Wrecks Diving, Beadnell

23rd April 2011

‘Ze string quartet makes divine water music’ more strange pearls of French wisdom from Tyneside Chair Hubert Desgranges… the Eric Cantona of North East diving (but without the seagulls!)

The plan was simple enough; launch the RIB from Beadnel and then head down the coast towards Craster and dive the wreck of the Acclivity…

Everything initially seemed to be going well with the club RIB Seawitch being launched into the gentle waves of Beadnel bay without a hitch. Even the engine started virtually first turn of the key! Then disaster struck, as we discovered that the throttle cable was well and truly seized (despite working fine just over thee works ago).

Fortunately after much tinkering around with spanners Dave Taylor (a former boy scout?) managed to rig up an alternative throttle control using a length of string…. Although requiring a high degree of coordination between the individual at the helm, and the designated ‘throttle controller’ at the back of the boat who was required to carefully pull the string in order to control the speed of the boat, the system actually worked quite well and allowed us to continue with the days dive.

However, by the time we had rigged up this alternative throttle system it was all too clear that we would not make slack water on the Acclivity. After a quick rethink a new plan was hatched; we would head out to the much closer wreck site of the SS Somali where hopefully, we would still be in time to catch the tail end of slack water.

Arriving on site it was clear that the tide was already on the turn. Richard and Fiona hurriedly kitted up and swiftly descended down the shotline where they were greeted with reasonable visibility and a panoramic view of the wreck below them. Swimming on down, it became evident that the shot had landed in the collapsed area of the stern. Indeed the shot had landed closed to the large stern gun now laying flat on the seabed amongst the assorted wreckage.

Moving forward they drifted over the remains of rotting cylinders and stacked bags of solid cement, the walls of the holds having long been torn away.

With the tidal current ever increasing, shelter was sought in the lee of the impressive remains of the steam engine which still stands bolt upright off the seabed. Here Fiona launched her delayed SMB and they ascended upwards into the water column to gently drift along in the ever-increasing current and complete their safety stops.

Once safely back on board the RIB however it was clear that the window for Hubert and Nicola to safely dive this site had long since passed.

Instead we headed over to Staple islands at the Farnes, as Hubert was clearly desperate for a dive on rusting metal.

We therefore opted to dive the wreck of the SS St Andrea, by coincidence a French owned ship at the time of her sinking in 1908…..

After 45 minutes Hubert emerged a happy man from the depths, his lust for metal partially satisfied.

Richard and Fiona also opted for their second dive on this site, as although the wreck is well broken up, there is still quite a lot of wreckage to explore, plus there is the bonus of some extremely friendly wrasse that will often follow visiting divers around in the hope of a free meal of vandalised sea urchin.

Again the underwater visibility was reasonably good allowing easy navigation around the wreck site. Indeed close to one of the boilers someone has gone to a lot of trouble to transport an old metal bath and sink it close to one of the boilers presumably as a new dive attraction? So Plymouth deliberately sinks HMS Scylla, Seahouses sinks an old tin bath to the depths…Perhaps the local dive marketing strategy requires a little bit more thought? Still this new addition to the Farnes offers a few corny photographic possibilities for the budding underwater photographer and their willing assistant….

Hubert still frustrated by missing out on the earlier dive on the Somali and clearly with his rusting metal lust not totally satisfied, headed back to the last resting place of this former P & O cargo vessel to await low water slack. The shot was duly dropped and fortunately the low spring tide resulted in only 24 metres of water over the wreck site thus avoiding a reverse profile dive. By coincidence the shot also dropped very close to where it had landed on the earlier morning dive, allowing Hubert and Nicola to explore around the stern area of the wreck.

All in all, a fun days diving was had by all.