The Collier Wreck

17th July 2007

Initially, conditions for a dive did not exactly look very promising with heavy rain sheeting down and lightning flashes erupting across a dark foreboding sky.

Despite this weather seven hardy souls changed into their drysuits before embarking aboard the MV Spellbinder for an evening dive off the Tyne.

As we headed out between the twin piers at the entrance of the Tyne, the sky suddenly started to clear and rain ceased. Things were unexpectedly looking up!

The plan was to dive the site of a vessel known locally as the Collier wreck. Various names have been suggested for this wreck, including the SS Princess Isobel, but its true identity still remains a mystery. She lays in 20 metres of water approximately a mile due south from the Tyne entrance piers.


On this occasion, with lack water still over an hour away, and with the prediction of big spring tides, we were warned to expect some current on this site. The shot was dropped and the first pairs entered the water, well upstream from the shot line buoy.

Whilst descending down the line however, we were rewarded by excellent under water visibility, with the line clearly visible plunging away down into the depths.

Soon the hazy glow of wreckage festooned with deadmens fingers rose up from the bottom. The shot indeed had plunged onto the wreck a little forward of the vessels boilers. The wreck itself has clearly been the subject of earlier extensive salvage operations in the past. Whilst much of the keel area of this vessel appears to be quite intact, it is evident that the steel plates that made up the hull have been cut with the aim of reducing the height of the wreck. Today, much of this plating lies collapsed and half buried in the nearby seabed. It is however still possible to swim along the line of the wreckage and peer down and make out the curve of the underside of the hull as it sinks down into silty bottom. The remains of the propeller shaft can easily be followed back to the stern area of this vessel. The propeller itself has long lost its blades with just the hub evident at the end of the shaft.

Drifting back along the wreckage one soon comes across the remains of the steam compound engines still standing proud from the hull bottom. Close by are the remains of two sizeable ships boilers.

Continuing forward the wreckage continues for some distance but seems to be much more broken up and dispersed than the rear end of the vessel. Nevertheless this area of the site still provides an interesting area to rummage around, although it is all too easy to lose ones bearings owing to the dispersed nature of the broken wreckage.

 

The entire site is covered with fine silt which is easily stirred up. Indeed diving this wreck in the tidal current proved to be something of a bonus as any stirred up silt was soon swept away off the wreck.

There also appeared to be a healthy population of quite sizeable lobsters living amongst the wreckage, perhaps indicating that this is a site that is not visited to regularly by divers.
After 45 minutes of exploration it was time to head for the surface, where we were greeted by a bright blue sky, a far cry from the earlier conditions we had encountered whilst waiting to board Spellbinder.

After a brief interval, Spellbinder headed over to the wreck site of the MV Oslofjord. Here some members of the group took the opportunity to have a second dive exploring around the remains of this once graceful liners huge diesel engines which still rise several metres up from the seabed. Underwater visibility was a respectable 3 to 4 metres providing for yet another interesting dive.
With everyone safely aboard, Spellbinder headed home back through the Tyne entrance piers with the last rays of the setting sun dramatically illuminating the haunting remains of the Tynemouth fort that overlooks the river. A picturesque end to an evenings diving, which to begin with had looked so unpromising.

Contact details Spellbinder II

Skipper Alan Lopez Tel. 07977725939

www.divespellbinder.co.uk