Goldstones, Off the Northumberland Coast

8th June 2008

With high spring tides and a calm mirror like sea, conditions were ideal to locate and dive the legendry North Goldstone reef.

This large rock lies out in exposed open water, between Lindisfarne and the Farnes Islands.

On low water slack this site is easily located as the jagged top of the reef breaks through the surface. It is a site that should only be dived at slack water, as it lies in an area of strong tidal current. On this occasion with low water slack in the afternoon, we opted to dive on another site that shares the same name, South Goldstone reef.

This reef also known as the Oxcar, is situated on the north side of the Farne Islands and given the prevailing tidal currents, offered a measure of shelter from the full force of Spring tide.

Initially on arrival at this site there was little indication of the reef that lurked under the water. Trusting our GPS and sounder we soon located some wreckage and dropped the shot.

Descending down though the clear green water, the remains of the starboard side of a long lost shipwreck emerged out of the seabed. It clearly was not a big vessel, possibly a steam trawler judging from its size. Its relatively exposed position however has resulted in the wreckage being well dispersed across the seabed. Nearby lay the remains of the ships boiler.

Drifting on in the gentle current we came across gullies and boulders covered in soft corals. The area also seemed to be exceptionally good for small ‘critters’ with numerous prawns, squat lobsters, butterfish and gobies. After 40 minutes up went the DSMB and we completed our safety stop admiring the numerous jellyfish that drifted alongside us in the flowing tide.

By the time the RIB had recovered us, the top of the South Goldstone rock had become exposed from the sea. A lone seal and some seagulls quickly took up residence, basking in the bright sunshine.

Once everyone was safely recovered we headed north towards Ross Sands, the RIB making quick progress across the relatively flat sea. Our intention was to use the club’s new humminbird sounder to try and locate the wreckage of the bow of the SS Coryton, a steamship lost in the last war. After 30 minutes of patient searching we at last located some interesting wreckage situated some distance away from the main area of wreckage. Had we located the bow? Unfortunately on this occasion we did not have time to dive this particular site, so had to make do with saving the GPS marks with a view to returning at some later date to dive the site.

Instead, we headed east out into the open sea towards the North Goldstone reef. We arrived to find the top of the rock breaking the surface of the water. Over hundreds of years this reef, as a result of its exposed location, has been responsible for the destruction of numerous ships along with their passengers and crews. On the 19th July 1843, the steamship Pegasus struck the North Goldstone reef with catastrophic consequences, including the loss of over 40 passengers and crew.

Other lost vessels that were wrecked at this site include the steamships Arbutus, Northern Yacht, Martha and the Gothendurg, as well as numerous other wooden schooners and brigs. Again using our new sounder we quickly located some wreckage on the south west side of the reef. A shot was dropped and descended down through the water to land inside a large boiler.

We quickly kitted up and arrived on the seabed to find ourselves in a veritable ships grave yard. Everywhere around us lay wreckage from the numerous vessels that have been lost on this reef. We explored through the debris which included numerous boilers, winches and piles of rusting steel plate. We also came across an old iron propeller half buried in the sand. Marine life including numerous lobsters has now taken up residence in this jumble of wreckage. We came across a large male lumpsucker fish, loyally guarding its nest of eggs secreted in some steel plates.

After 30 minutes and with the tide starting to increase we again sent up our DSMB’s and drifted across the wreckage below slowly ascending back to the surface.

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