The Himalaya Project

N.B. This article was originally published in 1976 as “A Tale Of Two Hulks: The Anatomy of a Club Project”

I put the mouthpiece of my Mistral between my lips, sucked, and swallowed half a cup of briny water that has been sloshing about in the bottom of the inflatable. I was already on the point of nausea from sitting cramped on the overloaded boat for a couple of hours in a heavy swell and this really was the last straw. With the unmost regret I turned and called on Bill! So ended my first attempt at diving.

Oxford BSAC members preparing to dive in the search for the HimalayaLooking for the Himalaya in Portland Harbour

A few hours later, in the relative calm of Portland Harbour, my diving career began. We were to dive on the wreck of an old coal hulk, known to all as the Himalaya, ex-troopship in use during the Crimean War and sunk during a bombing raid in the last War. The wreck is arguably the best novice dive site on the south coast being well sheltered by the breakwater, easy to locate, reasonable depth (40ft to the deck) and above all, actually looking like a ship, being perfectly upright with little sign of damage. Being a Coal Hulk there is practically nothing in the way of superstructure, and as the bulkheads have for the most part collapsed, it is easy and quite safe to swim from the chain locker, past the heads through the three holds and into the stern where there remains but a skeleton of a deckhouse and a single davit. All the goodies have long gone so there is no chance of the novice being discarded for something brighter. ..

The underwater vis that day was superb, and I still retain a deep memory of descending the anchor rope and seeing the wreck laid out before me in sweeping panorama. Colin Crook my dive leader, showed me round and although I took in little beyond the glass of my mask, the sense of excitement remained long afterwards. I have dived that wreck many times since, and when I became Projects Officer of Oxford Branch two years ago, I decided to go ahead with a plan that had been germinating for some time. lt was to measure and prepare a drawing of the wreck.