped for tea and a game of cricket. The Turkish army had time to organise and take the high ground from the few New Zealanders unlucky enough to have been sent to defend it.
Without that crucial four-hour delay, the outcome might have been different. Fighting soldiers defending their homes and with nowhere to retreat gave British commanders a taste of what the USA would later experience in Vietnam. In all 250,000 men were lost on each side, 1000 a day. A campaign expected to last only 11 days ended inevitably in retreat - eight months later.
It was a military disaster. Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, reported that the ghosts of Gallipoli would haunt him for the rest of his life.
When the Navy was seen to retreat to the safety of the open sea, the morale of the land forces was severely damaged. HMS Majestic, one of the oldest Dreadnoughts, was sent back to patrol the coast as a sacrifice to political expediency. She was soon sunk by a German U-boat at Cape Hellas.



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