02 Jun 2014

Project Argo 2014

1st-hand stories about net removal in Croatia

Last year, our dive-team undertook several clean-up dives on the Croatian shipwreck MS Argo, one of the most beautiful ships wreck in the Kvarner gulf (Croatia). Because we could not remove all nets from the wreck, we returned a year later to continue the good work. A report on our experiences for project Argo 2014.

In the week from 2-6 June, our international team of experienced divers returned to Krnica, Croatia, to focus this time on cleaning the stern of the MS Argo. Next to this, the divers continued performing clean-up dives on the local reef and the harbour Luka Krnica. The Healthy Seas team consisted this year of divers from Croatia, Italy, England, Germany and Holland and was facilitated by the technical diving centre Krnica Dive, Healthy Seas, Ghost Fishing, Scuba Academie and Global Underwater Explorers. Every day is a story in itself. Read some highlights:

Day 1 – Exploration! Today the team focusses on exploring the Argos wreck with a preparation dive. Everybody has their own task: the film and photographer teams look for the right angles, the technical teams prepare the lines for safe descent and ascent. These lines are going to be used for shooting nets to the surface as well. The preparations run smoothly and there is even time to salvage the first of the ghost nets. In the afternoon the team collects some small nets and waste from the reefs near the coast. In the evening the dive planning for the rest of the week is made.

Day 2 – The clean-up has started It is a glorious day: blue skies and 18 degrees and everybody has risen early. This is also due to the anticipation. After yesterday’s exploration it is clear that it is going to be hard work to clean the stern deck in only 4 days! Two groups work in different areas of the ship. One group works on a large net that covers a gap where the ship has broken in two. The other group tries to free the propeller of another large net. It is important to make the nets float with help of the floaters, so the net itself is out of the way and the cutters can do their work. The visibility during the work almost drops down to zero, due to the dust.

Day 3 – Knitting with steel The large trawler net that is stuck between the two parts of the broken ship proves to become the pièce de résistance of this years’ Argo mission. The net is like a curtain in the water. Its position fools the team in thinking that it is easy to remove. They need several dives to untie the knitting work of steel cables and when night falls the net is still hanging there.. During the evening evaluation the time pressure is tangible. Only two days left. Shall we extend our mission, do we find heavier equipment?

Day 4 – Boltcutter day After three days of deco dives the team is getting tired. Doubt is setting in: maybe this is too large for us. But they are pressing on. The preparations are in place, floaters hold up the large net and there an extra team member is introduced: Berry the Boldcutter. This strong piece of equipment is fit to bite through steel cables of 8mm. Some cables on the Argo are 3 cm!! Nevertheless Berry eats away most of the smaller cables and the team decides to trust that they can finish the job the next day.

Day 5 – The nets surface Since Berry couldn’t cut through the steelcables now 2 iron saws will provide a miracle. The team decides to bring lunch on board and will do two subsequent dives on the Argo to finish the job. And the miracle works! Even after one dive the net (approx. 2000kg) surfaces, and is so large that the help of a local fishermen is needed. The divers are proud and happy that they succeeded!
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