Diving the Wreck of the Buka, Northumberland

23rd September 2012

by Richard Booth

The plan was to dive the wreck of the MV Buka, a small Dutch coastal cargo vessel lost off Craster on the 7th April 1970, fortunately without any loss of life. This 195-ton vessel was originally built in the 1930’s, survived the ravages of WWII and continued to give good service until she foundered on that fateful day in April 1970 after apparently springing a major leak.

This wreck was first dived by Tyneside 114 in the early 1970’s. In those days the wreck was completely intact. The club last dived it in the mid 1990’s when the wreck was still largely intact although stripped of much of its non-ferrous metal features.  How had the wreck fared over the subsequent years?

Back to September 2012 and on this occasion the tides looked good and the weather forecast fairly promising. Previous attempts however to dive this particular wreck over recent years had always met with disappointment culminating in one dive last year when the shot line parted as we started the descent forcing us to abandon the dive. Would this time be different?

Hubert and Dave were the first to arrive at Beadnell only to be met with the news that the launch tractor had broken down and was out of action. A few hurried phone calls and everyone headed for Seahouses harbour.

The club RIB Sea Witch was safely launched and we headed out of the harbour. The coastguard however made repeated references over the VHF radio regarding the deteriorating inshore weather forecast! Events yet again appeared to be conspiring against another dive on the Buka. Outside of the harbour however sea conditions seemed reasonably calm and after a quick re-assessment we pushed on down the coast determined to make another attempt to dive this elusive wreck.

On arrival at the Buka site the wreck was quickly located and the shot was dropped but despite repeated attempts would not snag easily into the wreckage. Eventually after dropping the shot up current we managed to locate the shot into the wreck. The tide despite being close to slack water time was still running quite hard.

First group down were Richard, Andy and Fiona. Once in the water the visibility looked quite promising as we descended down the angled line fighting the current. After a couple of minutes of hard fining suddenly the square outlined of the wreck’s stern appeared below us out of the gloom. We pushed on following the shot line until it dropped over the front of the bow. Heading back it soon became evident that the vessels hold area has totally collapsed. Swimming towards the stern area we crossed over a jumble of flattened wreckage; Clearly the wreck was no longer intact and indeed looked like it had been partially blown apart with explosives in the quest to salvage non ferrous metal.

Even at 40 m the ambient light level was quite reasonable with a nice green water background above the wreckage. Andy suddenly signalled with his torch and heading over towards him we spied a number of portholes in the wreckage lit up by his torch beam. We paused long enough to take some pictures before moving on, leaving the artefacts for future visiting divers to enjoy.

The minute quickly ticked by and all too soon it was time to start heading back towards the shot line. Suddenly we had company as an inquisitive seal gave us an impressive demonstration of its free diving skills. From here we rose gently up the front of the bow and then began are slow ascent back up the shot line to the surface above.

Once all the divers were safely recovered and with the waves beginning to pick out as the wind speed increased, we headed over to Newton Point. Here we dived a nice little submarine wall which offered a measure of protection from the ebbing tide. On this dive we also came across some interesting small pieces of non-ferrous metal. Was it simply rubbish thrown from the shore or the remains from some long lost sailing vessel? Who knows? The under water visibility was perhaps not as good as that experienced on the wreck of the Buka but nevertheless this location offered an interesting dive on a site that most of group had not dive before.

A fantastic day’s club diving. Thanks to Hubert for organising the dive.