Meet The Team

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Graeme Connacher

Graeme Connacher forced himself onto the team in 1998 whilst they were involved in a body recovery near to his home in Glenridding on Ullswater. He learned from the local constabulary that a team were due on site with side scan sonar and ROV's. The local constabulary also warned the team that a certain Mr Connacher was due to arrive. Thinking that he must own the lake in which they were about to start work, the team waited for his arrival with a certain amount of trepidation. After a short wait, a battered old Morris Minor screeched to a halt from which sprang Mr Connacher equipped with more enthusiasm than the rest of us put together. Giving him the worst jobs imaginable failed completely to dampen his spirit so he was eventually given an ROV to play with.

Graham Woodfine

Graham Woodfine, known to all as ‘Beanie’, earned his nickname for two reasons. Firstly there were too many Grahams on board and secondly, he was the only Chartered Accountant (bean counter) diver that we'd ever met. Graham took up diving after injuring himself so many times whilst rock climbing that the doctors threatened him with refusing to re-assemble his shattered bones if he broke them again. Within a very short time of taking up technical diving he had managed to land himself in intensive care by that means. There was no option but to make him designated safety officer due to his unrivalled knowledge of hospitals and medical procedures.

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Carl Spencer

1970-2009

25th May 2009

 It was with absolute shock that I learned of the death of my good friend, Carl Spencer yesterday. Carl was diving the wreck of Titanic’s sister, Britannic when he got into difficulties. I dived Britannic with Carl in 2003 when he led a British expedition to penetrate the wreck and explore the minefield that sank it but we met in November 2000 on the Bluebird Project.

We were short of a diver as I was being hauled away for press interviews so I asked if anyone knew a good diver with a disposition that would fit the team. Carl was immediately put forward so leaving word that he should be invited I went off to do more interviews. Next morning Carl arrived and within the hour he was on the Bluebird wreck. He said later it was a surreal experience and due to the birth of his son, Ben, only a few days earlier he commuted daily from Stafford to Coniston. We all liked him at once.

Carl was both the first and last diver to work on the recovery of Donald’s body in May 2001 demonstrating his immense skill under water; he was very methodical and completely natural in his element.

We next worked together in 2003 when Carl led an expedition to Greece to dive Britannic. I headed up his sonar team and it was a privilege and a pleasure to support such a gifted leader.

Since then we’ve worked on a joint project in Norway involving sonar work and diving in extreme conditions. The guys drove fifty-odd hours from Newcastle to the very top of the earth with a vanload of gear.

A strict teetotaller that’s the only time I ever saw alcohol pass Carl’s lips. We gave him a half of lager and he fell asleep.

He remained a staunch supporter of the Bluebird Project throughout and joined us again in early 2007 when we returned to the lake in search of a missing piece of frame. It was Carl who ultimately recovered it.

Our collaborations continued. Carl arrived in my office for a meeting one day but we’d run out of milk for the coffee. I was about to head off for the shop when he asked if I was taking the car. I explained that the shop was only a hundred yards away and I’d planned on walking. With that he threw his car keys at me and said, “Take mine…” I wasn’t expecting the brand, spanking new Aston Martin DB9 outside the office but I took it anyway.

Another time he texted to say he was overhead Leeds and could I call Newcastle air traffic control and organise for him to land in my garden. No sooner said than done.

 We had planned to visit Norway again later this year but, sadly, we’ll never get there. It is absolutely heartbreaking that such a gentleman should be so tragically lost and he’ll leave a huge hole in the lives of so many people. He also leaves a widow and two young children. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

 

Bill Smith.