Farnes adventure! Whirl Rocks and the wreck of the SS Britannia

30th May 2011

Whirl Rocks is situated out at the outermost point off the Farne Islands but it offers some of the most spectacular diving to be found in these waters. It consists of a large rocky outcrop of reef that rises up from the bottom to within a few metres of the surface. Its exposed position results in the gullies and walls that make up this reef catching the full force of the tide as it sweeps around the Farne Islands.

The Sea literally appears to boil as the current sweeps over the top of the reef. It is therefore a site that requires careful dive planning and it should only be attempted on slack water ideally on neap tides and when the sea is flat calm.

Indeed it’s very exposed situation results in only a limited number of opportunities each season to dive this site. The rewards however for those that make the effort and succeed can be rich with the possibility of encountering stunning visibility and rich marine life.

Numerous vessels over the centuries have also foundered on this reef providing interesting wreckage to explore including that of the SS Jan Van Ryswyck, a Belgium steam ship that was lost on the 21 st May 1924.

On arrival at the site a shot was dropped and the first wave of divers kitted up and entered the water. Underwater visibility was not as spectacular as on previous occasions when the club has dived this particular site but was still around 15 metres.

The shot line had landed close to a gully, which cut through the reef to the amphitheatre area where the wreck of the Van Jan Ryswyck is situated. The wreck is well broken up but nevertheless the large steam compound engine still rises dramatically from the bottom with the large boilers resting close by.

The surrounding steep walls are covered in marine life whilst squadrons of large Pollack patrol around the wreckage.

With the tide starting to run, delayed SMB’s were deployed and reluctantly we headed back towards the surface.

With everyone safely recovered the RIBS headed over towards the Crumstone reef. After a suitable interval Seawitch motored along the Callers reef and a shot was duly dropped close to the site of the wreck of the Britannia, a small steam ship that came to grief on this reef on the 29 th September 1915, fortunately without any loss of life.

The boilers and the broken remains of the stern can be found close too and scattered amongst the gully’s that cut through this area of the Callers reef.

The forward part of the wreck however is to be found resting on the slope that descends down from the reef with the bows located in 27 metres of water.

With everyone safely recovered back aboard the RIBs it was a relatively short hop back to Seahouses harbour. Thanks to Nicky Hobbs for organising the days diving.