By Ross Finlayson, TecRec Trimix Instructor and Advanced Wreck Instructor
Off the coast of Weymouth and Portland in the UK, ships have been sinking for many years, some due to storms and bad weather and many more from two world wars; this is one of the main reasons that this area has become known as one of the best places to dive wrecks, from warships, submarines, old sailing ships and well basically anything you want. Some wrecks are not too far offshore and can normally be dive whatever the weather but it’s some of the deeper wrecks that has made Weymouth and Portland a tech diver’s dream diving location.
But it’s not just the amount of wrecks that have brought tech divers to Dorset it’s also the support from the numerous charter boats and dive centres that are geared up for tech divers, with dive boats leading the way with lifts and sturdy designs, that are able to handle even the most equipped tech divers, to support from local diving centres with all the top brands of equipment and state of the art mix gas facilities, the tech diver does not need to worry when diving in Weymouth or Portland.
As well as the well known wrecks of the Jurassic coast there are still many unknown wrecks that are holding their secrets beneath the waves, there are teams of local divers slowly researching theses wrecks and putting to rest some of the names of the missing to a rusting hulk of metal.
In this article we will cover a couple of wrecks and starting with one that was only named in 2010; the
The long range forecast originally looked a bit suspect, but as the week progressed, the weather improved, so much so, that on the Friday morning we had clear blue skies and a bright sunny day.
The trip out didn’t take too long and we found the wreck straight away as it stands a good 6 meters high in places. The shot was set into the wreck first time.
All kitted up and ready we jumped into the green water. Down the line we went with the sunlight penetrating all the way down to the seabed. The shot line was lying across the triple expansion engine and single boiler. This was the highest point of the wreck at 45 metres. A quick swim round and then off to the stern looking for the gun.
The gun pedestal was still there but no gun. Was it knocked off when the wreck was wire swept in the 60’s? No idea, but there was no sign of it on the seabed or anywhere else on the wreck. Two crates of ready to use shells were concreted in next to the pedestal.
Dropping down to the seabed at 51 metres to see if anything had fallen off the wreck, that could be used for identification but couldn’t see anything significant, apart from the intact counter stern, rudder and 4 bladed prop. There is a 1 metre scour around the stern, but there’s no real reason to go into it.
Made our way along the starboard side of the wreck and popped back up and inside for a good look round the engine and boiler. No sign of a builders plates, but there is a lot of debris, so may be worth a rummage next time. Just forward of the boiler is an upright donkey boiler, then it’s off to the bow through the forward hold. The wreck is filled with shingle that has built up over time, but steam winches can be seen along with a few odd bits of coal (possibly cargo).
The wreck is pretty much upright and intact. Only saw one anchor on the bow, and most of the anchor chain is still on the winch, which would suggest this wreck didn’t sink at anchor as has been suggested from various sources. There was also no evidence of torpedo or mine damage either. The bow looks a little crumpled, but was it a collision or just damage when the bow hit the seabed?
On the starboard side inside the wreck just aft of the bow is an Admiralty pattern anchor. Possibly a spare, as no chain or rope was on it. Some small pieces of pottery were retrieved from the wreck on this dive, but they had only a few small markings.
After some uneventful deco, we all got back on the boat for the short journey to port. A great day out, in brilliant company and a truly fantastic dive. I will definitely be going back to this one!!
After a few more dives my dive buddy on this trip the late Steve Cheser, positively identified the wreck as the French owned Polkerris, sunk by torpedo on the 4th March 1918.