HISTORY OF O IN IBIZA ...

 

This newly created page is dedicated to little diving stories in Ibiza where I total more than 4000 scuba dives ... You will find here the best sites on the island served by local diving clubs as well as for adventurers allergic to professional structures, sites not accessible, some almost virgin ... but deep for the most part.

I start today with the story of the ghost sailboat, others will come quickly afterwards ...

Maybe one day I'll make a book out of it. 

Thanks to Claude Lapeyre, even if he didn't do it on purpose, for making me want to write again ...

Good reading.

 

            July 1992, it is seven o'clock in the evening, a 13-meter JOKER is heading peacefully towards the port of Ibiza. Her sails are swollen by the warm breeze that reigns at the end of the afternoon. Tired, dreamy from a long day in the sun on one of the beaches of Formentera, the captain of the boat did not see that he was heading straight for the reef of the shark fin, located to the north of Espardell Island.

            It is too late when suddenly the terrible tearing of the hull against the sharp rock  brings the boater back to reality. In a final maneuver he desperately tries to bring him back to the port of Ibiza ... But it is far too late, the fate of his boat has already been written ... Halfway between the island of Espardell and the old town, just in opposite the platja d'En Bossa, the dark ship. The crew has just enough time to get on their dinghy ...

 

            We are in February 2000, the water is cool this morning, barely 12 degrees, but the sun and the flat surface of the big blue already make us think of summer. The ghost sailboat is located right in the middle of the Formentera-Ibiza motorway. This is how we nickname the sea route that connects the two islands because in summer, speedboats and boats of all kinds shuttle at full speed, making any dive on the wreck perilous during the summer period. ..

            It is therefore necessary to be patient and wait for the low season to explore this mystical sailboat which rests perfectly on a bottom of 48 meters, as if it was still sailing.

 

Departure from the port of Botafoch at 9:00 am, the boat glides over the water and we arrive quickly on the site thanks to the 150 V6 horses that equip our 6.5-meter Zeppelin… We breathe in full gulps this sweet air that whips our faces… foot  ! There are five of us this morning to have the privilege of diving on the ghost sailboat, Christophe, Elisabeth, Fulvio, Camilla and me. After some adjustments to the GPS and the landmarks, we discovered a large mass on the sounder ... Weird, normally the wreck does not leave this imposing mark on the sounder,  we are puzzled. In short, we don't think any longer  : we launch the lifeline, the dead body quickly reaches the bottom, buoy in position, everything is perfect.

 

We do 2 groups, as usual Camilla and I dive together, after checking our equipment by our respective partner, we take the plunge.

I look at my box, everything is fine, we exchange the traditional “ok” sign with Camilla, then we approach the descent.

Arrived at 20 meters deep we come across a huge ball, yes a ball, not a school of fish, but a huge ball of horse mackerel !! Just amazing !! The mystery of the mass detected by the sounder is unveiled  ! .... but not the sailboat  ! We don't see it! While visibility in Ibiza is always 20 meters minimum with such good weather conditions! We approach and we find ourselves literally sucked in by this whirlwind, this gathering of fish  who live around us !!

I look at my computer, we are 35 meters away, we are still going down… 42 meters… and then suddenly, he appears… I look up… He is there, all his sails out  ! Torn and holes like the Black Pearl in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. A light current having fun inflating them, really giving the impression that the sailboat is still heading towards Ibiza town, but taking the road to the bottom ... We exchange a glance, we are confused by so much life, now we know why the JOKER is nicknamed the ghost sailboat. The shadow that stands out from the blue leaves an atmosphere of mystery hovering, the boat sails on the bottom, bringing with it this oasis of life. Here the seagulls are the fish ... The moment is magical. The wreck seems protected in a cocoon of fish, or rather a Christmas ball  ! But there the snowflakes are thousands of little shooting stars  !

The wreck is well concreted although it has only been underwater for a little over 7 years! Its mast goes up to 25 meters, and usually it is our reference point on the descent. To tell the truth we arrive on it today and we do not really know where to start because every corner seems to attract our curiosity. Here, an enormous capon, there a conger… I place myself on my knees on the bottom, 5 meters from the bow, starting a series of atmospheric photos where Camilla has fun playing the model among the multitude of fish. As we skirted around the wreck, we came face to face with two huge Saint-Pierre on the lookout… or in full digestion because I think they shouldn't have waited for us to hit the horse mackerel. You have to be careful, because at nearly 50 meters deep the dive is short! I move towards the stern, look at my pressure gauge, 150 bars… nothing to say, on the other hand the computer already indicates 6 minutes at 3 meters of decompression. When it indicates a plateau of 3 minutes at 6 meters it will be time to return to the sun because it is out of the question  to do more than 45 minutes of levels! I immortalize a large capon, I look towards the muddy bottom, I guess the imprint of a very large buried live, further on my gaze is attracted by a bench of marbled and red mullet… And there you are, Camilla signals me that 'we have to go back up, the 15 minutes at the bottom have passed too quickly ... Through this scaly cloud we take the way back along the mast before joining the lifeline where we find Christophe, Elisabeth and Fulvio.

We extricate ourselves as best we can from this luminous whirlwind and we watch it move away carrying the sailboat in the distance ... Or else it is we who rise to the surface  ? Doubt takes hold of me… I did not suffer from nitrogen narcosis during this dive and yet I doubted. I doubted for a few seconds which seemed like an eternity to me, is it me moving away from the sailboat or him moving away from me ...

At the landing, by a simple glance we exchange our impressions ... Despite the cold, our thoughts are still below.

How can a simple and ordinary wreck of a 13-meter-long sailboat reveal so much mystery?… What's its secret?… No one will probably ever be.

Back on the boat, I only have one obsession  : dive back on it as quickly as possible, just to get to know this incredible sailboat better.

 

I am just amazed (as well as my diving companions) by all these exceptional images jostling in my thoughts, personally I have never seen again, neither on this wreck, nor on another dive site such a concentration of horse mackerel.

For the record, fishing for this fish that is called here on the island "  sorell  To save the people of Ibiza Town from starvation during the Spanish Civil War. Very common in Pityusian waters, it resembles a sardine crossed with a mackerel and is characterized by a longitudinal line on the body formed of scaly patches.

I can say today that this fish made me dream like a school of manta rays in the Maldives.  !

 

Epilogue:

 

This story that I am telling you today is actually my second dive on the wreck. I had to wait until 2002 to dive back a third time  above. Unfortunately fate and unfortunate events in my life in 2003 have not allowed me to return since.

  However, I noticed on a recent video that the time to start  his work ... The hull is tilted to port and begins to silt up while the sails seem to me to have practically disappeared  !! What a pity  !! But hey, so is nature.

I hope to be able to dive back on it soon knowing full well that I would surely never do another dive as incredible as this one.

Another misfortune, the slides made from this dive are lost forever. I had to borrow the following photos (dating from October 9, 2012) to illustrate my story at the VELLMARI diving club in Ibiza, which is to my knowledge the only club that can nowadays offer dives on this wreck, .. . advice to amateurs.

 

 The ghost sailboat

 
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 The city of barracoudas

 

 

It is almost 11 o'clock in the morning on this beautiful day of September 11, 2001, in the total recklessness of the events which take place on the other side of the Atlantic. We are on vacation Camilla and I in Ibiza because I put my career as a professional diving instructor on hold in November 2000.  Since February 2001, we live in Belfast in Northern Ireland where Camilla works as an anesthetist. From our union was born Amaya Jade on March 1, 2001, Balearic Festival days  ! It is Elisabeth who keeps it with her son Victor at the H2O diving center, of which she is co-owner with her companion Christophe.

 

  The ZEPPELIN slides slowly while approaching the site of the site of the city of barracoudas. The sea is oiled up and we are not the only ones to have had the idea of coming to dive here today: the large aluminum barge of the IBIZA-DIVING club is already moored. Luckily his divers start to come back from the dive, this will avoid having too many people underwater at the same time at the risk of removing the barracoudas school from the structures. I also worked for them from 1995 to 1998, before coming back in 2000 to supervise for them. We exchange a friendly sign. Ah  ! My Sébastien and my Angel, it makes me happy to see them too… Skillfully Christophe maneuvers with great precision. I also worked with him and Elisabeth from 1999 to early 2000 and we don't need to talk, with just a glance he knows I'm ready to get in the water, because I have to moor the boat at the structure, 14 meters below.

 

            The city of barracoudas is located only 200 meters from the west coast of the islet of Espardell, itself located in the middle of the natural reserve of Las Salinas, classified  to the heritage  UNESCO.

            To discover this marvel, it is therefore necessary to dive with one of the rare diving centers which have a special authorization to go on it.

 

I turn to Ibiza, the show is  incredible, the atmospheric visibility of today allows to see Es Vedra, which stands on the horizon to the west like a sentinel, and the entire east coast of Ibiza since we can see the island of Tagomago in the far.

            My gaze is again on the surface where we can clearly see the giant silhouette of the Espardell platform, one of the seven underwater wonders of the Pytius Islands, which I call the city of barracoudas. This sunken city is in fact a unique wreck in the world, making it one of the most popular dives in Ibiza. And for good reason, since it was a prototype of a floating aquaculture farm for growing sea breams, called La Mariana. She was installed here in 1994 after being towed from the mainland  ! So much money invested in this project for not much in the end… except for us divers.

            Gigantic in size and hexagonal in shape, the engineer (who was not to know the anger of our sea.) Had  designed a hard platform, floating thanks to huge pillars filled with air by means of pumps.

            In short, the first big winter storm damaged the structure ... Faced with concerns combined with maintenance and profitability of the operation, the latter was quickly abandoned and finally sank in 1997. It has been lying between 14 and 33 meters deep, the upper structure having twisted before resting on the bottom, northeast side. The other side of the structure remaining inclined towards the surface, maintained in the blue thanks to 2 coupled pilasters. Considering the enormous size of this wreck, it takes 3 dives to go around it. Most of the pestles that supported  the structure are erected vertically, culminating at a depth of less than 20 meters and giving this original dive the appearance of a submerged ancient city for some, or a science fiction landscape for others, for the pleasure of photographers  ! In addition, La Mariana is haunted by a monstrous school of barracoudas! Hence the name I gave him ...

            Other than the barracoudas, this enormous structure shelters an incredibly rich and varied fauna such as schools of amberjacks, saupes, but also groupers, mostelles, capons, apogons, moray eels, conger eels, lobsters, large sea cicadas, dromi crabs, etc. ... .who will be there to welcome you as soon as you get into the water.

            Splash !!! I have just tilted, the end in my right hand, I compensate with the other and spin towards one of the many rings towards the top of the structure, the very ones that kept the non-gillnets full of fish. ...   I pass the end through the stainless ring is there I feel a presence  : I turn around slightly and come face to face with a beautiful amberjack (wrongly called a lich by many divers  !) of at least 6 kg watching me  ! But the fact of having met my gaze did not have him more ... in less than a second the dorsal fin is erect and the beauty has turned course  to join 6 of these congeners who have remained at a distance  !

I go back to the surface and pass the end to Christophe while exploding  : "  amberjacks and beauties  !  »Addressing me in Catalan to Pepe and Jose-Maria«  silvis i fat  !  »Then to finish with Camilla  : "  Amber jack and big ones  !  "

She also hands me the box early, I look under the water while they equip themselves… I no longer see them "  my beautiful  "  ! Damn  ! All these little people get into the water, As usual Camilla is my partner while Christophe dives with Pepe and Jose-Maria.

During this time all the divers from IBIZA-DIVING got back on board and Toni the pilot started the engines.

We immediately immerse ourselves in the direction of the upper part of the wreck, then arrived on its ledge ... the angel's jump  ! I enjoy it all the more since the barracoudas are always faithful to the position in the middle of the superstructures and move away as we pass, forming a whirlwind of which we occupy the eye. The amberjack have disappeared but the barracoudas offers us a beautiful spectacle  ! Immediately comes to mind the impressive images of the last dive made on the Mariana in July  : The courtship displays of barracoudas, where we see the large females accelerating vertically towards the surface, pursued by several males… An incredible ballet… and a rare moment in diving.

Today, ambience photography with the 14mm ...  I take some pretty pictures with the columns and the spets (that's what the Mediterranean barracouda is really called, which has nothing to do with the big tropical barracouda). We  let's go to the ground structures of the southwest area, that's where a huge conger is normally hiding more than 2 meters in length. We search the beams of the headlights ... nothing, he is not there. On the other hand, enormous capons rest on the ground and a beautiful mostelle whose barbels have betrayed the presence takes refuge at the bottom of the structures behind a cloud of apogons. Here, on the side are bickering 2 small spider crabs bundled up in their algae camouflage outfits. You have to be very careful because the bottom is muddy and the slightest clumsy gesture can destroy any shot. We have just spent 6 minutes at 33 meters without success to find the conger eel. We decide to go up 25 meters to enjoy the dive for longer. As we head towards the twins (that's how I name the two central pillars of the structure), we come across Christophe's team, sympathizing with our Jojo the grouper whom we greet in passing. It is a beautiful grouper of about 10 kilos that has escaped poaching until today ... for how long, I do not know. We then head to the summit of the twins where a gap formed with the platform still houses beautiful dromi crabs (or pink claw crabs). We are first greeted by a beautiful moray eel, behind it the crabs are there, courting the galathea. I shift a little in the open water to take again two beautiful atmospheric photographs with Camilla against a backdrop of barracoudas and Roman columns ... We go up 20 meters, an enormous black canthare accompanies us for a few moments, we are exactly at the peaks of the mountains. piers remained vertical in open water. We sit on it for a minute, palms in the air, to have an overview ... A treat.

We continue our ascent, stopping 17 meters below the area of the gutted structure in the south-eastern part. I give my box to Camilla and I venture into it in search of big cicadas… Nothing, they are not there, decidedly, no luck today  !

I go out and we join the upper part at 14 meters at the same time as Christophe's team. While Camilla plays with the wreaths while scraping the algae, I walk towards my joker, a sort of pipe 20 centimeters in diameter that crosses the structure right through. Bingo  ! There is one  ! She's really huge… that's the cicada. I proudly wave to Camilla and Christophe to join me to admire my discovery. But quickly, it's time to stop diving because Jose-Maria displays 50 bars.

And now our amberjack reappear, we observe them from 6 meters, they pass and repass 3 times, taunting us by rubbing against the platform.

After about fifteen minutes of landings we get back on the boat, Jose-Maria has only 10 bars left… Phew  ! He won't be a fanny at the counter  !

            I have dived well over 100 times on the Mariana during my fifteen seasons as an instructor. But I remember perfectly this dive in the smallest details whereas it was not the most extraordinary made in this place.

She impressed me because on the way back Elisabeth was waiting for us at the club to tell us this terrible news: the sky had just fallen on our heads in New York.

 

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