Life at the end of the road

April 11, 2010

Office boy hands :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:56 pm

Twenty years ago I accused a good friend of mine of having ‘office boy hands’, it was a casual remark and not meant to offend but he’s never let me forget it 🙂 After all he’s an optician and I’m an engineer, for as long as I can remember I’ve had ‘highlighted’ finger prints, splits, cuts, and dirty finger nails. Even when I was soaking my hands in salt water three times a day and my fingers resembled prunes I still had hands that looked like an old Ordnance Survey map. What the clam diving cleaned off was soon replaced by compressor or engine oil. In short, years of dirty engines and hard labour have left my hands permanently stained, or at least that’s what I thought until today. This morning after my shower the last vestige of 20/50, pig pooh or diesel came off my hands and disappeared down the plug hole :-) 

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OK, I know it’s hardly riveting news but I just can’t help looking at them 🙂

Anyway it’s Sunday today and I’ve just spent most of it doing something else totally out of character, nothing 🙂 and what’s more I’ve actually enjoyed it. Guilt at not working on the ferry and croft having vanished down the plug hole with the last of the oil, I spent a couple of hours this morning laid flat out on the lawn with a couple of books under my head and a pillow below my knees.

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Again, hardly of major interest, but the last time I kept still for this long I was under anaesthetic and no I had not been on the Diazepam 🙂 I was just in a position recommended by Winnie and the Alexander technique, listening to Richie Hawtin’s ‘DE9 Transitions’ CD and Enigma’s ‘Cross of change’. Or at least I was until summoned by wifey to put up the dart board so she could get some practice in for ‘ladies darts night’ at the Raasay Hotel.

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Me, I’m not a fan of darts, A, because I’m useless at it and B, because everyone I’ve seen playing it on TV has a beer belly, double chin, wears pounds of bling and smokes. Of course I don’t actually watch much TV so there could be a whole host of healthy darts players that I’ve missed and I’m just being prejudiced 🙂 The wife and boy however seem to have taken to this sport with great enthusiasm and if nothing else it’s great for mental arithmetic 🙂

The battle of Coronel

Laid on my lawn surrounded by ‘treasure from the deep’ or scrap as wifey prefers to call it got me thinking of another wreck that Keith Jessop was involved with. Keith Jessop being the driving force behind the HMS Edinburgh salvage job  and a regular visitor to the wrecks around western Scotland, and the following is copied from the Wikipedia entry about him

“Born the son of a penniless Yorkshire mill-worker, he left school without a single qualification, but to make ends meet he started salvaging scrap metal from shallow water wrecks off the coast of Scotland, using the inner tube of a tractor tyre covered in wire mesh as a vessel. Jessop learned to deep dive during further risky recoveries in treacherous waters.[citation needed]

With advances in technology, which allowed longer and deeper dives than ever could be imagined before, his dream of becoming a deep-sea salvager became a reality. Jessop became professionally trained in deep-sea diving and over several decades Jessop had unearthed hundreds of wrecks around the world making several million pounds from his discoveries.

However it was not until 1981 that Keith Jessop was involved in one of the greatest deep sea salvage operations in history. One day in April 1981 Jessop’s survey ship called the Damtor began searching for the wreck of the HMS Edinburgh in the Barents Sea in the Arctic Ocean of the coast of Russia. The ship had been sunk in battle in 1942 during World War II while carrying payment for military equipment from Murmansk in Russia to Scotland. His company, called Jessop Marine, won the contract for the salvage rights to the wreck of the Edinburgh because his methods, involving complex cutting machinery and divers, were deemed more appropriate for a war grave, compared to the explosives-oriented methods of other companies.

In late April 1981, the survey ship discovered the ship’s final resting place at an approximate position of 72.00°N, 35.00°E, at a depth of 245 metres (804 ft) within ten days of the start of the operation. Using specialist camera equipment, the Dammtor took detailed film of the wreck, which allowed Jessop and his divers to carefully plan the salvage operation.

Later that year, on 30 August, the dive-support vessel Stephaniturm journeyed to the site, and salvage operations began in earnest. Leading the operation undersea, by mid-September of that year Jessop was able to salvage from the wreck over $100,000,000 in Russian gold bullion—431 bars out of 465—making him the greatest underwater treasurer in history.

His autobiography Goldfinder written in 2001 tells the extraordinary story of Keith’s life and the salvage of such underwater treasures as the Edinburgh.”

Before fame and fortune of the above venture he owned or at least had salvage rights on some wrecks off the west coast of Islay, one of which was the ‘armed merchant cruiser’ Otranto which I visited on many occasions in the late 1970s and recovered some fine artefacts.

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The pistol shaped object at the top being the electrical firing trigger for one of her four 6” ‘quick firing guns”, the large shell casing below being one of hundreds scattered across the sea bed and the brass thing on the right being the holder for the gun sight.

hms otranto

The Otranto took part in one of the first major naval engagements of WW1 off Chile, the battle of Coronel and that very trigger could have fired a shot 🙂 Not that it was a very glorious affair for the Royal Navy as they got well and truly thrashed coming in a poor second after the Germans with the loss of two cruisers, HMS Monmouth and Good Hope plus 1500 men. The Germans suffering a total of 3 men wounded 😦

Ship movements during the Battle of Coronel. British ships are shown in red, German ships are shown in blue.

The return match two months later however was a resounding victory for the British with 10 men killed and 19 men wounded as opposed four German cruisers sunk with the loss of over 1871 men. Bit of a waste of men and ships really when you consider that the first world war was about a couple of cousins falling out but that’s the human race for you 🙂


So back to Saturday and another leisurely day of not doing a great deal other than  a trip south to collect my boy from the village

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where he’d been spending the night with friends.

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Where I spent a pleasant wee while walking the route of the new ‘heritage walk’ and watching the ‘Grumpy digger driver’ and ‘Calum Don’ clearing a site for the Raasay Heritage Trust’s new building by the old mill at Inverarish

Also spotted a couple of posters on the notice board with dates for the diary.

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The 16th and 29th of April at the Raasay Village Hall look like being storming nights with MacGregor, Brechin and O’headhra followed two weeks later by Ewan Robertson, Gary Innes and Martin O’Neil.

I may not have done much but I did manage a trip over to Torran on the quad to say goodbye to friends that were leaving today (Sunday) and who (due to my back) I’d not seen in the whole 10 days that they were here 😦

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And it was certainly worth the trip just to view the sunset from their window over a glass of wine, probably from somewhere near Coronel in Chile 🙂

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I know, it’s a bit lame and if you’re not interested in old ships pretty boring but like I say I’ve not actually done very much, so I’ll just leave you with the stats and thank you all for taking the time to read 🙂

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OK, in the grand scale of things 400,000 ain’t spectacular, but for an old grumpy git living in the middle of nowhere it’s not bad 🙂 The two ‘spikes’ are the tragic Raasay House fire last January and my appearance in the Times, I know I’m always ranting about Rupert Murdoch but at least it wasn’t the Sun 🙂

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