The Rocky Quarry experience
Divernet
Ah, the smell of fried bacon and talcum powder on a Sunday morning! For Mike Ward it can mean only one thing - another days diving at his favourite site...

SUNDAY MORNING. EARLY.
Very early, actually, but worth getting up because the diving is just so good!
There are diving destinations so fabulous that they have become legendary. Chuuk Lagoon, for the ghost fleet of Japanese merchantmen; Cocos Island, for huge schools of hammerhead sharks; and the Red Sea for being warm, close and cheap. Places to dream about on long winter evenings when the wind howls and the barometric pressure has sunk low enough to be a politician. But good though they may be for the average diver, they cannot begin to compare with the site Im going to tell you about today.

This is the finest dive site of them all, the site where I and many others began to live the great diving dream and blew our first, faltering, baby-diver bubbles. Its where the Neoprene Brotherhood (and Sisterhood, now the club has altered the rule about divers being able to change an outboard engine single-handed, following the infamous Lumphammer Louise Incident) gathers to celebrate the joys of diving!
Rocky Quarry! I find it impossible even to say the name without a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. We take all our newly trained divers there for their first experience of real open-water diving, and all our members use it when they have new kit to try out.
It wont be light outside, but you will need to be up early to load your kit into the car and head off.
Some people say that Rocky is open on other days of the week besides Sunday, and that on some days you dont need to queue to get into the car park, but start believing such tales and you never know where it will end.
If you make it with just half a dozen cars ahead of you in the car-park queue, youll have done well. Your reward will be a parking space by the edge of the water, and that means no long walks with all that heavy kit after each dive.
It also means that your group will use your car as the pre-dive briefing and post-dive debrief point, so it will be covered in Mars Bar wrappers, half-eaten bacon sandwiches and enough powder to start a personal talc mountain. Also, every diver in the quarry will have to push past, with their badly fitted and carelessly swinging kit leaving a trail of scratches and dents in the bodywork.
Dont get there too late, though, or youll find yourself using the overflow parking area. This is just outside Aberdeen, but there is a park-and-ride bus service.

One thing I love to do straight away is to climb out of the car and absorb a little of the magical atmosphere of the quarry. The air here always smells so wonderful. If it was any purer they could bottle it and sell it to people to breathe!
One of the things on which people comment the first time they come here is the forbidding look to the ring of rock surrounding the water. What they have to understand is that this place was once just a hole in the ground cut by teams of labourers with picks and shovels and lots and lots of dynamite.
They say that the rock cuts off the sunlight and makes the quarry a cold, damp and gloomy place. Well, it may look that way above the surface to the inexperienced, but its nothing compared to the claustrophobia theyll experience beneath those frigid, icy waters.
For me, the diversity of underwater life and the ease with which it can be approached makes this site even more special. On one dive last year I saw no fewer then four different fish, two of them at the same time!

I would show you the picture I took, but I was so overcome with excitement that I missed the fish altogether. And the freshwater crayfish here are immense. Some of them are as much as 4cm long when their claws are fully extended. What can the Red Sea offer to rival that
The best way to get into the water is from the specially constructed Entry Stage. This is a platform set over the water from which it is possible to make safe, controlled entries into relatively deep water.
You get onto the platform using a set of very steep and narrow steps, which can be a great help with nervous novices. Only a terminally petrified trainee would even think about trying to climb back up the steps, and if they do try, theyll be moving slowly enough to be easy enough to grab and sling in the water anyway. And once in the water, they very soon lose all their fears!

One minor drawback to Rocky is that the viz can be limited when it rains, or when there have been a lot of divers in the water. Given the popularity of this place, and the nature of the British weather, this means just about all the time, though I do remember one dive on which the viz was easily good enough for my buddy and me to keep visual contact without holding hands. Anyway, experienced Rocky divers can readily overcome any potential problems by tying themselves to their buddies.
If you do tie yourself to your buddy, remember that you both need to jump off the same side of the platform. This may seem obvious, especially to the more experienced diver, but I never like to miss an opportunity to pass on tips to make diving safer and more fun for other people. If you do get it wrong, there are paramedics on duty and theyll stop the bleeding and set any broken bones in no time at all, though you may have to miss the next dive.
The only thing I dont like about Rocky is the sheer number of divers in the water, but even this has a bright side. It is quite possible for you to stand on the heads of those already diving and do your dive without getting wet.
This has tremendous advantages for the experienced diver, who can save huge amounts of time by not bothering with any kit at all, and be in the pub as soon as it opens.
For trainees, however, it can be a drawback, which is why our club prefers to come here early in the season when it is less crowded. True, the water tends to be a bit colder, but any discomfort is well worth it. In any case, the water temperature here rarely gets into double figures, even in summer.

The underwater topography of Rocky Quarry is truly superb, either for training or just for ordinary recreational diving. Theres are shelves, and steep walls, and plateaus, and you can get down to considerable depths if you wish.
The management has sunk all sorts of items to entertain divers. In my experience, trainees on the 6m shelf always love the novelty of the Pile of Bricks, and the more confident of them can enjoy their first taste of wreck penetration by swimming through the Big Concrete Pipe.
More experienced divers can enjoy the old quarry machinery in the 40m section, but the prime attraction has to be the wreck in the centre of the 20m area. This is really easy to find, because there are usually so many divers on it that the water gets warmer in the vicinity. Sometimes the exhaled bubbles fill all the spaces on the wreck and it floats to the surface, which is why my logbook lists its depth as anywhere between three and 20m!
There is a Rocky Quarry story that two construction yard workers were welded into the hull, and on nights with a full moon they can be heard tapping on the plating to be let out, but I know this isnt true. They were sailors who got drunk.

When you finish your dive, its as easy to exit as it was to get in. Around a corner from the entry stage are some broad steps leading out of the water, and then a smooth tarmac slope to the car park.
I always love to see the faces of divers coming out of the quarry, their backs bent double under the weight of soaking-wet kit and their hands blue from cold. By listening hard, Ive even heard some new swearwords over the years.
After each dive, your cylinder can be refilled on site. This takes more than two or three hours only when the quarry is really busy. If you are the impatient sort, you can always take a spare tank with you, or just breathe as little as possible and make one bottle last all morning, which is what I prefer to do.
The quarry management could speed up the cylinder-filling process, but they know how important a good surface interval is, just one more reason that this is the premier dive site in the world.
Anyway, a bit of a delay allows you plenty of time to get a healthy bacon, egg, sausage, brown sauce and fried-bread butty from the cafÃ…, or to browse among the tempting items of diving gear for sale in the equipment shop.
And after your final dive of the day there is the Rocky Quarry pub, which is decorated with nautical memorabilia from around the coasts of our fair land and offers the finest foods in a convivial setting. I heartily recommend the burger au fromage, with French fries if theyre in season, and a bottle of something robust from the cellar to wash it down.

More than anything else, however, I recommend that you get down to Rocky Quarry for the finest, the very, very best, the most magnificent experience that diving has to offer!
Sorry, got to go, matron says its time for my tablets.

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