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The Key Biscayne is a 2695 ton jack-up oil rig that lies 10 nautical miles off Lancelin. This wreck sank in 1983, whilst being towed down the Western Australian coastline on its way to be refitted. It rests upside down in 42 Meters of water with the highest point at 26 Meters sloping from the south to north. This impressive rig is shaped like a Pyramid with its flat bottom facing towards the surface. The living quarters and a full compliment of machinery lie under the wreck with the legs, which broke off as it sank to its final resting place, lying to the side. Penetration of the rig is possible with a smorgasbord of crayfish, up to 3 rows thick to be seen, however at 42 meters there is little time to explore or break out the cray hoop if you are on air. Providentially for the scuba community nothing was salvaged from the rig as it went down or afterwards as a result of the depth, leaving an abundance of viewing opportunities to be taken advantage of. Following is my account of a Deep Diver training course I conducted on the 1st December 2001.
The day started off at 5:30am with a 1.5 hour drive from Perth to Two Rocks where we were scheduled to board Perth Diving Academy's vessel Lionfish IV. A further 1.5 hours of travelling time aboard the Lionfish IV was required to reach our destination. Upon arrival all and sundry including myself with great anticipation commenced the ritual of donning our dive gear. As we eagerly placed our two piece 5mm or semidry suits on I noticed one old salt who just happened to be in my charge had only a pair of shorts and a 3mm vest on! I was a little taken aback by this, knowing that the water temperature would be around 18oC at the surface and as we were going down to 40 meters, it occurred to me he was going to freeze. However after a little chat with him I found out he had been diving like this for a good many years and he didn't really feel the cold. I don't know how he does it, but for my comfort I was going to be wearing the old dry suit for this dive. Taking a quick look around at my students I discovered that one hadn't even begun to get into his wetsuit yet. Upon further investigation it was revealed that the zip on his wetsuit had come off and no one could get it back on. His suit was a one-piece 5mm that zipped up across the chest, looking through my trusty, well laden emergency bag I pull out the mother of all fix-its - a roll of gaffa tape and preceded to tape the zipper shut. This was surprisingly effective.
As we continued getting ready Simon, one of the crew took a decent line down to the highest part of the wreck, and attached it. Once back on board he gave us a short brief, "The conditions are the best I have ever seen, you can see the wreck from the surface", this had everyone salivating at the mouth and the rush to get in was on. As I was instructing a course on this dive, I had to wait for all the students to get themselves in and down to the 5-meter mark where we had planned to meet up, before preceding. Sure enough the outline of the rig was visible from the surface and it was BIG. Once I had accounted for all my students we set off and followed the decent line down to the top of the rig at 26M. There are some nice soft corals growing all over the top of the rig and a quick look under the foot support revealed the packed house full of Crayfish. There where dozens of them, my wife would have been in seventh heaven at dinner that night if I had had the time to get her one, but alas not this dive. We had planned previously to go halfway down the slope of the rig and then over the right side and along the bottom. The large triangular legs lay in a twisted mess flat on the sandy bottom here and provide a haven for many species of marine life. Our first sighting was of a large Western Dhufish followed by a Snapper and a school of Skippy, once again there were plenty of Crayfish here too. My student had been advised to indicate to me once they had either 100bar or 2mins of non-deco time left and at this depth it wasn't long before I was given the sign. We ascended to the top of the rig and paused for another quick look around and then continued up to 5 meters to spend one minute each on the Deco bottle hanging off the back of the boat, which was a requirement of the course. It was at this point in time I noticed (always good to have a backup on a dive like this) my wrist computer - another gift from my darling wife, was showing me at 18 meters and my integrated one had me at 5 meters. Since we were sitting on the deco bottles I knew it must have been 5 meters, checking all the other displays on my wrist computer they matched my integrated, for some reason the depth display was playing up. Back on the boat I was apparently still diving at 10.5 meters and now required a lengthy Deco stop, just as well I was using it as a backup.
Everyone was buzzing with excitement and wonder at just how good this dive was and we still had another to go, but first we would have a two-hour surface interval and lunch. Lunch consisted of Spaghetti Bolognaise, Beef Stroganoff, Tuna Mornay, a Pumpkin and cheese dish, Bread rolls, and a variety of salads, an egg platter and a meat dish. Needless to say everyone had a good feed. The two hours seem to drag on and everyone was a little restless wanting to get back in the water. I gathered my students together to plan the next dive, I decided this time we would go straight over the left hand side of the wreck, which would entail a 12-meter drop, and the opportunity to have a look under it. It's hard to judge just were to go here as it is a vast wreck and there are so many places to look in. As I was instructing I chose one that was fairly open and safe and went in, there no fish or coral here, but once again the Crayfish were piled on top of each other 3 or 4 high, they were everywhere. A quick count was performed to ensure that all my students were accounted for and then it was back up to the 26-meter mark. Once there I could only see 5 of my 7 students, I quickly scanned the area for bubbles but could not see any, I would be lying to say I wasn't a little panicky. Indicating to all but one student (who was on Nitrox) to ascend to the 5 meter mark for a 10min safety stop, I stayed a little longer to look for them. Having passed my No Decompression Limit (NDL) I decided to meet the rest at the 5 meter mark where I stayed constantly looking for the other two until I was low on air. Once on the boat I discovered the two missing students had run a little low on air and NDL limits and had decided to surface without informing me. This was a relief, however I reminded them none too politely of our pre-dive plan to advise me of when getting close to these limits so we could all ascend together, for their and everyone else's safety. Apart from this incident it was a fantastic dive and the trip home consisted of everyone sleeping wherever they could find a spot. As for my malfunctioning dive computer I took it down again on the second dive to see if it would fix itself once the depth was increased. All it managed to do unfortunately was to continue the first dive and this time recorded a depth of 48.6 meters (it was just adding 10.5 meters to my dive), by the time I got it home I had a diving profile of 48.6 meters for 20 hours, needless to say it's now in getting repaired. It would have been very annoying if it was my only dive computer, for not only would I have not been able to commence the second dive, but I would not have been able to complete teaching the deep diver course I was instructing and that would have consequently affected my student as well. So the lesson to be learnt here is; be prepared for all situations no matter how slim you think the chances of it occurring are, this incident has made me re-evaluate what I take on a dive.