AS CAPTAIN ANDERS MANOEUVRES the Galten to the wreck buoy, I have a sense of deja vu. I have seen this bit of coastline before. Ten and a half years ago, I had driven along the waterside road, oblivious of the location of the World War Two wreck of the steamship Karmøy just 100m from the shore.
That had been a road trip at the end of May, camping in bivvy bags and diving wherever the road met an interesting-looking bit of shoreline, of which Norway, with all its fjords and islands, has a phenomenal amount.
We had enjoyed a nice scenic dive off the next headland, with a wolf-fish trying to eat my buddys octopus regulator. If only I had known that a wreck was so close, I could have been diving it.
Now Im doing it the easy way, from Galten, a liveaboard operating out of Narvik.
There are two general itineraries. Narvik Wrecks concentrates on the destroyers and ore-carriers sunk around Narvik in 1940. Narvik and Harstad travels further afield and, in November, also offers the possibility of seeing and perhaps snorkelling with orca, drawn to the outer fjords by big shoals of herring gathering to spawn.
Hence the timing of my trip, in mid-November, hoping to see orca and dive wrecks beyond the vicinity of Narvik.
At 68° 45 north, Narvik is well within the Arctic circle. Daylight hours in November are short and getting shorter - just five hours, 11 minutes on this first day at sea.
We had set off from an icy Narvik while it was still dark, a long and lingering twilight slowly dawning and eventually becoming full daylight at 8.57am, though we dont actually see the sun until it rises above mountains to the south nearer 11 oclock.
Anders had checked with other whale-watchers and we headed for a fjord where orca had been spotted a couple of days before, divers on deck keeping an eye out while enjoying the snowy mountain scenery. No matter how well wrapped up we were, the bitter cold trickled through, forcing occasional retreats inside to warm up a bit.
With no orca spotted, by mid-day we were all inside, preparing dive kit while heading north to Lødingen and the wreck of the Karmøy.

AFTER THE GERMAN OCCUPATION of Norway in April 1940, the 2498-ton Karmøy was requisitioned to carry cargoes between Germany and Norway. On 28 October, 1944, she was sunk outside Lødingen by Seafire and Barracuda aircraft from the British carrier HMS Implacable, coming to rest on a sandy seabed at 24m.
Subsequent commercial salvage removed much of the hull along the holds to leave the wreck as three upright and intact parts rising shallow: the bow, the amidships area of engine-room and superstructure, and the stern.
Between these, the hull is cut down nearly to the seabed.
In a barely noticeable wind and no current, Anders ties the buoyline to the Galtens stern, next to the entry gate and ladder. We kit up comfortably inside the heated shelter deck, then walk to the stern and jump in.
I dont hang about. The sun sets just after 2pm and, with the time already getting on for 1.30, I want to make the most of the remaining daylight.
The line leads down to the stern of the Karmøy at 9m. Despite the salvage its remarkably intact, with near-complete railings and auxiliary steering decorated in bobbles of pink calcifying algae.
Dropping deeper to see the propeller-shaft and rudder, I detect a worrying trickle into my gloves. Despite the amount of coldwater diving I do, I have always used wet gloves or mitts in the past. For this trip I had been lured by a set of Northern Diver dry gloves, mainly because the fitting system would work with neoprene wrist seals.
The instruction video had been clear, and they had tested out OK in the kitchen sink.
The trickle of 7°C water continues as I work forward to the amidships area, then stops as I ascend steps to the boat deck above the engine. Its now obvious to me what the instructions had omitted to mention. So obvious that I could kick myself with fins on.
When you fit valves to a neoprene suit, the neoprene crushes down and the valves always need tightening after they have settled, then maybe again after the first few dives. The same has happened with the glove fitting rings on my neoprene wrist seals, which have crushed down to leave the fitting rings loose.
At the front of the superstructure, the helm is still firmly rooted to the floor of the wheelhouse. Below this, a bucket grab is jammed between the superstructure and the remains of the hold coaming. At first I think this could be lost salvage equipment.
Then I think again; the Karmøy had been used to carry coal and iron ore, so maybe the bucket grab was part of the cargo-handling equipment.
More stairs descend to the main deck. In the perpetually chilly water, the wooden steps are mostly intact. Then the deck is cut through, and the hull drops away where it has been salvaged.
Aware of the depth limitation of my dry gloves, I stay as shallow as possible crossing to the bow.
At the bow is a big circular shield around an anti-aircraft gun position, though the gun itself has been salvaged. Both anchors and chains are missing.
Was the Karmøy at anchor outside Lødingen, or was it under way and the anchors salvaged With leaky gloves, I cant be bothered to drop to the seabed to find out.
Anders has set a time limit of one hour under water. With Galten tied in to the wreck, he has also required that we all return to the line to ascend.
I retrace my path to the stern, swimming past the holds and lingering on the shallower parts, though I do flirt deeper with the bunker space and boilers. Relocating the line is easy in the clear water, even though it is a night dive by the time I get there.
Above me, Galten is a floodlit splash of light against a black surface.
The heated shelter deck is wonderfully welcome as I peel off sodden glove liners. Also welcome is the drying cabinet, where my gloves, liners, hood and undersuit join those of the other divers to warm and dry for the morning.

HALF AN HOUR LATER, the main engine starts and Galten heads north to Harstad for the evening, though evening seems an inappropriate term, as darkness has already arrived. By the time we get there dinner has been served and eaten, and I have fitted the dry gloves with a tighter ring. Good job I brought along the spares and fitting tool.
Narvik and Harstad are the main towns in the area, with an airport halfway between them. Climbing ashore, the jetty is slick with frost. We wander up and down the high street before settling on a bar. Beer costs nearly £8 a pint in Norway, even more with sterling taking a dive.
The other divers, from Havering & Ilford BSAC, have a mixture of beers, soft drinks and coffee. I have decided on an alcohol-free week, and settle down to my cola.
You dont need beer to get divers in a happy mood. We decide that the Northern Lights would be better with an opening ceremony like that in Oxford Street. We also decide to invite Victoria Beckham to come and switch them on.
Another start before dawn sees Galten heading north again to the wreck of the 4626-ton steamship Elise Schulte (Beautiful Elise), to be in plenty of time to tie into the wreck and dive twice in daylight. While a lookout is kept for orca, the next few days are primarily for wreck-diving.
Elise Schulte was carrying coal and ammunition from Rotterdam to the German garrison in Kirkeness when she ran onto a reef in Dyrøysundet on 10 January, 1942.
A German salvage vessel arrived next morning, just in time to pick up the crew as the ship disappeared below. Some accounts say it was an uncharted reef. Others say the Norwegian crew ran the ship aground to spite the Germans.
The wreck begins at just 5m, where the back of the ship has broken about the forward hold. Forward of this, the bow tips down to 24m. Aft of this, the wreck slowly slopes to 35m.
I have never dived a wreck in water this clear, even in warmer seas. From amidships, I photograph divers swimming through the wreck, and clearly see Galten in the background.
From beneath the wrecks stern at 35m I look up and see the new road bridge above the surface. It uses the reef that sank the Elise Schulte as part of its foundations. With a slight current through Dyrøysundet and beneath the bridge, everything is covered in gentle giant plumose anemones.
Salvage has been restricted to the cargo, leaving no damage to the structure of the ship. Only the funnel and some lockers have fallen to the seabed on the starboard side.
Above these, derricks hang out where the crew launched a lifeboat. Small details like the wheel on the auxiliary steering and stays for the cargo derricks are largely intact. By the bow, a small anti-aircraft gun stands on its pintle.

IT IS AGAIN WELL INTO DARKNESS by the time we tie up for the night in Gratangen at the small fishing village of Foldvik, only 40 miles from Narvik by road - much further by sea, as its near the head of the next fjord to the north.
By dawn, flurries of snow have grown to a continuous fine shower. The wooden jetty is lethal, with a covering of snow over ice. Galten too wears a white blanket - all very picturesque, but not that convenient for diving.
Luckily, the wreck of the Dronning Maud (Queen Maud) is only 300m away, and a buoy is attached to the stern. Galten is a retired Swedish Navy diving support vessel, designed and fitted out for diving operations through the Scandinavian winter, so we could hardly be on a better boat for the conditions.
Before modern cheap air travel, the 1488-ton Dronning Maud was one of the mail-ships that carried passengers and cargo up and down the Norwegian coastline. On the German invasion,
she entered Norwegian service as a hospital ship.
On 1 May, 1940, Dronning Maud was about to put a field hospital ashore at Foldvik when two German aircraft attacked. The superstructure caught fire and the mailship was towed out to protect the jetty, sinking in 40m.
I begin my dive by examining the auxiliary steering, crammed into a small deckhouse above the rudder. Visibility is good, but not in the striking category encountered on the Elise Schulte. With snow falling above, the light is dingy.
The aft part of the wreck is incredibly intact. Even the funnel and tall ventilator covers are still standing.
On the deck to either side, ambulances carried as deck cargo have fared less well. Of these trucks with light wood and steel box-bodies, only the chassis and mechanical parts remain.

FORWARD OF THE FUNNEL, the intact order of the stern gives way to a pit of devastation where bombs hit and the fire raged. Among the debris are the arched remains of a large brick oven, or even
an open fireplace. Could the Dronning Maud have had a full bakery on board Could it have been an upsetting of this that triggered the raging blaze
We manage to get in for a second dive that actually ends in daylight.
I venture down a deck to see the remains of hospital beds in what used to be the first-class ccommodation.
Then, at the end of the corridor, I find a bathroom with all the fittings, partly buried in rust-tinged silt.
Back outside, I encounter an anomaly that may not make me popular - a small area of deck scattered with rifle or machine-gun ammunition.
Was the Dronning Maud a completely unarmed hospital ship
As night descends, Galten journeys through the dark again for a late return to Harstad, then an early start south to the wreck of the Black Watch, a 5032-ton liner built for Fred Olsen Lines in 1939 for a passenger service between Oslo, Kristiansand and Newcastle.
During the German occupation the Black Watch was requisitioned for military use, serving as a depot ship for U-boats and also as the headquarters of General Dietl.
On 4 May, 1945, Fleet Air Arm Wildcat and Avenger aircraft, launched from the escort carriers HMS Queen, Searcher and Trumpeter, attacked the Black Watch at anchor in Kilbotn. After several direct hits, she broke her back and sank.
U711 was damaged in the same attack, sinking 300m away in 55m. Two aircraft were also lost in this last naval air attack of the European war.

I BEGIN BOTH MY DIVES on the Black Watch, on the seabed at 40m. The must-see wreckage is a trio of anti-aircraft guns fallen from the bow. What at first looks like a two-barrel 20mm gun turns out to be a quad 20mm with two of the barrels buried beneath the silt.
Behind this is a twin-barrel gun of larger calibre, maybe 37mm. Tucked in tight to the deck is a second such gun. Both have one barrel buried in the silt, but breech mechanisms give the buried barrel away.
Ascending slightly, fittings above the deck show where the guns would have been mounted. Otherwise the wreck is a simple passenger ship, with little to distinguish its role as a dormitory for
U-boat crew.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of decks to explore, and a stairway between them.
Further aft, the wreckage breaks up and drops to the seabed, where the ship was broken by bombs. The Black Watch stern was salvaged soon after the war.
Our long journey back to Narvik begins, broken overnight in Lødingen, with sufficient slack in the schedule to search for orca again.
A cry comes from one of the divers. He has spotted orca behind us.
Anders turns Galten round and we follow at a distance. Other groups are soon spotted to either side as the orca helpfully lead us in the direction we require, towards Narvik. Our hope is that they will find a shoal of herring and stop to feed, or to socialise and play. We could then get in for the treat of watching them under water.
Four hours later, we are still following them slowly. The orca have not paused, snow is falling and light is fading to the point at which surface photography is impractical.
Cold and tired, divers retreat to the warmth of the cabin and lunch, before the final leg of our return to Narvik.
Sunset is at 1.48pm, giving just four and a half hours of daylight - 41 minutes less than at the start of the trip.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: Flights with SAS or Norwegian via Oslo to Kirkenes
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION: The 24m ms Galten has four cabins and can carry a maximum of 12 passengers.
MONEY: Norwegian krone
WHEN TO GO: Wreck-diving from March to November, with the best visibility usually in the winter and orca possible in November.
PRICES: The Narvik and Harstad liveaboard trip costs £895 plus flights (£200-300) through UK operator XO8.02 Holidays, www.xoholidays.com, 0845 652 2071.
FURTHER INFORMATION: 020 7839 6255, www.norwaydiving.net