2006 - A Little Project
Archaeological Diving around the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia
Wednesday 24th May 2006
Zufaf Island, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Happy Birthday to me !! - 45 today, bleedin' 'ell.
We upped anchor and moved about 0700 when I was still in bed - yesterday's dive was very dull so we're heading back to Slick Point for our last couple of dives.
Back at Slick Point, got ready for the dive, I'm rescue diver again. Trevor and Lawrence going in to get a sample of the fossilised coral from the main cave and to get more video footage. We got to the dive site, I threw a shot line over and the whole lot disappeared - weight, (tangled) rope and buoy. Bloody Hell - ropes and me just don't go together. They had a pretty successful dive, and recovered my tangled shot.
Slight concern about an hour after the dive when Lawrence reported tingling in his leg. He'd only been on a shallow 14m dive for an hour but he'd been working very hard hammer-and-chiselling the whole dive to get a decent sample. We got him straight back on O2 for another 30 minutes and Simon and I ran some standard DCI (bends) checks on him just to be sure. He was ok - respect to him for speaking up.
Went out in the afternoon with Simon to do some depth soundings and look for another dive site - found nothing.
Spent the rest of the afternoon and evening catching up with some paperwork again. I've been matching the Midyan's depth sounding recordings to our routes over the past few days so we have accurate records of the depths along the routes. Quite an interesting job and it's useful info as these waters are not well charted.
Celebrated my birthday with a non-alcoholic beer - didn't really enjoy it. The no-alc rules out here are killing some of the team. I've been fancying a cigarette with all this stress about but I've resisted it.
High: watching the late night show over the side again
Low: that bloody shot line
Thursday 25th May 2006
Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Up at 0800 to be ready for my 3rd and final dive at 0900, and it'll be the final dive of the project.
We soon got going and the dive went well. We dived a new area and it was promising - lots of the features that the archaeologists are looking for. At the end of the dive we found quite a decent cave with a pile of shells at the base - it looked exactly like the scatterings of shells we'd seen on land on Farasan Island last week !! If it was what we thought we thought it was, the remains of a midden, it was a significant find. I was pretty certain that it was - it just looked so right.
We got out, explained our findings, showed them some samples and I told Garry that we need to get him in the water this afternoon - somehow, anyhow. It was agreed to cram in one last quick dive.
A few days ago Trevor asked the Captain if he'd run the powerful hoses above the bridge for his video. The hoses are used to lay detergent on oil spills and are incredibly powerful - we saw them tested 2 weeks ago. Trevor went out on our boat to film and a few of us gathered at the stern with our cameras. We got absolutely soaked - it was like being caught in torrential rain - quite a laugh and we managed to protect our cameras. Found out late evening that Trevor thinks his expensive camcorder is drowned.
Here's a few general photos scrounged from Hans and Garry:
Garry and Simon dived our cave in the afternoon and Garry wasn't really sure it was anything significant - he thought the concreted shells had probably fallen out of the reef as it eroded - it did make sense as he pointed out that they were laying on top of sand that would have been washed in relatively recently. A little bit disappointing - would have been nice to find something and get a result from all this.
Busy evening packing away most of our dive gear and catching up on the paperwork again. I've been trying to convince Garry that his antiquated filing system should all be managed on computer but he's far from convinced despite my point that just because it's archaeological data it doesn't need to managed with archaeological methods!!
High: interesting find on our dive even though it turned out to be nothing
Low: feel a bit flat now it's all over bar the clearing up - a large part a great opportunity has been lost
Friday 26th May 2006
Slick Point, Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia:
Happy Birthday Adam - 6 today I think.
Up at 0830 after a late night. Straight into the paperwork again, the archiving system is a bit of a nightmare and we're having to re-index a lot of stuff. Spent all morning going through some of it.
We left the Farasan Islands and started back to Jizan port for a crew change and ship re-stocking etc.
Spent pretty much all day on the paperwork apart from a couple of hours packing my diving gear away for shipment, and cleaning up the samples of fossil coral and shells being returned to UK for further analysis.
Grabbed a last minute photo of our cabin before we had to pack our cameras away again.
A few of us have been discussing what we're going to do when we get back to Jeddah - stay a few days? try and bring our flights forward and go home early? see if we can extend our Muscat, Oman stopover for a night or 2 to explore?
Saturday 27th May 2006
Jizan, Saudi Arabia:
We left Jizan early and soon got underway for Jeddah. A pretty rough journey being bounced around quite a bit.
Spent the morning tidying up the Project Log and filling in the gaps. Went back to it in the afternoon but kept dozing off at the keyboard so gave up and crashed out on my bunk for half the afternoon.
Got up for dinner and got back to work in the evening. Mainly sorting out a Project Photo Archive to add to the logs.
Got called down to the mess room about 8pm. The galley crew had made me a belated birthday cake! I so wish I'd had my camera but we had to box them up and send them off last night as they're not allowed in the Aramco port in Jeddah again. It was enormous - and had a splodgy "HAPY BIRTHDAY" on the top. I cut it and shared some around and we ate about a quarter of it!!
Carried on with office stuff until 11pm and then read A History of Red Sea Exploration until 2am. Hans had some photos published in it.
High: got lots done today
Low: still feel deflated that it's over and we could have done so much more
Sunday 28th May 2006
Red Sea, Saudi Arabia:
Still chugging along north back to Jeddah. The sea is quite rough so we're making slower progress than on the way down - looks like being a 45 hour or so journey.
For a big ship the Midyan seems to move about quite a bit so our sea-legs are getting a thorough testing. It doesn't seem to cut through the waves - it bashes through them so it bangs and crashes and jostles along.
Office duties all day again just getting everything in order.
Spent a quiet hour outside up near the bow in the afternoon. Nice up there on my own in the teeth of a hot gale, watching the rainbows in the spray from the waves crashing into the bow, watching the flying fish darting about, saw some dolphins leaping about too. Felt a strong need for a quiet hour with a guitar today.
Just about got everything fully wrapped up and packed away in the evening and quietly got my diary up to date.
We pulled in to Jeddah port a little before midnight. I sat up late on my own and read some more of the Red Sea book.
High: my quiet hour on the bow
Low: STILL feeling deflated but keeping busy and not worrying about it
Monday 29th May 2006
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia:
Got up late, about 9am, and had to rush around a bit as things were happening quicker than anticipated. All our kit was craned and carried of the Midyan onto lorries and a few of us left the port with the carry luggage. Others stayed behind to make sure the freight luggage all went the right way.
We pretty much drove straight out of the port with no security delays and got to the Red Sea Palace hotel about noon. Our cameras and mobiles had arrived there safely and were waiting for us.
We checked in and had some lunch. Nice to have some different food. We can't really complain about the Midyan diet, and these things don't bother me much anyway, but it was very similar everyday.
The others got back to the hotel and a few of us started making plans about what to do regarding our flights. Our flights are booked for 1900 on the 3rd to Muscat, Oman, and from there at 0140 to Heathrow. There really isn't anything in Jeddah to stay for so some are heading home early. I've decided to try and see a bit of Oman with Simon - we're the only 2 up for that.
We went to the Gulf Air office and got our flights changed. Garry and Lawrence just brought both flights forward to tomorrow, Simon and I brought just our Oman flight forward to tomorrow - we need to come back tomorrow as ours couldn't be finalised today.
Out for a really good chinese in the evening.
Tuesday 30th May 2006
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia:
Got straight into some project work as Garry wants to reindex all the photos before we all leave here - it's gonna be a rush.
I mentioned to Trevor that we needed some agreement on Oman expenses and he discussed it with Nic. He agreed to pay a total of £70 a day - the Jeddah budget - and anything else we'd have to fund ourselves. He didn't seem overly happy with the idea that we were staying 4 days there. I suppose it is a bit of a cheek but it's not costing them any more than if we sat out our time and waited for our flights in Jeddah so . . . .
Back to the Gulf Air office and got our flight arrangements finalised. Back to the hotel and booked our Oman hotel, The Crowne Plaza, Muscat. A big fancy 5* hotel and it's going to cost me a few bob.
Major rush to finish up the photos and get checked out and book the hotel and sort our flights and and and. We finished at 4pm and kept our airport taxi waiting for half an hour.
Shook a few hands, said goodbyes and went. Fairly straightforward check in except I got a thorough bag search and they confiscated my flammable deodorant and mosquito sprays, whatever . . .
Took off at about 7pm and got to Oman (+1 hour) at 11:30pm. Said cheerio to Garry and Lawrence, they're connecting straight onto a Heathrow flight, and went through. Very straightforward $20 visa and entry into Oman.
It feels even hotter here and the climate is lovely, quite humid - it's out of season now as it's too hot for most people - 37deg at 11pm. It's a lot cleaner than Saudi - it really is a much smarter place. Got a £15 taxi for the 20 minute ride to the hotel - very nice hotel but the rooms don't seem like 5*.
Straight to the bar as Simon's gagging for a drink. We sat outside in the heat and enjoyed a relaxing drink. I weakened and bought some cigarettes for a treat - I reckon I've earnt it.
Bed at 0130 and awake for another hour catching up with this diary.
High: Oman seems very nice
Low: got a feeling this is going to cost a bit of limited cash