12th January 2013
Written by Tiago Moreira
Photography by Richard Booth
After almost two weeks of light westerly winds and calm sea, as the weekend approached it was only to be expected that the weather would once again challenge our plans for a winter sea dive. In these circumstances, we normally head up to our usual back up sites: Ellerton, Wastwater, Capernwray. Not this time. Drawing on the knowledge about diving in the English Lakes amassed by Paul Renucci, of Freshwater Diver (http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/freshwaterdiver/), we decided to dive Howtown Pier in Ullswater.
Howtown is the smallest of the piers operated by Ullswater Navigation Company. In 1859, the first Ullswater Steamer, Enterprise, ran into trouble and apparently sank somewhere between the pier and the eastern shore. Despite numerous searches however, the company has never been able to find its lost vessel. Could Tyneside 114 solve the mystery of the missing wreck of the Enterprise?
We parked by the public boat slip at the south end of the bay, which gives easy access to the water. After a quick briefing by dive marshal, the first group of divers, Andy and Adam, headed off to explore the murky waters of the lake but not before the dive marshal in his dive brief confidently announced that the next ferry was not due till 4:00pm that afternoon! 15 minutes later the ferry arrived at the pier.
Eventually Andy and Adam emerged from the murky waters with Andy well covered in Ullswater weed!
The second group, Tiago, Fiona and Richard also headed north on the surface towards the pier and, having sorted some previous confusion about ferry times, descended to 4-5 metres of water to explore the area around the pier.
This is a wooden structure built on a slope wherein the summer months, perch will apparently gather to pick through the sediment lifted by the ferry. In winter, however, apart from a couple of freshwater sponges, the main interest lies in finding objects that have accidently fallen off the ferry: on this occasion a pair of reading glasses, a people counter, etc. Further down the slope rails emerged out of the silt; was this the long lost wreck of the Enterprise? Sadly not as it transpired that we had found a long lost ships gangway!
Having heard from the previous group of divers that one of the boat moorings was attached to a sunken boat, we then headed East above a very silty bottom. With visibility around 6-7 metres and the sun shining on the surface, we had a pleasant swim searching for any interesting feature with our torches. We eventually found the moorings but must have missed the one with the wreck and decided to return to the boat slip. Also, it was 4-5 degrees C in the water and we had already clocked more than 30 minutes in the water.
As it was even colder on the surface, we all quickly decided that we deserved to visit a pub with a good warm log fire and therefore drove on to Pooley Bridge to search for one. Tiago however is happy to report that this search objective was successfully met within minutes of arrival in Pooley Bridge..