The Himalaya Project - A Mystery

A Mystery

Our survey, gave estimated dimensions as length 200ft, breadth 25ft–surely we couldn’t have been so much out? But, if this wreck was not the Himalaya, what was it? and more important, what had happened to the Himalaya which had quite certainly sunk somewhere in Portland Harbour?

Becoming more and more intrigued, I wrote to the Imperial War Museum for any information they might have–result, nothing known. I wrote to the Hydrographic Dept. at Taunton–their information was that the wreck we were surveying was the Himalaya.

In the meantime, a second survey had been conducted by Eric Roberts (D.O.) and Eric Bargent, and this confirmed the dimensions as length 240ft breadth 29ft, as well as adding many more details to the drawing we were preparing. The method used in this survey was interesting. Briefly, it incorporated the use of a reel of very cheap packaging twine which was stretched across areas to be measured, cut, and tagged. Back on dry land each piece was measured with an ordinary tape measure. The tags were labelled before diving commenced, and thus a great deal of information could be gathered quickly and relatively easily.

Pondering the next move, I was given inspiration at the BSAC Chairman’s Conference in 1974: “Get some good publicity for your Branch”, “Appoint a Press Officer”.

Well, the Himalaya had sunk in 1940, so there must be quite a few people who had seen her go and were still living in Weymouth. I wrote to the editor of the Dorset Evening Echo, enclosing a sketch of the wreck we had been surveying, a copy of the wreck list from the Hydrographic Dept., and also a copy of a highly informative article in Ships Monthly (April 74) on the Himalaya by Stuart Nichol. In my letter I managed to introduce the word “mystery” three times, which I hoped would act as psychological bait.

The result was highly satisfactory the paper not only printed a 7” para­graph, but gave it half inch headlines “Two Mysteries of the Harbour Wreck” and even printed the sketch I had sent them! The following week was one of the most fascinating I have ever spent. Every post brought at least two letters.

From Mr. W.A. Symons: the ship you are diving on is not the Himalaya, she was bombed and sank on her moorings at least three-quarters of a mile from the break­ water. These are facts, for I was on a tug at the time, and we tried to save them and put them ashore but no luck (the Haytain, another coal hulk, was sunk at the same time.)

In the middle 1930’s–about I would say 1936–in a strong blow, a coal hulk went ashore there, we went to her assistance but she was sunk on the tippings with her stump masts and Temperly gear (a form of rig used on hulks for loading and unloading coal) just above water, this gear was removed by a local firm Basso & Turner and the ship slid down the tipping and would I presume (be) very close to the stones at the bottom of the Breakwater. The name of this one could be COUNTESS OF ERNE ex-railway paddler...

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