2006 - A Little Project
Archaeological Diving around the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia

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Tuesday 9th May 2006     day 11     40C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Up for 0700 briefing on the day's tasks. Helped finish up the boat to start with.

We dropped the Midyan rescue RIB in the water so we could all visit Farasan Island but it was soon condemned as gutless and too slow. The visit was to collect another diveboat we've hired and to meet up with the shore party to see how they were getting on.

About 1000 Trevor, Garry, Simon and Hans went off in our diveboat and the rest of us stayed on the Midyan and completed the day's tasks.

The boats returned about 1730 and there's a few problems with the hired boat - dodgey reverse mainly.

Straight up for dinner and we heard lots of excited talk about their interesting day on the island. We rushed down to sort out the boats and tidy the work area before dark but it was then decided we should all quickly pile into the boats and go and look at some alternative sites for the check-out dives.

45 minute whiz around in the boats in the empty sea around these lovely islands at sunset but I'm feeling very frustrated at the slow progress and this just seems like more messing about so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. Got some photos of the Midyan.


Back for a quick clear up and we're finishing off the medical briefing tonight.

Medical briefing took all evening and didn't leave much time for an update and a plan for tomorrow. Most wanted to get off to bed at 10pm as they're so knackered from all their "hard work" - not sure why?? There is talk of the possibility of check-out dives tomorrow afternoon.

      High: managed to get quite a bit done today
       Low: too much time playing in the boats for my liking

       whereami     Satellite view    

Wednesday 10th May 2006     day 12     41C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Up for our 0730 briefing. The plan is boat training plus some prep work in the morning and check-out dives in the afternoon.

Got all my stuff done, analysed some gases and started getting the divegear ready to load the boats.

Then it was our turn for boat training. Fairly basic man-overboard and diver recovery stuff and we all got a chance to have a drive. It was easier to drive than I expected given some of the comments I've heard from the boat-boys.

At lunch we agreed to head out for check-out dives at 1430 and after some fuss we got away about 1530.

We did the check-out dives - Simon was in first and the dive ladder snapped as he tried to climb back aboard and hurt his leg and lost his favourite mask. The water was very murky in the sheltered bay but I found his mask when I went in so he cheered up. Check out dives were all ok, we got our weights sorted, messed about a while in 8m of water and tested everything.

We rushed back to the Midyan and just made it for dinner at 1830. We agreed to get together at 2100 to watch some video footage that Trevor took on Farasan Island the other day and to have a briefing.

The briefers announced that we're starting the proper dives tomorrow. I'm diving with the 2 local divers (Khaled - Saudi/German and Hans - Swede who's been in Jeddah for years). At last!

I used a quiet moment to hand around the Medical Consent/Release forms I'd made. Khaled suggested he wasn't going to sign it. We agreed to leave it until the morning - I asked for all the forms to be returned to me at the 0715 briefing tomorrow. BUT - if he doesn't sign it neither Simon or I can medically assist him which probably means he's off the ship and the project. That means tomorrows dive plan has to change. So I've now been told I'm not diving tomorrow.

Who knows what will happen tomorrow. One thing is certain - it's sure to be character building.

      High: getting a dive - 10 mins in 8m of water feels like a major milestone
       Low: potential problem with the Medical Release

       whereami     Satellite view    

Thursday 11th May 2006     day 13     42C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Up for the 0715 briefing, getting dressed I sat down on my bunk and sat right on the anti-roll board - caught it right on the base of my spine. Really bloody hurt - I hope it doesn't screw up my diving.

To my surprise Khaled declared that he definitely would not sign the form, so we can't treat him, so he's off the project. Major upheavals to get him and his kit off the ship onto Farasan Island from where he'll get the ferry to the mainland and he'll be driven back to Jeddah.

We took both boats and the whole team went to Farasan Island where we were met by the land party. The project leaders and Khaled settled down to a private meeting at the Farasan Hotel to thrash out some complications - our boat is partly in Khaled's name, we have a load of cylinders that he hired for the project etc. etc. The rest of us went off for a good lunch in a little locals café. Farasan is a scruffy little place - it reminded me of parts of Egypt. Really hot there - you could feel yourself frying in the sun.

The meeting seemed to finish fairly amicably, we said goodbye to Khaled and jumped in the boats back to the Midyan.

My back's been quite painful most of the day and I've excused myself from heavy lifting duties. It has eased a bit and only really hurts now if I don't sit down carefully or do any heavy lifting.

Quiet evening with a quick briefing for diving tomorrow. I'm diving with Hans in the morning - should be fine, he's a PADI Course Director with loads of experience.

      High: much better team spirit today
       Low: my bloody back, and another wasted day

       whereami     Satellite view    

Friday 12th May 2006     day 14     41C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:

Up for 0730 briefing. Things didn't quite go as planned as some people weren't properly prepared and we set off an hour behind schedule. But it was ok, it's our first proper day.
We still have a slight concern over our Medical Indemnity Insurance as Simon hasn't had sight of the policy and is demanding proof. We agreed to dive on trust today - being assured that the proof was imminent.

Hans and I were the morning dive team, just to 18m on 40% Nitrox to look closer at the interesting overhangs off Slick Point. We went off the boat to the shotline - a bit tricky as there was a current running. Straight down to the 18m bottom where we were a bit sheltered by the reef against the current. We spent an hour swimming up and down the reef, taking photos and making drawings and notes of the reef features, especially the overhangs. Quite a nice dive too, saw an eagle ray swim overhead, a big turtle in a mini cave, a giant white lobster, a good school of quite big barracudas, and one very big barracuda and a big trevally swooped in for a closer look at us.

We broke the surface bang on time, were helped aboard the diveboat and sped back to the Midyan. Part of our safety procedures is for divers to spend 45min on O2 after surfacing so we've set up a special area and that all went well too. And now we're on light duties for the rest of the day.

It all went very smoothly, all the boat procedures, the dive procedures and the post dive procedures. A pretty good effort all round for the first proper dive. The afternoon dive went pretty well too.

I spent the evening working with Garry. I've been trying very hard to get things more planned, organised and better delegated ever since I arrived in Saudi and I'm making progress. I've now been asked to help with some of the admin - dive logs, archaeological logs and I'm writing a daily plan. We should be able to get things running a bit smoother with a proper plan.

      High: feeling more motivated now I'm more involved
       Low: the insurance business is an unresolved concern

       whereami     Satellite view    

Saturday 13th May 2006     day 15     40C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:

Up for a quick planning meeting where the plan was pretty much accepted without question.

The rest of the team seem pretty happy that they have a better idea of what's going on, and what's required of them and everyone soon got on with it.

We soon had the dive boat away to get some GPS references and drop another shotline.

We still don't have the insurance stuff clarified but we went ahead with the preparations for the first quick dive at 1400.

Sadly the insurance wasn't resolved in time and Simon has suspended all diving until it's sorted.

I spent the afternoon catching up the Project Log - another task I've inherited.

Early evening we received something on the insurance but not enough. Some verbal instructions went up the line about what was needed and after some insistence I made sure it went in writing too - we've had more than enough vagueness and confusion already.

      High: the planning is definitely making a difference
       Low: the insurance business - should have been fixed months ago

       whereami     Satellite view    

Sunday 14th May 2006     day 16     40C    

Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:

The Midyan has to return to Jizan for a couple of days for a crew change and there's a few project tasks to be done there too. Only Trevor and Garry are going with it, the rest of us are staying on Farasan Island with Geoff and Steam to help with the land archaeology and to act as boat taxis if they want to visit some other islands.

Up and out in the diveboat to collect our buoys.

Geoff Bailey came aboard the Midyan and there was some chat about the progress or lack of, and the outstanding problems.

Geoff headed back to Farasan and Simon, Lawrence, Hans and I followed 20 minutes later in our boats. We checked into The Farasan Hotel, I'm sharing a room with Hans. We had some lunch and set out in the boats for the land crew to see south east Farasan from the sea - not all of it is accessible by land. Pretty interesting ride around but all this rough and uncomfortable boating is giving my sore back a real hammering.


I quickly wrote up the daily log and we joined the hotel owner in his special, tent-like, room for a really good fish and rice meal. Chatted around and called it a night as we're starting early tomorrow - we're off at 0600.

      High: Farasan Island is quite an interesting place
       Low: yawn yawn slow slow - no diving

       whereami     Satellite view    

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