Ships Place

Aqaba, Jordan, 02-01-1989

Ships Place, Aqaba, Jordan

In December 1988 Hélène and I visited Jordan, we traveled around the country and drove from Amman to Aqaba to do some diving. We made our deepest dive there. On 30-12-1988 we dived to a depth of 66 metres on air at a divespot called Ships Place.

Ships Place is a gully that extends from 5 m to unfathomable depths. Upwelling of cooler water results in many large pelagic fish being seen here. There is a resident family of large Napoleon fish. A good deeper dive for more experienced divers.

Planning is crucial any time a deep dive is involved. “You have to plan before you dive, and follow it tightly”. Hélène and I planned the dive well and stuck to our plan. Looking down, the water is nothing like the iridescent blue that one comes to associate with tropical reefs. Instead, it is dark cobalt, almost black. Like skydivers falling in slow motion, we plummet straight down the shear wall. The water below becomes blacker as light levels drop. Beyond 40 metres, you enter a world of the deepest silence. All hint of color vanishes. Soft corals that were red, pink, blue and yellow all look the same.

As it grows darker, it becomes difficult to see into the shadows beneath draping soft corals and at the openings of small caves. We have entered the twilight zone. At 66 metres I begin checking my instruments: depth and air pressure. We have to go back, I signal to Hélène and we start the long way back. After 35 minutes we surface beneath the brilliant Jordan sun. I take a deep breath while resting on the surface with my stabilizing jacket inflated. The sunlight is dazzling and I feel great.

For me, it was a exciting experience. When you are diving that deep you feel all alone in an alien world. The first time there is a great deal of fear tinged with anticipation. But wat I remenber most of the dive is the glorious technicolour when you start as opposed to black and white down deep.

So Hélène and I have done 66 metres on air, but I think that over 60 on air is pushing it in the blue. Everyone has a personal depth limit where an adequate level of logical ability and resultant action are still achievable and this will vary dependant upon a divers physical health, their level of mental preparedness, the task at hand as well as other factors. I do not think there is any particular danger in the dive itself but narcosis stops you being able to problem solve as easily and a simple problem can kill you nay time at those depths. I guess the big lesson learned is that you just never know how it will affect you until you get down there. If anything had gone wrong, I have to hold my hand up and say I don’t know wether I would have had the reflexes to have sorted it. And remember; deep dives can be extraordinarily fulfilling, aficionados say. But the most important thing is to get home safe.

Another good dive you can make is at the wreck of the Cedar Pride

I dived there with my friend Rien Broere on 29-12-1988.

The Cedar Pride is a Lebanese freighter sunk in 1986 at the wishes of Prince Abdulha, King Hussain’s son as an attraction for divers. She lies 150 m. offshore and is approx. 80m long by 20m wide. Lying on her port side across two reefs in a depth of 12-27 m. She has been rapidly colonized by soft corals and is home to several large sea bass, Grouper can often be spotted and she is also patrolled by a shoal of barracuda.

Between the wreck and the shore and just off the starboard bow lies a reef called Osama’s Reef This has nothing to do with Bin Laden! The reef slopes downward from 10m to 24m with a drop off on one side. Here can be found a profuse and wide range of corals and fish life, including larger pelagic species that approach the reef to feed. This site can be combined with the wreck, but there is rarely time to explore more than a fraction of the reef and so this site is worthy of a visit of its own.

We started out by descending on the stern and then swimming up a little through the open section on the stern decks. We then descended and had a nice rummage around the cargo deck area. At the prow there were a couple of small fan corals. There were a good few soft corals growing around on the wreck, but it wasn’t there long enough for anything real spectacular.

However, the fish was amazing and it was possible to see the bulk of this 300+ foot ship from amidships position. Max depth was 65 metres with a time of 35 minutes + a deco stop. Visibility was well over 30 metres. It is possible to pass under the hull of the ship, which lays across two reefs. So that is what we did.

These dives were the stuff that dreams were made of.

I feel blessed too, by having a wife who would experience it with me!


To get home safe:

Preparations for a deep dive are essential to get home safe. Several factors are important if deep divers want to keep their sporting fun safe, experienced aquanauts say:

  • Preparation. Planning is crucial any time a deep dive is involved. “You have to plan before you dive, and follow it tightly,” says an experienced wreck diver.
  • Support. From handling the lengthy decompression stages to dealing with divers festooned with extra equipment and gear, dive boats must have extra equipment and skills to help insure their passengers have safe deep dives, experts say. “You need the stages properly rigged, you need oxygen rigged for emergency and safety,”.
  • Quality equipment — and plenty of it. That means double tanks from the best manufacturers, dual outlet manifolds, dive computers, a lift bag, a penetration reel, high-intensity dive lights and a strobe to make down lines easier to find.
  • Redundancy. Deep divers unanimously say that two regulators are a must, plus a completely independent pony bottle. They also all vote for multiple dive gauges, one analog and one computerized.
  • Experience, experience, experience. Nothing is a substitute for the intuitive knowledge that comes with hundreds of dives and years of practice. “It’s not something you can do without putting in the dues of gradually building up the capability,” Those who try short cuts may end up paying a very high price, experienced divers warn. Remember, I had already made over 260 dives and am a 4**** CMAS diver and PADI, master scubadiver, before I dived that deep.