Diving Reports from 2013

The season began in mid April on the wreck of the steam coaster Braedale, with the coldest sea temperature I’ve known at 5 degrees. Vis wasn’t great at 2-3 metres but it’s April after all. Next day we reviewed the distance we were due to go offshore and dived the Lapwing, where the vis was better. We returned to the same wreck in early May and had excellent vis of 7-8 metres. The following day we dived the steam trawler Neree in similar vis.


On 7/8 May we worked from Southsea to dive the protected wreck site of HMS Invincible (wrecked 1758). Survey work on newly exposed areas was carried out, and posts inserted into the seabed in order to measure the rise and fall of sand covering the site. The following few days and weekend were blown out by strong winds.


The weekend of 18/19 May was memorable for the staggeringly good vis we had.  On the WW1 steamer Eleanor on Saturday it was not less than 20 metres, with divers describing being able to see both sides of the wreck and the surrounding seabed from some distance above the wreck. The next day, on the mid Channel wreck of the sailing ship Waitara, similar superb vis was had, with divers describing the wreck below, in 60 metres, from a depth of 40 metres, and watching divers swim across the wreck.  The following day we ventured south west to explore a small mark which turned out to be an old, iron barge, full of crabs and lobsters.


From 21 May we again worked from Southsea, continuing the survey work on HMS Invincible, in perfectly acceptable Solent vis of 3-5 metres. A northerly gale blew us out on Friday, but the weather settled down again for the Bank Holiday weekend.  On the 25th we dived the WW1 Norwegian steamer Borgny in 30 metres, with vis around 6 metres, and sea temperatures now reaching around 10 degrees. The next day we dived the WW2 wreck of the steamer Listrac in 38 metres, where vis was better at 7-8 metres, being further offshore.  Despite big spring tides, which pretty much destroyed vis close inshore, we were able to dive the WW1 steamer Venezuela on BH Monday and had vis of 4-5 metres, though vis for the second dive on the WW1 steamer War Knight was no more than one metre, with lots of particles in the water.  That’s exactly to be expected on big springs.

The weekend of 1/2 June should have produced good vis – it was neaps and the weather was fine, and although we ventured mid Channel to dive the German light cruiser Nurnberg in 60 metres, vis was a disappointing 10 metres in ambient light. Next day, expecting the vis to improve, we went to the Smyrna.  All the way from the Needles to the wreck, the water looked a greenish brown colour, though this had improved by the time we were on site.  Visibility of about 5 metres was all there was and it was dark, entirely due to a thick plankton bloom, easily the worst for perhaps 10 years. Despite this, the dive was good, though one diver developed decompression sickness which couldn’t be resolved by administering oxygen.  A quick ride to the chamber for a 5 hour treatment, and all was well afterwards.

Weekend of 8/9 June was unsettled, and sea conditions were not good enough to go to our intended site, the Spyros, so we ventured north to where seas were better, but the vis was poor. Neverthelss, a dive on the WW1 trawler Albion was complete, followed by a second dive on the War Knight. Vis all round was poor for June. The next day conditions had improved and vis was much better on the Fenna at 4-5 metres, followed by a drift dive across the south easern end of Christchurch Ledge.  On Monday 10th, we visited the Swordfish and visibility was again disappointing at 4-5 metres, and dark. The following weekend was lost to strong winds, but from 17th-20th June I had on board marine archaoloogists, surveying the mesolithic site at Bouldner Cliff near Yarmouth. The following day divers from Hampshire Wildlife Trust dived off Brook and in Totland Bay, surveying the marine life. Once again, the weekend was blown out by strong winds, but on 29th conditions had improved greatly and heralded what was to become a prolonged spell of warm, sunny and settled weather. The Wildlife Trust were on board again and we dived the Fenna followed by a vertical reef dive in Alum Bay.  Visibility on the Fenna was around 6 metres and light. Next day we dived the Borgny and War Knight, with vis underwater being improved.


July began with a 5 day trip diving out of Southsea Marina with Hampshire & Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology. This truned out to be an excellent week where a number of shallow wrecks were surveyed.  As part of a WW1 project, dives were also carried out on the Empress Queen, HMS Velox and HMS Boxer. The week ended by diving on two recently located anomolies, one being a small steel craft with no distinguishing features, the other being a WW2 landoing craft, possibly a fuel barge.

We returned to the Swordfish on 6 July, followed by a shallow drift dive across Atherfield Ledge. Conditions were excellent, with fine weather, calm seas and good visibility. The next day we went to the WW1 wreck of the steamer Inger where probably the best visibility we’d ever had on the wreck was experienced – probably 10-12 metres, and light.  During the week commencing 8 July, a number of wrecks were visited in what was expected to be good conditions.  On Monday we dived the Oriflamme in 6-8 metres vis. For the next few days, visibility was good until we reached the vicinity of the wrecks, just south east of St Catherine’s Point, where large patches of brown water were present.  Despite this, we dived the Wapello in 2-3 metres vis, followed by the South Western where conditions were much improved. We’d intended to dive the Leon the next day, but arriving on site the same dirty water was present, so we diverted to the South Western. Conditions again defeated us the next day on the Fallodon with dirty water, but by steaming only 200 yards south we were in clear water again.


On the weekend of 13/14 July, conditions remained excellent with clear water a few miles south of the Needles, where we dived the WW1 steam drifter New Dawn. Visibility was artound 8 metres and light. Next day, we steamed west to dive a patch of rocks called the Durleys near Bournemouth Pier, diving a reverse profile because of awkward slack water times. The main dive was on the Betsey Anna in clear vis of 6-8 metres and light.  During the early part of the week, marine archaeologists were on board, surveying, photographing and drawing the protected wreck site of HMS Invincible. With a good neap tide, visibility was excellent and much work was completed.  On the 18th, with a different group of divers, we steamed south west of the Needles to dive an unidentified wreck in 60 metres. Visibility was stunningly good, at least 30 metres and light, with no need for torches.  The wreck was positively identified as the Hopedale, lost in 1908. Identification was confirmed through the description of the wreck compared to that of the Hopedale, and video and stills footage which actually showed the same features when compared to a photograph of the ship.  Next day, again in terrific visibility, we dived the paddle steamer Normandy.


The weekend weather of 20/21 July looked likely to restrict our movements.  We’d intended to dive the Simla in 40 metres on Saturday, but a nasty easterly wind and swell made life too difficult, and we diverted to the Molina instead. Visibility was reported to have been the best the divers had had on this wreck, easily 8-100 metres.  The next day, the wind and swell had moderated though sea conditions were still somewhat uncomfortable, and we went to the Daylesford in 46 metres. Visibility was exceptional, estimated at 15 metres, and due to this it was possible to swim off the main wreck yet still see the wreck.  As a result, the f’o’c’sle bell was located marked ‘SS Daylesford, 1882, Sunderland.’ It’s a lovely bell.    On Monday, with a BBC film crew and professional underwater photograher Mike Pitts, we went to the South Western in fine weather, with flat seas and good underwater visibility.  The wreck was filmed for a forthcoming programme on BBC South called Inside Out. The programme is expected to be broadcast later in 2013 or 2014.

On Saturday 27 July, despite a big spring tide just having passed, we had 2-3 metres vis on the Clan Macvey – with plenty of shellfish to be seen.  Seas were flat but vis close inshore has taken a knock – less than a metre on the War Knight for a second dive.  That should improve greatly with the oncoming set of neaps.

Dive spaces: I have spaces as follows:  Saturday 3 August, diving the Witte Zee in 33 metres.  Meet 0700 to leave 0730. £44 per head. Second dive included. Monday 5 August. 2 spaces available to dive the South Western in 38 metres.  Meet 0745 to leave 0815.  Thursday 8 August, 2 spaces available to dive in the low 30’s, wreck to be decided but likely to be the Witte Zee, Warwick Deeping, Spyros or Asborg. Meet 0945 to leave 1015.  £44 or £46 per head depending on how far we go. Nmes to me asap please.

Dive/vis reports: During the week commencing Monday 29 July, marine archaeologists were on board diving Pitts Deep and Bouldnor cliff.  An interesting discovery was the recovery of a piece of vertebra in context with the site of human habitation of 8500 years ago.  Examination of the bone will determine whether it’s animal or human and may provide evidence of butchery. Later in the week the steamer Serrana was dived and extensively photographed, to the extent that a 3D image of the ship’s 7.5″ howitzer has been produced. Vis at the end of the week was a very acceptable 6 metres, an improvement from the start of the week. We also investigated two fishermen’s hangers, one of which seems to have been debris since carried away by the tide. The other, probably a length of wooden keel, requires further investigation. An attempt to dive the protected wreck sites of HMS Pomone and HMS Assurance on Goose Rock had to be aborted due to poor sea conditions.  The first weekend of August was cancelled due to strong winds, but on Tuesday 6 August we ventured out to dive the clipper ship Smyrna in 55 metres. In fine conditions, underwater vis was 15 metres and some excellent photos were taken of the wreck.  The following 3 days were taken up by Nekton dive club, with some individuals making up the spaces.  Vis of 6-8 metres was had on the Spyros while the highlight was a dive on the Asborg, also in very good vis.  The engines, boiler and stern/propeller were particularly impressive. The last day saw us visit the Braedale in lumpy sea conditions, where although the site was a little dark, vis was again good at 6-8 metres.  The weekend of 10/11 August saw us venture to mid Channel where an excellent dive was had on the 1895 wreck of the steamer Monton in 60 metres.  Vis was 10-12 metres. Next day we went to the American tanker Y48, scuttled in 1944, where vis was slightly reduced due to cloud cover.  A Harley Davidson motor cycle or an Indian motor cycle (need an expert to tell which is which) was photographed in a hole towards the bow.

Dive/vis reports: In mid August we ventured to the south west to investigate unidentified sites. The first dive turned out to be another barge in 60 metres loaded with cast iron fittings.  Not much of a dive but these sites have to be looked at. Stunning visibility of 20 metres and some huge crabs covered the wreck. Next day, due to a poor forecast, we visited the Clarinda in 40 metres, again with excellent vis though conditions topside were gloomy, with thick cloud and rain. The weekend of 17/18 August was blown out but on Monday 19 August we visited the Mendi in 40 metres. Good vis of 6-8 metres was had, in ambient light, and some very good underwater footage was taken. The August Bank Holiday weekend duly arrived, though Saturday was blown out.  On the Sunday we went to the Borgny in 30 metres, followed by the War Knight. Vis was quite acceptable, given the spring tides, around 4 metres.  Next day we went further south west to the Braedale, where visibility was better at about 6 metres. A drift across Christchurch Ledge completed the diving.  On Tuesday 27th we managed to get in an afternoon dive on the Fenna in 23 metres. Plenty of lobsters and congers to be seen, and vis was quite good at about 5 metres.  After that, I steamed to Southsea in order to carry out 2 days diving operations on the protected wreck site of HMS Invincible, where trainee marine archaeologists carried out practical tasks. Vis on the ebb tide at about 3 metres was considerably better than the flood, which brought in huge amounts of weed.  At the end of August we went to the wreck of the Milo in about 53 metres. Excellent vis of 15 metres was affected by a vast profusion of fish including many, many congers – the wreck was absolutely covered in them. Despite this everyone had a good dive. On 31 August conditions were ideal to venture a long way south – 38 miles in fact, to the wreck of the Eugene Schneider. This is a huge steel sailing ship, her cargo of railway sleepers still packed in her holds. Visibility was 15-20 metres and light at the bottom. Next day we returned to the wreck of what was thought to be the Luxor.  This was identified when a piece of crockery bearing the company crest was recovered a few years ago. To complicate matters, a circular brass nameplate was recovered which bore the date 1883.  Luxor wasn’t built until 1918. Fortunately, the brass plate has a serial number, and the maker’s name, and I now await the result of an enquiry with the archives to determine the true identity of the ship. Vis on this dive was gain 15-20 metres, the huge engine standing almost 8 metres clear of the seabed.

The first week of September was spent with a South African media/film crew diving the wreck of the Mendi in preparation for a forthcoming documentary. The loss of the ship and so many black South African men in 1917 is a significant event in South Africa and the story is taught in schools there. Weather and sea conditions were perfect but the St Catherine’s vis had other ideas – it was 2-3 metres. This was very disappointing considering that a few miles west the water clarity was still very good. The underwater film crew did manage to secure some footage of the wreck. On the second day we were accompanied by another boat, on which were a film crew from BBC Coast. The Mendi will feature in the Coast series in the spring of 2014.





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