Diving the SS Hanne

12th and 19th June 2007

The last few months have seen unprecedented amounts of rain over the summer period. These unusual weather conditions have had an adverse effect upon our Tuesday night diving programme from the MV Spellbinder when usually diving conditions off the Tyne should be at their best. Indeed on a number of recent occasions charters have had to be cancelled because of adverse sea conditions.

On other evenings we have turned up at Milldam after periods of light off shore winds but heavy rain to be greeted by the sight of a dark brown treacle coloured river Tyne, complete with detritus washed down by the recent monsoon like rain/ All of this at a time when conditions off the Tyne should be at their best!

Fortunately one option when faced with such conditions is to head up the coast to areas of the coastline less badly affected by the outflow from major rivers like the Tyne.

Alan Lopez, skipper of Spellbinder II, has usually used his extensive knowledge to find the best dive site available given the local prevailing conditions. On two recent occasions this has involved travelling north up the coastline to the area off Blyth. Indeed on both recent occasions it was quite noticeable how the clarity of the water improved the further north we travelled. On both of these occasions we opted to dive the wreck of the Hanne, not far from the entrance to Blyth harbour.

The SS Hanne was a Danish registered steam ship built in 1903. On the 18th December 1939 the Hanne was nearing the end of her passage to Blyth when she had the misfortune to detonate a mine recently laid outside the harbour entrance by U-22, a coastal class mine laying U-Boat. 15 crew members tragically lost their lives as the Hanne quickly foundered.

Today the wreckage of the Hanne is well dispersed across the seabed. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the wreck is the remains of her boiler and compound engines. Until recently a large conger could be found amongst this area of wreckage. Sadly however we have recently received reports that some so called ‘heroic’ local diver dispatched this helpless animal with a spear gun! This news caused considerable upset to some of us who have dived this wreck over a number of years and followed the development of this particular fish with interest. Unfortunately there appears to be an increasing number of divers in the local area who are using scuba to hunt fish with spear guns. Its one thing to ‘free dive’ down 20 metres, but sadly there appears to be no element of so called sport in the use of scuba in this activity. I suspect that the unfortunate conger will have simply ended up dumped in a rubbish bin rather than be eaten, an unnecessary and tragic waste, resulting from the actions of one of the more ignorant members of the diving community!

Swimming back along the propeller shaft takes you over the keel ribs of the vessel, much of which still remains hidden under the sand. A large iron propeller still lies flat upon the seabed and nearby are other substantial pieces of wreckage, the remains of the stern section of the wreck. Peering down amongst this debris field, one soon comes across sad reminders that this wreck was once crewed by a small community of sailors, who earned their livelihood from this vessel. No doubt on the night of her sinking, within such a short distance of the harbour entrance, many of her crew must have thought that there dangerous journey was all but over. Reminders of this tragedy could be observed in small pieces of debris such as a mortice lock, minus its key, but still in a locked position, its surrounding wooden door having long rotted away. It serves as a poignant reminder that15 lives were lost when this once proud ship was overwhelmed by the explosion from the detonating mine and quickly sent to the bottom of the sea.

This vessel is also the haunt of numerous lobsters and crabs who hide amongst her many nooks and crannies. Snagged fishing line, hooks and weights appear to indicate that this is also a site that is popular with local anglers.

Deepest depth recorded on both of these dives was 27 metres, dependent of course upon the state of the local tide.

Despite the difficult weather we managed with Alan’s able assistance to successfully complete two dive trips out to this particular wreck site. On both occasions we were rewarded for our efforts by two good wreck dives, with underwater visibility on occasions reaching around 6 metres.