23rd August 2020 Spellbinder dives
A bit of grey morning dawned, but at least the sea was flat. There had been some heavy rain in the days preceding, and the tides were very springy – not an ideal recipe for good visibility! But hey ho, if anyone can find a wreck to dive with some visibility it will be Allan – Skipper of Spellbinder.
On coming out of the Tyne we headed south, with the first dive on the Lonclara. This wreck is quite shallow, so in the cloudy weather there should be sufficient light at 11 – 16 metres depth to see. This wreck called the SS Lonclara, was built by Ropner & Sons, Ltd., Stockton in 1911 and owned at the time of her loss by Port of London Authority, London. Originally built as a Hopper Barge, it was converted to a Cargo Ship in 1916, classified as a British steamer of 1294 tons. On January 4th, 1917, SS Lonclara was sunk by a mine from the German submarine UC-31 (Otto von Schrader), 0,5m east of Hendon Rock Buoy, River Wear. 4 persons were lost.
The dive was quite silty, and the visibility about 4 metres, but it was light, which made it possible to navigate around the whole wreck. The boilers are easy to find, and this is where Allan always manages to land the shot.
The second dive was a drift dive on Hendon Rocks. Again quite a shallow dive with 14 metres maximum depth. It is more of a fish and flowers dive as the rocks have eroded over time creating lots of holes and cracks which are full of life. This area had been covered with coal dusts and silts, but when the dumping stopped, the ecosystem begun to repair itself. There are always lots of nudibranches here as well as the stalked sponge Clathrina lacunosa, which isn’t very common on the east coast.
We then headed back up towards the mouth of the Tyne, accompanied by a small school of about six dolphins. They seemed to be visiting each boat in turn, wondering if an easy meal was to be had. The dolphins will take mackerel off a fisherman’s line once it has been hooked – easier than chasing after it first!
The visibility on the Oslofjord was only about 2-3 metres, but even in poor visibility this dive never gets boring. There is so much to see, from the tiled floors, to the engine blocks and the jumbles of wires. The marine life is quite varied too, dead man’s fingers, anemones, wee cod and scorpion fish.