Report by Adrian Dodds
The Bicester Sub Aqua Club went to the Farne Islands for their late summer holiday dive trip this year. We booked 4 days diving, but we lost 2 days due to bad weather. However, the first two days made up for it as we dived virtually a mirror sea.
The diving was based on Billy Shiels ‘Glad Tidings 8’ dive boat which could take up to 20 divers. On the first day we had 5 divers and 6 snorkellers. The second day was busier with 9 divers but there was still plenty of space.
First day’s diving started with a sail out into a very cold sea fog to “The North Hares” where we dropped in on a group of seals. These seals stayed with us for the entire dive, following us around from a safe distance. By the time we surfaced we came out of the water into a bright sunny day. The second dive was on “Gun Rock” where we dropped in at 6m to look for 14 canons lost in a field of kelp – we found one! What made this dive was then dropping off the pinnacle into 15m depth. The sea cliff and seabed were covered in “dead man’s fingers” of varying shades of white, yellow and orange.
Day Two’s diving started with a trip out to the islands on a sunny morning with a mirror flat sea. We headed out to the “Knivestone” right at the eastern edge if the islands. Here we dropped into 10m on to a field of kelp. We headed west onto a slope where we found a huge 4 bladed propellor on the seabed at 12m, then on to a complete but damaged triple expansion engine at 15m. As we continued down the slope, we came to two huge boilers at 24m depth. We had all the parts of a steamship but no main hull. We continued looking and found some metal pieces but nothing of the size indicated by the engine and boilers. As we followed the slope back up, we found more bits but that was all. This must have been a wooden hulled steamship. We later heard that there were a least 4 ships wrecked on this spot.
The second dive of the day started by a swim through a kelp covered narrow gulley at 6m where we encountered seals at close quarters. We pressed on and followed the valley down into a plane of dead man’s fingers at 24m. Here we found the wreck of the SS Abyssina lost in 1921. We moved around a field of metal plates and blocks of machinery all covered in dead man’s fingers. Here we were joined by a very inquisitive seal who gave us a few minutes of it’s time. A great close encounter to finish our days diving.
We surfaced and were picked up by our dive boat. We were looked after very well, and Mick the skipper matched our expectations with four great dives. The weather was still calm with the sun shining brightly. Little did we know that by the next morning we had 20mph winds gusting to 30mph. A rough sea that would be a challenge to any ship. It was remarkable how quickly the weather had changed. This is why there are so many wrecks on the Farne Islands. Well at least there are more to explore next time!