Diving the Lusitania / Mark’s Folly

This dive holds mythical, if not legendary status among Cape Town divers. It is the domain of the SS Lusitania who struck bellows rock  at midnight on 18 April 1911before sliding off the rock to the 40m reef below. It is a site talked about by those who have visited her with a note of reverence in their voice due to the proximity of unforgiving bellows rock that was her undoing. Part of her mystic is the fact that this site is driveable only a handful of times a year when conditions at bellow’s rock are forgiving enough for the safe deployment and retrieval of divers.

I was keyed up with excitement to have the opportunity to dive this site as well as a healthy dose of apprehension when we crossed a mill pond False bay to the point. Rounding the point we soon spotted the mighty bellows rock, as even on this, calmest of days she shot a plume of water 2m into the air.

We arrived on site and Carel and I were soon kitted up and ready to go, only waiting for our Tech friends so sling another redundancy or done a 25kg back plate. Then came the count, I took a calming breath and rolled. All Ok, yes all ok, as per our dive plan we dived I could see Carel was not messing around so I turned face down and began to swim. We descended through a layer of pea green into the best visibility I have seen in Cape Town 15 to 20m.

What a site lay before us to behold, the best way I can describe it is like gliding through a mountain range of huge boulders. Now a giant marble, now a gently sloping plateau, now a vertical cliff face fifty meters high. Two leviathans cruised below us their luminous yellow doubles a splash of colour against the grey reef. A feeling of serenity descended upon me as I realised that I was hovering suspended 2m off the legendry Bellow’s reef motionless bar for the current gently sweeping me along. My buddy with his spotlight highlighting points of interest and flooding the monochrome reef with colour. We ascended a couple of meters to maximise our bottom time and swam slowly towards the sun. All to soon it was time to leave this beautiful reef, although I admit to being cold, I would not sacrifice my time on this reef for such a trivial matter.

We ascended swimming toward the sun having deployed a DSMB from the comfort of our deep stop. We ascended back into the green and back into warm water for an uneventful safety stop at 5m. What of the white water from Bellow’s? We had swum far enough from the rock for this not to be a problem.

We concluded the day with a gentle cruise home and exploration of the cave systems under the peninsular. What a day out what a dive.

What of the wreck of the Lusitania I hear you ask? Well those few pieces that we saw did not amount to much of interest, hence the dive site amendment to Mark’s Folly. Did this affect my enjoyment of this dive? Well I will let you be the judge of that. I will however conclude with this simple statement Lusitania, Bellow’s Rock Marks Folly I will be back at the soonest opportune moment.

Stephen Bardwell