Whirl Rocks Revisited, Diving the Farnes

9th June 2013

by Richard Booth

With glowing reports of the Saturday dive out at the Farnes from Gordon Lambert, it was with a great sense of expectation that seven club members assembled at Beadnell car park. Whilst we did not have the bright blue skies of the day before, the sea remained glass like with no discernible swell. The RIB was quickly launched and we soon headed out towards the outer Farnes.

First dive site selected was the Knivestone. With such calm conditions it was soon very evident that just about every local charter boat and other club RIB’s had also had the same idea with the surrounding waters quite crowded with divers and manoeuvring dive boats.

Nevertheless Brian Dinsdale, Andy Moss and Kevin Thompson ventured into the calm waters around the reef.

Whilst Brian had to abort the dive after a small problem with his rebreather, Kevin and Andy made the most of the conditions and enjoyed their dive exploring the wreckage on this site. Once all divers were safely recovered we ventured across to Whirl Rocks and located the site of the SS Jan Van Ryswyck to await slack water.

This particular site is very exposed and is ideally best dived on neap slack water. On spring tides the slack water period is much shorter and divers have to be very alert to the surrounding tidal conditions, as the site can  quickly becomes a boiling mass of racing tidal water and down currents!

With the current dropping Andy and Fiona hunt along with Richard Booth and Tiago Moreira entered the water and headed down the anchor line.

They descended down a short submarine cliff to find the bottom covered in the wreckage of the SS Jan Van Ryswyck, a Belgian steamship wrecked on this reef in thick fog on 21 May 1924 whilst on passage from Antwerp to Grangemouth with a cargo of pig iron, steel ingots and general goods.

Visibility on this occasion however was not at its best on this site at around 5 to 6 m and with quite low light levels on the wreck site requiring the use of a good torch.  On previous visits when conditions had allowed us to visit this site on previous occasions we had experienced fantastic visibility of 20 metres plus but sadly not on this occasion.

Exploring around the site we soon came across the two boilers and the impressive triple expansion engine that still stands proudly upright on the seabed.

Moving on, we then explored some of the scenic gullies and walls that surround the wreckage.

Tiago Moreira even found a lumpsucker who had found a very exposed site to establish its nest on, with the strong currents truly testing it ‘sucker’ ability.

After all divers were safely recovered, we headed over to the Crumstone for a more sheltered dive, as the tide had now started to flood quite strongly.

Unfortunately whilst preparing for the next dive Tiago’s pony cylinder became unclipped and fell into the water. For some, the second dive became a search and recovery operation. Fortunately Fiona soon spotted the missing pony cylinder and it was safely recovered and returned to a much-relieved Tiago. Despite the cool water temperature, still only 8°C and the slightly disappointing underwater visibility the great days diving was had by all and allowing some of the club members to experience one of the more adventurous dive sites that the Farnes has to offer.

Thanks to Brian Dinsdale for organising the days diving.