To the Bottom

The history of diving (Ger., Eng.) dates back to ancient times. HERODOT (Eng., books) and ARISTOTELES (Eng., books) mention divers and their heroic actions; PLINIUS maior (Ger., Eng.),  famed author of Historia naturalis and Admiral of the Roman fleet – it’s the one who died exploring the Vesuv while Pompei and Herculaneum (site) were destroyed – used snorkeling combat divers, Kampfschwimmer.
And as I mentioned before, mankind lost ships, boats, airplanes and a lot of human lives to the sea over centuries. Some divers are interested in the silence and the colours, the creatures and abundance of maritime life – so visiting a reef would be a good idea, dear Princess mentioned that he  dove at the Great Barrier Reef. Others specialize in wrecks or caves – nothing for the faint-hearted and claustrophobic. And of course people do work under water, and to my amazement I learnt that it is possible for a diver to reach 600 meters (2000 feet!) in a Panzertauchanzug, a atmospheric diving suit. I read that the current record is at 700 meters, reached in a simulation for testing special gas mixtures. From a certain depth onwards pure oxygene is poisonous.
Robert CHAULK dives regularly the Halifax harbour and wrote a book about it*. Halifax harbour ( Eng.) is not the Port of Halifax. The port today is not among the largest of the world in respect of tonnage and traffic, a list led by Singapore, Busan, Rotterdam and Hamburg. It saw its zenith through WWII when the large Atlantic convoys used it as one starting point, Boston being the other point of departure. It is a natural theater with a  European-Western naval history of more than 200 years. Riffs, fog and weather brought many ships down (one or another German sub too) and strong currents and heavy storms often enough crushed and milled the wrecks to small pieces, so that wreck diving requires special attention to details – as one diver put it: “You have to push your face into the bottom”, in this case looking for the remains of the steamship Atlantic (Ger., Eng.) – not to be confused with the Atlantus, the concrete ship.
Halifax harbour saw one of the largest manmade explosions in pre-atomic times, the Halifax explosion (Ger., Eng.) of 1917 when two ships collided and the French freighter Mont Blanc caught fire, stocked up to the brim with ammunition for the European battlefield. The second last surviving victim, John DAVIDSON, died last year.

Robert CHAULK and his friends brought together an interesting collection of things they found on the harbour’s bottom, mostly bottles and porcellaine plates or other artefacts and relics. But it’s not the collecting of things that fuels them, it’s the curiosity to have a look, to actually see the bottom, to swim into the shadow of a giant pier in cold water and an unforgiving environment, to look where the monsters dwell. They are not there. But one has to look.

* Chaulk, Robert: Time in a Bottle. Historic Halifax harbour from the bottom up. Lawrencetown Beach 2002


A short addition

LGS commented that he would like to see some wrecks in snorkeling distance. It gets even easier by visiting some of the large shipyards of the world. There is always the Rossville Boatyard of NewYork (text), I first saw it on Forgotten NewYork. Have a look at the photographs of O’Boyle.
Somewhere up the Potomac is Mallows Bay (text) where sowm hundreds wooden ships rot away, I guess they are best seen from above.
Then there is the ship graveyard in Mauretania, also seen from above, and from the ground.
And there are of course the ship breakers, for example in Chittagong.

20 thoughts on “To the Bottom

  1. The sea is the last great frontier on earth.

    However, much mankind believes it is control of it’s own destiny, the sea always begs to differ. It will take as much as it gives.

    I loved my sea-going adventures this summer. But that was warm sea. The thought of diving into the frigid water around this coast does not appeal. Not at all.

  2. I am sure, XL, Kamerad Bäumer would love it!

    North Atlantic, not Caribbean Sea, Roses. Chaulk describes layers of water with different temperatures, so with different clearity. He says the danger does not come from the technical side but only from the human: It’s either over confidence or panic, f.e. when swimming around in nearly zero visibility not reaching something that should be there and realising to be in the middle of a dark cold nowhere.

    There are some ship yards around – it’s wreck spotting without the fuzz! I wonder whether the boneyard in NewYork still exists – I will put up some links later, LGS.

  3. Hello jip, glad to see you here – and sorry for the topic.

    You can go to, Scarlet, great site and interesting links to European places too. And there’s always the urbex webring. Some photographs are very atmospheric.

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