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.