Club Dive, 3 July: Unknown Wreck 56m

The plan for this dive was to look at one of the deeper unknown wrecks out of Brighton. There are dozens of wrecks in the 50-65m range within 30 miles of the marina that have yet to be idnetified and are rarely dived. One in particular that I’d been discussing with Paul Dyer was a large mark out near the Greenwich Light Vessel, some 26 miles from Brighton. This mark is 100m long and stands up in parts to around 45m from a 56m seabed. From the sonar dimensions the ship (if it was a steamship) would have weighed in at around 6200tons – certainly a big lump, but any good as a dive? There’s only one way to find out…

The hydrographic office report for the wreck included an entry from Tim Bennito who had put divers on the wreck in 1996, stating that it was upside down with a longitudal split and was covered in netting. Upside down wrecks don’t usually make the best dives, but being broken along the length suggested there might be some opportunities to get inside and have a look round. Jobs for the dive were:

  • To find out what sort of engine it had – compound? triple-expansion?
  • To try and get a measurement of the cylinder head covers.
  • To recover anything that might give some clue to the identity.

After a sunny two and a half hour steam in flat-calm seas Brighton Diver and 9 of Croydon BSAC’s finest were on site over the wreck. The sea had the dark blue/inky black look that always suggests good visibility, so after a quick kit-up and pre-breathe Dave Elphick and I jumped in. On descending the shot the visibility proved to be every bit as good as expected, around 10m with plenty of light. The shot was hooked into the bow section which was open but surrounded in netting. Much of the superstructure has collapsed at the bows giving a bit of rummage potential, swimming aft the open bow begins to close up so that the wreck looks truely upside down. Swimming into a large entrance to the starboard side of the upturned hull I could see that there was light at the end, so I carried on swimming. This area was farily empty with no sign of engine-type stuff that I’d have expected to see on a steamship – I did manage to bag a 6.5lb lobster though which was tasty.

Squeezing out of the hole at the end of the swimthrough I was almost at the stern. There was no sign of a rudder post or propeller and, once again, none of the mechanical-type stuff I’d have expected to see on a steamer. After a swim round the stern lookng for lettering and a fight with another lobster I turned round and started back towards the bows and bagged off about half way down the wreck. After speaking to the other divers our conclusions from the dive are:

  • Confirmed as upside down.
  • Didn’t seem 100m long, but Paul and I checked this on the GPS/plotter and confirmed this is the length.
  • Shot was on the bow, SW end of the wreck.
  • Bow area is broken open, this break goes back maybe a quarter or a third of the length of the wreck before becoming a narrow split in the hull.
  • Stern is more broken than the middle section.
  • Didnt find anything worth lifting to help with an ID.
  • Can swim through the covered section of the wreck.
  • Couldn’t see an engine.
  • Couldn’t see boilers.
  • Mast reported lying at 45 degrees to the port side of wreck
  • No sign of propeller.
  • No sign of rudder post.
  • No sign of lettering on the stern.

So is this another unknown Brighton sailing ship? This mark needs a return trip…

Paul Brown

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