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SS "Pionier"

SS Pionier 2010 - the final chapter

Between July 3rd and July 7th, 2010, I had the pleasure of being a dive guide on a privately owned luxury yacht. To assist them in finding some good wreck diving in Scandinavia, they had contacted No Limits Diving and asked if I would help them. For once an easy choice in life. The yacht had all possible and imaginable amenities on board, which included an advanced multi beam sonar system and a deep sea ROV (also equipped with sonar). Ideal tools for survey and exploration of wrecks. In short, the amount and quality of the equipment available, added with the unique hospitality from the captain, officers and crew, makes the yacht nothing less than impressive.
The yacht was berthed almost as central as possible in Copenhagen, at the Amaliehaven. Right in front of the Queens Residence, and another Copenhagen hallmark, the Opera House.
Upon arrival on July 3rd, I was assigned to my personal cabin, which was followed by a guided tour around the ships almost endless number of mazelike hallways and stair ways.  I was immediately met with great enthusiasm and warmth from all on board and I was amazed by the atmosphere that surrounded the place. Nothing could ruin this adventure. It could only be an amazing one.
At 3 PM in the afternoon we left Copenhagen behind us in absolutely fantastic weather conditions. Sun, blue skies, calm wind and around 30° C. SS "Pionier" was selected as the first target of the trip. A wreck where I undertook my first technical diving project back in 1999. The dives on this wreck are still the deepest wreck dives ever conducted in Danish waters. At 5.30 PM we passed Helsinore, and after the dinner we went to our bunks to get some sleep as the arrival at the wreck site was scheduled to 4.30 AM the following morning.
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SS "Pionier" - the final chapter
July 4th.
The sound of my cell phone alarm woke me up from a nice sleep. I got up and went to the bridge. At this moment we were about 2 nautical miles from the wreck. Everyone began to prepare themselves for the arrival at the wreck site and to fulfil their duties. Sea conditions were fair, but the sun that had escorted us from Copenhagen, were now long gone and we now had cloudy conditions with showers. But as the always motivated captain said: "this can not stop us, in doing our business". And how right he was. The yacht has seen worse days and weather. We passed the mark and the wreck soon materialized it self on the multi beam screen. What a great déjà vu. We continued surveying for an hour to get as many detailed information about the wreck as possible. Around 6 AM the ROV pilots were mobilized and the ROV prepared for deployment.
The ROV was launched from the garage. This I followed from the ROV control room where the two ROV pilots already were in place and ready to take over the control as soon as the ROV was released from its physical attachment to the winch. Upon this the descent began. Visibility was within acceptable range. The descent continued and as the screen displayed a depth at around 75 meters the green water turned into darkness. Just as we experienced it on our dives in 1999. The multi beam had confirmed our observed minimum diving depth over the target to be around 98 meters. So upon reaching 95 meters the descent was slowed down. The visibility had now decreased to poor and it was time to be very prudent. The area is intensively visited by local trawlers and the risk of running the ROV half blinded and face forward into a lost trawl was high. Soon after the silted bottom was reached at a depth of 125 meters and the ROV pilot began a sonar search for the wreck. After a few moments the first part of the wreck materialized itself in less than 1 meter visibility.
The first part of the wreck that we saw triggered something in my memory. There was a distinctive and recognizable trawl hanging over the side of the wreck. It looked exactly like one of the places that I had visited during my dive her. We continued carefully passing over the wreck and it was easy to see that a lot had happened over the last 11 years. Trawl, old nets, lost lines and other dangerous items had covered most of the wreck and transformed it into quite a dangerous place. Dangerous not only to divers, but also for a ROV equipped with manipulators and light bulbs. The ROV inspection lasted for 20 minutes and then we called it a day. The visibility was to low and the risk to high so the ROV began the short ascent to the surface. Later in the afternoon we gave it another try, and send the ROV down again. The visibility was however still very bad so there was no point in putting more time and effort into this site.
It was great to see the wreck again. But for me personally this was the final chapter for the SS "Pionier". I’m happy to be one of the very few that have had the opportunity to visit the wreck. But at the state it is now, for me the case is closed. Personally I would not recommend any other divers to attempt to dive this wreck. The risk of being entangled is way too high and there are other wrecks out there that would provide much better conditions and experiences.

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