Knivestone – Wreck Graveyard of the Farnes

14th September 2014

by Richard Booth

With big spring tides forecast for the weekend, the force of the water movement around the Farnes would inevitably limit dive sites out side of the slack water window.

First dive selected was Hopper Rock off the Longstone Wall. Here Tony and Susan Horsefall, along with Richard Booth and Mike Hunt enjoyed a pleasant dive exploring the steep walls and gullies that are features of this site. There were also numerous seals that playfully ‘buzzed’ the divers. 

During the dive however a squall suddenly whipped up the sea resulting in an impressive swell that crashed onto the reef and made recovery of divers quite interesting.

Sea Hawk sought calmer waters in the shelter offered by the Longstone reef, and here Dave Taylor and Gordon Lambert enjoyed a nice calm scenic dive on the Northern Hares wall. By the time both of them had been recovered, slack water had passed, so after a brief discussion the decision was made to head over to the Knivestone, as the earlier squall had dissipated and the sea appeared to have calmed down. To save time it was decided to dispense with the shot and instead drop the divers straight onto the underwater plateau on the northeast side of the reef. Dropping over this plateau Richard and Mike drifted north, passing several pinnacles and gullies and the odd lump of rust.

Then more and more wreckage appeared scattered across the bottom, until suddenly a large boiler emerged out of the gloom with the remains of the old steam engine now fallen on its side. Close to the boiler was also an old iron propeller.

Following on up a nearby trail of wreckage they ascended up a gully and came across another smaller boiler, its cover broken open to reveal a mass of pipes inside.

Everywhere in the gully lay further evidence of iron wreckage including a large propeller shaft. It was clear that they had come across the remains of at least two shipwrecks.

The number of large lobsters that glared out of the wreckage also appeared to indicate that both wrecks were sites that had not received a lot of diver attention.

Back on the rib after all of the divers had been recovered, it also became apparent that none of the group had ever previously dived these particular wrecks before, despite some of the individuals having extensive experience over many years of regular diving around the Farnes. Plans were hatched to return the following weekend to further explore these wrecks.

Subsequent research indicates that the first ‘deeper’ wreck may be the SS Geir; an 848-ton steam ship built in Belfast in 1882 and lost on the Knivestone on the 18th of February 1908 whilst on passage from Bergen to Blyth. The wreckage in the shallower gully is possibly the remains of the SS Horley, a 311-ton steamship registered in Dundee, which ran onto the Knivestone in thick fog whilst on passage from Aberdeen to Whitstable with a cargo of stone on the 29th August 1922.

For the final dive of the day, Gordon and Dave made an exciting drift dive around the northwest corner of the Inner Farne Island. 

Thanks to Dave Taylor for organising a great days diving.