A Drift in Pipers Gut – 2nd August 2015

2nd August 2015

Words and photography by Richard Booth

With an ebbing tide and the Knivestone reef nicely exposed providing good shelter from the retreating tide, it was a good time for a bit more exploratory diving on this remote reef

Diver swimming past wreckage

We started off on the main area of wreckage with both pairs of divers then gradually moving off along the reef until they located the narrow gully which leads up to the solitary boiler. Further exploration around this boiler revealed lots of steel plate on the surrounding seabed but no obvious sign of a steam engine.

Seal at boiler

An inquisitive seal however provided plenty of entertainment, as it followed the divers around this area of wreckage.


It was nevertheless soon time to move on further along the reef before the tide started to pick up and it was not long before we came across more wreckage, consisting of a another large boiler, along with the remains of an old steam engine now collapsed on its side.

Plates with life attached

Situated around the boiler was also a large amount of steel plate and superstructure covered in soft corals, indicating that this was an area normally exposed to considerable water movement.

This ‘new’ wreckage also posed some interesting questions; was it a separate wreck from the other nearby solitary boiler or the remains of one vessel now scattered along the reef? What was the name and history of this vessel?

Nic and Si with boiler

With time pressing on, we again moved further along the reef, all too aware that we were leaving the shelter provided by the reef exposed above the surface. We were however soon forced to retreat back by the sheer power of the increasing tide. Nevertheless it had been an interesting and fascinating dive, raising further questions about the history of wrecks along this reef.

Back on the surface and with an increasing SE wind, the party headed around to the north side of the Farnes to seek more shelter from the swell now being whipped up by the stiffening breeze.

Streaming kelp

With a spring flood tide Pipers Gut offered the prospect of an interesting and potentially exciting drift dive.

Nic and Simon dropped in first with a plan to ride through the gut before quickly peeling off to the left side out of the main area of the current to look for macro subjects. Here they found all sorts of interesting beasties including an anglerfish.

Richard and Hughie however went for the full Piper Gut experience, with the intention of drifting in the fast current over the exposed streaming kelp beds. Here they were joined briefly by a solitary seal, which demonstrated its complete mastery of the fast current ‘s, as with an elegant flick of its tail fin it gracefully faded away into the surrounding green water.

Deadmens' fingers

The nature of the seabed quickly started to change as the pair were carried further down into deeper water, with the kelp quickly being replaced with areas of rocky bottom covered in a mass of white deadmen’s fingers.

After 30 minutes the delayed SMB was deployed, and after completing their safety stops the duo surfaced to find themselves in a patch of turbulent water caused by the effects of tide and wind ‘clashing’ at the entrance to the south side of the Gut with the resulting large standing waves making it quite difficult for the RIB crew to spot the SMB. Fortunately after a bit of a drift, the two divers were eventually located behind Staple Island and safely picked up bringing a satisfactory end to an exciting days diving.

Diver with crab

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