of Scilly Dive Trip Report
The week of diving in the Isles of Scilly
started with a journey from Swindon down to Penzance. Everyone was
ready for a drink that evening, with a clear conscience as there
was no diving the next day!
The party consisted of: Mark Horton, Dave
Hall, Andrew Hancox, Phil Green, Mark Shipway, Andrew Osborne, Malcolm
Cole, Paul Cole, Ross Smith, myself and my girlfriend, Pauline.
An early start on Saturday led to the dive
gear being loaded into containers and vans/car parked before breakfast,
which turned out to be a showcase of technological achievement as
we were all amazed by the electric pepper grinder proudly wielded
by the landlady, complete with light to allow accurate aim onto
our full English! The amazing gadget was strictly no touchy touchy
for us mere mortals – though I suspect the landlady was disappointed
by our lack of reaction to her pride and joy.
The ferry journey from Penzance to St Mary’s included a commentary
as we passed sites of interest, including several spottings of basking
sharks. With the ferry arriving in St Mary’s at lunchtime,
this gave everyone time to check into their B&Bs, locate the
local hostelries, or for the very keen, take an open top bus ride!
That evening we met up with the boat’s skipper, Dave McBride,
but not until Ross had enthralled us with stories of “movements”
and introduced us to the concept of rusty dry suits. Little did
we know that this would be a continuing theme for the trip! We were
lucky enough to have fantastic weather all week, although the wind
direction limited our choice of dive locations.
Evening food in St Mary’s was fantastic
with a different eatery sampled each night (mainly thanks to Phil’s
booking). During the week we visited pretty much every restaurant
that St Mary’s had to offer, as well as all the pubs (purely
for research purposes). Most of the group settled on the Mermaid
Inn and the Atlantic Inn as our preferred watering holes, though
one member of the group couldn’t resist the burger and chip
deal in the decidedly run down pub across town!
On the penultimate night our skipper (Dave McBride)
had his weekly slide show in the church hall. We arrived just in time
to grab the last of the seats as the hall was packed. The show started
with some amazing photos that Dave has taken over his 30 odd years
of diving. The main focus of the show – the wrecks and the tradition
of wrecking on the Isles of Scilly. The slides provided a great insight
into how even the modern day Islanders carry on with their tradition
of wrecking – and some of the finds they’ve had off of
recent wrecks. The show is very comical and is highly recommended
if you’re ever spending a Thursday night in St Mary’s!
For our final night we headed to the nearby island of St Agnes where
Paul Cole celebrated his 500th dive and we ate another great meal
before beating a hasty retreat when the Jazz band started and the
pub become mobbed. So, to the diving…..
Deep Ledge St Martin’s - Sunday, Dive 1
This was a dive on a wall that dropped down
to about 65 metres. The wall seemed to disorientate most of the
buddy groups, with the wall seeming to go in random directions,
to such an extent that some people were sure it was a pinnacle as
they seemed to end up where they started from. The disorientation,
combined with SMBs getting tangled on overhead rocks, or with lines
from other buddy groups at different depths made the dive “interesting”!
HMS Colossus - Sunday, Dive 2
HMS Colossus was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal
Navy. She was launched at Gravesend on 4 April 1787 and lost on
December 10, 1798. The wreck was easy enough to find by following
a line from the bottom of a permanent shot line.This leads you to
a plaque and then it is a case of exploring the wreck site without
losing it due to the kelp (easy to do). There were several canons
buried in the sea bed, which were the main interest of the dive.
Plympton and Hathor - Monday, Dive 1
This turned out to be an excellent dive site,
providing two wrecks for the price of one! The Plympton, a steamship
of 2869 tons was on its way from Falmouth to Dublin with a cargo
of maize. On the night of 14 April 1909 she encountered thick fog,
and she steamed full tilt onto the Lethergus reef where she stuck
fast. Eleven years later the 7060 ton German steamship Hathor was
being towed to Portland after breaking down near the Azores. As
she reached the Scillies a fierce gale erupted which parted the
hawsers of her two tugs. The Hathor was abandoned to the storm and
eventually hit the Lethergus Rocks sinking right across the remains
Plympton. The two wrecks provided an excellent dive, with plenty
to see and explore. The wreck lies at quite an angle on the sea
bed, which provided perfect multi level profiles.
HMS Firebrand - Monday, Dive 2
Firebrand was lost in 1707 when a disastrous navigational error
sent Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell's fleet through the reefs near
the Isles of Scilly. Firebrand, Association, Eagle, and Romney were
lost, with a total of 1500 sailors. The Firebrand is an excellent
historical dive, with plenty of canons lined up and waiting to be
Plympton and Hathor - Tuesday, Dive 1
A return to the Plympton and Hather which
gave us all a great opportunity to really explore the wrecks now
that we all had our bearings after the first dive.
Canon pile near Firebrand - Tuesday, Dive 2
Canons? What cannons?!! I’m not sure
if anyone found any canons, but Ross and I certainly didn’t,
so the dive turned into an exploration of the sea bed, in the hope
of long lost treasure …. But all we ended up with was a glass
jar, now being used as a flower vase.
The Italia - Wednesday, Dive 1
The Italia was lost on the Wingletang ledges
in dense fog on 11 May 1917. There’s plenty to see on this
dive, with the engines and steam machinery all laid out. A quick
dive down to the bow at 40 metres allows a slow ascent up the rest
of the wreck into the shallows to get the most out of your bottom
Wall dive - Wednesday, Dive 2
Amazing dive along a deep wall. How deep?
Ask Mark! It’s at least 58 metres anyway!
Black Rock, Western Isles - Thursday, Dive 1
Another wall dive with some great gulleys
and swim-throughs. Plenty to see and a fairly big surge to make
things even more interesting! The dive was topped off for me and
Ross by an encounter with a friendly seal in the shallows. Fantastic!During
our surface interval, Dave (our skipper) and Mark S took to the
sea in the boat’s dingy to visits the rocky islands to photos
the seals. In the meantime, Ross and I donned dry-suits, mask and
snorkel to try and swim with the seals we could see on the surface.
Whilst the seals didn’t seem to have a problem coming close
to divers with SCUBA, they seemed quite cautious of snorkelers.
They were still inquisitive, but kept their distance.
The Italia - Thursday, Dive 2
Back to the Italia!
The Brinkburn - Friday, Dive 1
The `Brinkburn` was a 3200 ton steamer that
sank in 1898. The engine is clearly visible, but Ross and I wanted
to find some more seals so headed off of the wreck after a short
time. Needless to say that since we were looking for seals, we didn’t
find any, but six of our group did.
The Mando - Friday, Dive 2
The Mando was a 7176 ton Panamanian steamship.
She was outward bound from Hampton Roads for Rotterdam loaded with
coal when on 21 January 1955 she lost her way in thick fog, ran
aground on the Golden Ball Bar and quickly became a total loss.Now
most of the Mando lies on a fairly flat rocky shelf. We saw a great
deal of scrap metal, however nothing that really was recognisable
as a ship. Again we had seals on our mind, so we probably didn’t
take full advantage of what the wreck could have offered! We ended
up swimming through a whole series of gullies with a very strong
surge. We had to time our move forward with the surge, aiming for
a strong looking bit of kelp and try and grab it and hold on tightly
as the surge reversed direction and tried to push as backwards –
exciting stuff. With the conditions as they were, we finished the
dive by swimming away from the most obvious rocks during our safety
stop and then surfaced with some trepidation – hoping that
we were sufficiently away from the rocks! It just remains to not
only thank Phil for organising another fantastic trip, but also
for ensuring a week of excellent weather.
Thanks to Swindon for providing
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