North Warmses and the Inner Farnes

2nd June 2007

Despite the southerly wind forecast and with a spirit of brave optimism we assembled at Seahouses with the club RIB Sea witch. Conditions looked a little marginal as we headed out of the harbour accompanied by Northumbria branch RIB.

Once out in the open water we soon encountered the interesting phenomena of a northly swell, the legacy of winds earlier in the week, and the current stiff southerly breeze.

On arrival at the Farne Islands we were confronted with swell breaking onto the rocks and cliffs of the islands from both a north and south direction, greatly limiting the number of viable dive sites. Where to dive?

After consulting boat charts and a quick reconnaissance dash around the Farnes to check out possible sites we opted to dive off the North Warmses. Even here there was still quite a swell.

A shot was dropped off in 14 metres of water with both boats dropping their divers off close to the buoy before withdrawing back away from the surge pounding onto the nearby rocks.

Once under the surface the underwater visibility proved to be a surprisingly clear seven metres plus.

The dive consists of a series of scenic walls richly encrusted with deadmens fingers. Above water a few dogged seals basked on the rocks; occasionally they lumbered into the water and flashed past the visiting divers before vanishing back into the green gloom of the underwater world.

One interesting feature on this dive is a large admiralty anchor that can be found in around 11 metres of water. It has a rich covering of marine growth which perhaps gives some indication of the long time it has lain at this spot.

Further up the reef is another smaller anchor with a broken fluke, whilst dropping down the slope and out across the seabed yet reveals another anchor in 18 metres of water. Are all these anchors from the same vessel? If so, what clues could they reveal about some long lost drama on this reef? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly there appeared to be no other signs of wreckage on the reef. Although two lead weights were recovered by nick Foster which looked remarkably like old sounding leads. Some years ago Ron Young recovered the bell of a vessel called the Pearle. The bell has the date 1717 inscribed upon it. Despite extensive research by Ron, no documentary history has been uncovered by him in relation to the history of this vessel. The bell itself was apparently located on the West side of the Warmses. Could the anchors on the East side of the rocks also be the legacy of desperate attempts to save this vessel? Or the remnants of another drama involving another vessel whose details have been lost in the midst of time? We will probably never know as the Farnes retains its secrets.

For a second dive and with no improvement in conditions we headed across to the relative shelter of the north side of the Inner Farne Island. Here we dropped into St Cuthbert’s gut, close to the tower near to the waters edge. This area is not particularly interesting from a diving point of view, although a certain amount of rubbish debris has been deposited into the waters by the inhabitants of the tower over the decades. Some years ago I can recall coming across the ribs of a long lost wooden vessel sticking out of the kelp and sand at this site. I failed to locate this wreckage on this dive. Perhaps the sand has reclaimed it again.

Instead we drifted around the island until picked up by the tide we drifted at some speed across the bottom in the strong tidal current. A delayed SMB was sent up immediately on encountering this current, a wise precaution in the event, as when we surfaced the rough sea conditions would have made it very difficult for the boat cover to have located us without the ability to follow our progress via the SMB. All in all, another good days diving at the Farnes despite the challenging surface conditions.

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