Updated: Mar 13, 2020
I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked by RSAC members over the years "Are you coming to Cyprus this year"? My response has always been the same "No, I really don't fancy it". In the back of my mind has always been the same question "What on earth do people find attractive about diving on a lorry deck, given that it’s totally black inside and you have to use a torch to see anything”?
This year was different - when Angie asked if I was going, I gave her my stock answer. She explained that there was more to the Zenobia than the lorry decks - the water's warm (the water temperature on my dives ranged from 24 to 31 degrees), it's clear (visibility about 25 metres) and there are lots of fish. So I decided to give it a try.
I'd agreed with Niall before travelling that I'd dive with him on the first day, so before going he showed me photos that he'd taken during previous years. He also talked me through what to expect in the upper lorry deck - yes, it's dark, but once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I'd be able to see the exit in front of me (a mass of blue seawater).
When I jumped into the water for my first dive and put my face underwater, I was amazed - beneath me I could see not only the wreck (16 - 40+ metres below), but it was in translucent blue water that seemed to go on forever, with divers' air bubbles of white and silver rising to the surface. Awe inspiring.
As usual, I took my time descending due to my ears not equalising very easily. Then it was time for the lorry deck (gulp!). I peered inside, but couldn't see the promised blue exit, as it did take my eyes a while to adjust to the darkness. But once I'd been inside the wreck for 5-10 seconds, I could see it.
The lorries below us were interesting, but don't have the wow factor that they do for lots of RSAC members. Instead, as I'm writing, the memories that spring to mind for me include:
The vastness of the wreck (it's 178 metres long);
Exiting the lorry deck into a huge area of clear, blue water with shoals of fish swimming past;
Seeing the turtle up close;
Feeding the fish, and being surrounded by them - thanks to Niall for taking bread on the dives;
The need to improve my underwater communication skills (why was Niall pointing to his shin bone? To point out the bone lorry that we'd seen on a previous dive - obviously!);
The moray eels in their holes;
The eggs that had been on board since the ship sank;
The banter - thanks, guys for pointing out that my slow descent rate would enable you to go back to shore, have a coffee and ice cream and still beat me to the wreck - you know who you are!
Sharing the photo shoot for David Baker's 400th dive.
So if you're asked next year if you're going to Cyprus, there really is only one answer - "definitely!" This is irrespective of whether you like diving in lorry decks that are probably darker than a blackout during the Blitz!