Dive/vis reports 2023

The season has kicked off – slightly later than usual during this cold and unsettled spring. The first two dives for late March and mid-April were lost to strong winds. However, the weekend of 29 and 30 April were ideal. With probably the smallest neap of the year, giving long slack water, good vis was anticipated but in the event it wasn’t fantastic – around 2-3 metres with a torch, but slightly better than usual for april in this area. Firstly, on Saturday 29 April we dived the wreck of the Spyros in 30 metres. There was a slightly uncomfortable south-eastlery breeze but the weather otherwise was fair and bright. Everyone entered the water and completed the dive without incident. We followed this with a shallow dive on the 1811 wreck, or at least, part of it which is not protected, in Alum Bay, where the vis was similar but being shallow at 8 metres, much brighter. Next day, Sunday 30 April, we headed south of the Needles to dive the 1885 wreck of the Victorian steamer Clarinda in 40 metres. Vis was similar to the day before, though we had cloudy skies and rain, but as a shake-down dive, pretty good.

Forthcoming dive spaces: There are spaces available on Sunday 28 May and BH Monday 29 May, maximum depth 35 metres. Plenty of choice for wrecks. Second dive included either shallow wreck, drift or reef dive. Excellent neap tide which ought to give good vis. Civilised meet/leave times. Ping me an email for details.

Dive/vis reports: Another good neap tide on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May, but strong winds and unreliable inshore vis meant it was prudent to scrub the Saturday. However, Sunday was another day, with no wind, flat seas and an anticipation that the clear May water had reached us. Indeed, within a couple of miles of the Needles the water went from green/brown to black, an indication of its excellent clarity. We headed south-west to the WW1 wreck of the large steamer Fluent in 40 metres. Despite a grey, overcast sky, vis was around 6 metres though divers reported that descending at 30 metres, torchlight could be seen on the wreck 10 metres below. There’s some stringy plankton in the water column but it hasn’t really bloomed just yet. Water temperature is hovering around 11/12°. If only we’d had bright sunlight. On Wednesday 17 May we had an early start in order to dive HW slack at the Bouldnor site east of Yarmouth. Vis was 2-3 metres in bright sunshine, a little lower than we’d normally expect for this time of year.

Weekend of Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 May was blown out due to strong winds but we were able to conduct sea grass surveys on various sites from Yarmouth to Beaulieu on Thursday 25 May. Vis has come good inshore and though the plankton has bloomed outside the Needles, Solent water was quite clear. Saturday 27 May has been blown out by fresh easterly winds, a most uncomfortable direction.

Dive/vis reports: With a lull in the wind, we headed out to the wreck of the steam coaster Braedale on Sunday 28 May. Bright sunshine, clear skies and no wind! Vis was an excellent 7-8 metres in ambient light, with the water temperature now around 13°. We followed this with a dip on the War Knight. Inshore was more breezy but vis on the wreck was nearly as good as it gets at around 4-5 metres. On BH Monday 29 May we were ready to dive the Serrana in the Needles Channel, but this had to be aborted due to the skipper being injured. Winds now have continued from the north-east, and it looks like it will wipe out diving until mid-June.

Dive/vis reports: After 3 weeks of north-easterly winds, which pretty much blew out all dive trips in late May/early June, the weather finally came good and on Saturday 10 June we headed off to dive the wreck of the ocean-going tug Witte Zee in 30 metres. This is a good dive, upright and full of life. Vis was pretty good at around 6 metres. A second dive on the inshore wreck of the War Knight also had good vis, which is not often experienced so close inshore. With flat seas and no wind, at last we’re back into the diving. Next day, Sunday 11 June, the weather was somewhat gloomy with thick clod and rain, but with SeaSearch divers on board this wasn’t a concern as we explored a reef formation south-east of Freshwater Bay, followed by a survey of the sea grass to the east of Yarmouth. Vis continues to hold up well. From Monday 12 June to Friday 16 June. we were operating out of Haslar Marina and Southsea Marina respectively, searching for and attempting to identify numerous seabed anomalies. The first 2 dives were south of Portsmouth Harbour, where a feature in 25 metres was explored. Large magnetometer hits indicated something ferrous and divers used probes to search through the mud, the upper layer of which had the considtency of sloppy blancmange. During a number of dives, several holes were excavated and a large intact pulley block was recovered, in excellent condition. The type of block was in use by the Royal Navy in the late 1600’s onwards so we’re confident we’ve located a missing wooden warship from the early 1700’s. Running out of Southsea later in the week, we began ground-truthing a number of magnetic anomalies in the Bracklesham Bay area. Most turned out to be modern rubbish or remnants from D-Day preparations, but during circular searched wooden timbers studded with copper and brass rivets and nails were seen. We need to return to do more work on the site. We also searched inside Chichester Harbour to investigate a site where a medieval cannon was pulled up by a fisherman years ago. A strong magnetometer hit was registered, but diving revealed a fallen navigation pole ad well as more modern rubbish – but no more cannons. Vis all week was around 4-5 metres.

Dive/vis reports: The weekend of Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June was another excellent weekend for diving. Despite an iffy forecast midweek, the predicted easterly winds failed to materialise and we had calm seas and bright skies. Steaming offshore to the south-east, we explored an unknown, unidentified steamer in about 64 metres. From its location and description it is highly likely to be the WW2 victim Dungrange, torpedoed by e-boat in the days following D-Day in 1944. A single boiler plus donkey boiler and a triple expansion engine, plus damage at the stern, suggests this is the Dungrange, a small steamer of about 600 tons, but more diving is need to confirm. A good dive, the wreck is upright and with vis of 6 metres in ambient light, a memorable one. Next day we again headed to the south-east, this time to one of our favourites, the Daylesford in 46 metres. If anything, the vis was even better at 6-8 metres in ambient light, (well, it is nearly 20 metres shallower) with the water temperature up around 14-15°. Finally, and for something completely different, we headed to Langstone Harbour on an oyster project in the upper reaches of the harbour on Monday 19 June. Around 8 sites were surveyed and though the harbour is muddy, vis was around 2 metres at a depth of 6-7 metres,

Dive/vis reports: Friday 23 June and we’re heading offshore to investigate a potential new site. Fine weather, calm seas, and vis of 8 metres. The anomaly, wreck shaped and of similar size, gave a huge magnetometer hit, but turned out to be an isolated, well defined reef of magnetic rock. Such anomalies have to be dived, or ‘ground-truthed’ in order to be sure of what’s there. Next, on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 June, with SeaSearch divers on board, we remained within the western Solent. To begin with, we dived the Long Rock in Alum Bay and followed this with a dive on Bouldnor Cliff on slack water, beginning in 10 metres and ascending the slope to the sea grass in 3 metres. Vis was around 4-5 metres and the inshore water temperature has increased quite markedly, to around 17 or 18°. On Tuesday 27 June and Wednesday 28 June, taking advantage of a very good neap tide, this time with marine archaeologists on board, we continued work on Bouldnor Cliff and Pitts Deep. The weather wasn’t too kind, with a brisk westerly breeze and sloppy sea, but vis was good at 4-5 metres. Finally on Friday 29 June, with a light boat, a few of us headed to Cowes to investigate a possible aircraft wreck. Being Cowes, vis was never going to be good, and it wasn’t, which made identification difficult, but the uncharted wreck was photographed and surveyed. Covered in thick, fluffy brown weed, more diving is needed to identify what it is. The weekend of Saturday 1 July and Sunday 2 July has been blown out by strong winds.

Dive/vis reports. Not much to report due to poor weather. The entire week of Monday 10 to Sunday 16 July was lost to strong winds, but we were able to get out on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 July in the Solent, with members of Ocean Conservation, harvesting sea grass seeds for laboratory cultivation and, ultimately, replanting in areas where habitat has been lost or destroyed. We dived in Thorness Bay and Bouldnor, where vis ranged from poor to an acceptable 3 metres. Inshore water temperature is now up around 19°.

Forthcoming dive spaces: There are spaces available as follows: Saturday 5 August. Diving the wreck of the Spyros in 30 metres (31 or 32 metres in the scour). Upright and still fairly intact after more than 100 years. Second dive on the wreck of the War Knight in 12 metres. Friday 11 August. Diving the wreck of the ocean-going tug Witte Zee in 33 metres, upright and still ship-shape, followed by shallow inshore wreck or drift. Friday 8 September. Diving the armed WWII trawler in 36 metres (seabed depth). Wreck stands 4 metres. Second dive an inshore wreck or drift. Friday 22 September. diving the WWII wreck of HMS Swordfish, a British submarine blown in two. Bridge still attached, propellers in place, gun on foredeck. Depth 40 metres. Second dive probably a drift across Atherfield Ledge where there are numerous bits of assorted wreckage. For all these dives, please contact the organiser, Jaki, on wilson.jaki19@sky.com

Dive/vis reports: The dreary July continues – we’ve managed 5 trips out in July, all in the Solent, with 17 days lost to strong winds. It’s a re-run of 2012! That was a wet and windy summer too. We did manage to get out on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 July, diving Bouldnor cliff with marine archaeologists. The first day began in glorious sunshine, dead flat seas and no wind, but by the afternoon the cloud had increased, the breeze picked up and we had rain. Next day, strong winds were in, but we were diving in the lee of the Island and got the day in OK. Vis on the low water was as expected – poor – but much improved on the high water. Water temperature has probably peaked at 19°.

Forthcoming dive spaces: Ever optimistic that the jet stream will return to its normal summer position and we can get diving again, there are dive spaces available to dive the wreck of the ocean-going tug Witte Zee in 33 metres, on BH Monday 28 August. Due to tide times, it’ll be a reverse profile day, diving a shallow wreck in the morning followed by the main dive in mid-afternoon. Anyone wanting to dive please contact the organiser, Mike, on mikeharper541@gmail.com

The dismal weather continues – the weekend of Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July was blown out by strong winds, as was Monday 31st. Similarly, the weekend of Saturday 5 August and Sunday 6 August also fell victim to the weather. Never known a year like it!

Forthcoming dive spaces: There are spaces on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September. Nothing too ambitious – depth about 30 metres on one of the following wrecks: Spyros, Borgny, Venezuela, New Dawn. Second dive included. Names to Jaki on wilson.jaki19@sky.com

Dive/vis reports: Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any, given the relentless run of strong winds, preventing us from leaving port. I haven’t been outside the Needles for 7 weeks so far. Dives planned for Friday 11, Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 August were all blown out.

Dive/vis reports: Monday 14 August – and we’re out! We’re running out of Southsea with marine archaeologists to investigate a cannon site thought to be associated with the wreck of HMS Invincible, lost in 1759. The site lies some distance from the main body of the wreck, and potentially is evidence that these 9′ long experimental guns were jettisoned to lighten the ship and to bring it upright. They must have had some success as the ship bounced away before finally coming to rest on the Horse Tail Sands. The weather wasn’t great, with a relentless southerly slop, but cleaning the site prior to photogrammetry was done. Next day Tuesday 15 August we returned to the site to continue preparations for a full survey. Vis was not bad at 2-3 metres. Later in the day we returned to the WW1 wreck of HMS Boxer in order to complete photogrammetry which had commenced some years previously, but visibility on the low water slack was poor, and the dive was aborted after a short dive. Finally on Wednesday 16 August, the survey and photogrammetry on the cannon site was successfully completed. There are six large guns, lying pretty much side by side, muzzles all pointing in the same direction. Further exploratory work is needed here. Water temperature is around 19°. On Thursday 17 August, despite an increasing easterly breeze, different divers were aboard and we headed to the northern part of Langstone Harbour to continue with an oyster survey. Thousands of immature oysters had been places here and the object was to see how they had fared. Few live ones were found, which begs the question – what’s killing them? Vis here was better than outside the harbour, at about 4 metres. Friday 18 August and Saturday 19 August were both blown out. We managed to get out on Sunday 20 August to dive the clipper ship Smyrna. Flat seas and blue skies – at last. Vis on the way out looked indifferent and only improved when we were a mile or two from the wreck – so 17 or 18 miles of not-so-good vis. On the wreck vis was – for here – fairly low at 5 metres in ambient light but nevertheless this is a great dive.

Dive/vis reports: Hooray! Four days of continuous diving! Friday 25 August and we’re back surveying Bouldnor Cliff just to the east of Yarmouth with marine archaeologists. The low slack vis was, as expected, somewhat poor but not so bad as to prevent work. On the flood tide vis improved dramatically at around 3-5 metres. Next day, Saturday 26 August, with the promise of reasonable weather and a brilliant neap tide, we’d intended to dive the stern section of the Serrana in the Needles Channel. however, with a brisk south-westerly wind opposing an ebb tide, sea conditions were pretty awful, to the extent that it was too much to carry out diving here. Accordingly we pressed on through the waves to dive the Fenna instead, where conditions were slightly better. Vis was in the region of 3-4 metres. This was followed by a second wreck dive on HMS Pomone in Alum Bay, and then a drift dive in the western Solent from Hatherwood Point. Next day, Sunday 27 August, the weather and sea conditions had improved, but still less than ideal, and this time we did manage to dive the Serrana. Vis of around 4 metres was not bad considering the constant run of unsettled weather this summer, and as the afternoon breeze picked up we headed for sheltered water and for the second dive, drifted along Bouldnor Cliff. Finally on Bank Holiday Monday 28 August both weather and sea conditions were ideal. Mainly fair, with blue skies and sunny intervals and no wind, we did reverse profile dives due to the awkward times of slack water. Diving the wreck of the steamer Joannis Millas in the morning, the water was slightly milky – no doubt due to the westerly winds of the past 2 or 3 days – but vis varied from 2-5 metres. For the afternoon slack we headed to the wreck of the ocean-going tug Witte Zee in 33 metres. Vis was a pretty good 5-6 metres in ambient light and with the water temperature still hovering around 18° to 19°, this was another enjoyable dive.

Dive/vis reports: Huge spring tides for the weekend of Saturday 2 September and Sunday 3 September but we dived both days in glorious sunshine, flat seas and – for a change – no wind. First we dived the WW1 wreck of the Admiralty steam drifter New Dawn in 33 metres. Vis was, as expected, quite low at around 1.5 to 2 metres, and this was followed by a very quick but exhilarating drift dive across Christchurch Ledge. Next day, in attempting to find better conditions but still with a huge tide, we dived the Fenna in 24 metres. Despite slack being later and shorter than usual due to the tide, vis was a little better at 2 metres, but the outstanding highlight was the amount of life on the wreck. Following the advice for low vis – go slow and look at what’s right in front of you – lots of fish, crabs, lobsters and other creatures were spotted. We ended the day in the still waters of Alum Bay, diving the 1811 wreck of HMS Pomone in 8-9 metres.

Dive/vis reports: On Friday 8 September, just as the effects of that huge spring tide eased off and the neap tide came on, we ventured out in fine, clear weather to dive the armed trawler Warwick Deeping. Vis had improved considerably from the previous weekend to about 4 metres. This was followed by a dip on the Greek steamer Joannis Millas off Chilton, where a long, lazy swell from the Channel made diving a bit more interesting. On Saturday 9 September, with the sea dead flat, bright skies and absolutely no wind, we headed mid-Channel to dive the 1928 wreck of the Greek steamer Ioannis Fafalios. Considering the brilliant neap tide, vis wasn’t as good as usual at around 7 metres in ambient light, where normally 15 metres would be expected. Next day, Sunday 10 September, we again headed south to mid-Channel to dive the British steamer Luxor. Thick grey cloud and occasional rain affected ambient light on the wreck, where unbelievably vis was reduced to about 4 metres. Despite that, this is a good dive on a big wreck. Mature crawfish were spotted – a good sign their numbers are recovering. On Monday 11 September, diving the late slack at the end of the current run of neaps, we dived inshore on the wreck of the Belgian steamer Espagne. With wind against tide, sea conditions were somewhat disagreeable! Vis wasn’t great here either at around 2 metres, but everyone had a good dive. Finally on Tuesday 12 September we switched over the the early, high water, slack, to explore an unknown mark. I’d run over it with the magnetometer and had a good reading so expected it to be some sort of wreck. As it turned out, this is almost certainly the remains of the WW1 British schooner Florence Louisa, stopped by a U-boat in 1917. The Germans placed a bomb on the outside of the schooner below the water line and after it exploded she quickly sank. A substantial pile of steel plating, a main feature of the site, is probably the cargo of scrap steel she was carrying. Deadeyes, pulley blocks, lots of 2′ long copper rivets, Admiralty pattern anchors etc, were all seen on the wreck. Particularly nosey, inquisitive congers emerged from their hiding places, surely a sign they’d never seen divers before. Vis was much better than yesterday and the dive was done in ambient light – a good end to a 5 day run.

Dive/vis reports: Good weather allowed us to head towards St Catherine’s on Saturday 16 September, specifically just off Rocken End, with divers from SeaSearch. Data on the flora and fauna of this area is extremely sparse but some rare species were found and recorded. Vis was around 4 metres in ambient light at depths up to 18 metres. In amongst the gullies was found a huge iron anchor, 3 or 4 metres long, of a type in use by the Admiralty in the late 17th/early 18th centuries. Since there have been numerous wrecks along this part of the coast it’s not a surprise to find something like this. Whether the ship it was attached to survived or not, we’ll never know. A second dive in rough ground off Compton Bay found the seabed slightly silty and accordingly, vis was reduced to about 2 metres during the ebb tide. Sunday 17 September, when we were due to go offshore, was blown out by strong easterlies.

Dive/vis reports: Friday 22 September was cancelled due to strong winds and poor inshore vis – due to the gales earlier in the week. However, we took advantage of a weather window on Saturday 23 September to venture offshore to dive the wreck of the steamer El Kahira in 60 metres. On the way out there was a steady swell from the west and wind against tide, but the breeze was light and with sunny skies we reached the site and dived. Vis was a good 8-10 metres in ambient light. Water temperature at depth is beginning to decline but at 17° no-one was complaining. We returned to port as the wind began to pick up from the south-west, and became too much to dive on Sunday 24 September, which was, accordingly, scrubbed.

Dive spaces: There may be spaces on Friday 13 October to dive the WW1 wreck of the Borgny in 30 metres. Contact me and i’ll put you in touch with the organiser.

Dive/vis reports: Despite dire warnings concerning the approach of Storm Agnes, on Wednesday 27 September we managed to dive the Solent with divers from SeaSearch in good conditions. Outside the Island winds were south-east 4-6 which would have blown us out if we were attempting to dive there, but heading for the north coast of the Isle of Wight, seas were flat and vis was quite good. Firstly we dived just off Bouldnor, close inshore, to assess how the sea grass had fared over the summer, now that it is beginning to die back. Vis was 3-4 metres. Following this we decided to try a new site, and chose the southern side of Warden Ledge, fairly close inshore, as we had no data on what lives there. Vis held up very well and in pretty much slack water numerous species were identified. The bonus was divers came across an uncharted wreck which is probably a steel barge or something similar.

Forthcoming dive spaces. There are spaces available to dive the WW1 wreck of the Norwegian steamer Borgny in 30 metres on Friday 13 October. Meet 0815 to leave around 0845. Second dive included. Contact the organiser, Jaki, on wilson.jaki19@sky.com

Oops – website’s been down for a while but now back up and running. Dive/vis reports: In between continuous low pressure systems, we managed to get out on to the Shingles, near Hurst Castle, Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 October, surveying a historic wreck site. The first day was sunny and warm with flat seas with unexpectedly good vis of 3-5 metres. The next day was somewhat bumpy but the dives were completed with similar vis. Water temperature is now declining, as expected. The following weekend’s dives were all blown out but what may be the last dive of the 2023 season was done on Wednesday 25 October, with a series of dives on the wreck of HMS Invincible off Portsmouth. Even though we’d had rough weather, the dives were concluded in vis of 2-3 metres.

Dive/vis reports: Well, is this the last of 2023? We were out on Wednesday 22 November off Beaulieu, in the western Solent, with divers doing more sea grass work. It was the first day in weeks with light winds and bright skies. Working in very shallow water, on occasions less than 2 metres deep, vis was up to a metre. Not great but it was low water, following weeks of stormy weather and heavy rain, but more than enough for the work in hand. Water temperature inshore has plummeted to a cool 11°.

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