A wonderful week away….
On Saturday the 28th August last year a group 12 divers and 4 nondivers from the dive club jumped on a ferry to the Isles of Scilly 30 miles off the tip of Cornwall for a week of diving. The Scilly Isles are unique for diving as it has more wrecks per square mile than any other place in the world ranging from four 17th century British fleet ships which sank in 1707 right up to the Cita a container ship which sank in 1997. It is said that there are over a thousand ships wrecked around these islands.
The ferry trip was around three hours from Penzance to St Mary’s and can be a very lumpy crossing at times, but luck was on our side it was a smooth crossing. We arrived in St Mary’s mid afternoon on Saturday and had a short walk to our B and Bs. To start the trip off on a good footing we all meet in the evening for a meal and few sociable drinks. As the diving did not start until Monday we had a free day on Sunday to go and explore the Islands.
On the first day of diving we met up with our skipper Jo at the harbour and got started loading dive kit from the shipping container to the dive boat (Moon Shadow). We were then on our way to the first dive site of the Plymton and the Hathor
The first thing you notice when you land on the wreck at 24m is the 10-15m visibility down there, meaning you can get a clear picture of the wreck, making navigation a breeze. As Karen and I made our way down the wreck to 30m, it was hard to see at first where one ship ended and the other started. Once we got our bearings you could make out the bow of Hathor jutting out at 90 degrees to the Plymton. Our thoughts were if this was a taster of things to come we were in for a week of amazing diving, (which certainly turned out to be true).
The second dive of the day put us on a set of rocks that were supposed to be teaming with life. Unfortunately, the current was so strong it was sweeping us off the rocks out into open water, so along with ourselves many divers aborted soon after entering the water.
Over the next four days we dived a mix of shipwreck and scenic locations. One of the wreck dives we did was the Cita, which was the last ship to go down in the Scilly’s. The Cita was a large container-feeder ship that sank on 26th March 1997 after going ashore at full speed at 03.30am. All the crew were fast asleep and the vessel on automatic pilot with the radar alarm system switched off. The Cita is still largely complete and still has a good coating of paint on it.
For me the best dive of the week was the wreck of the Italia an Italian-registered 2,792-tonne armed steamship carrying coal from Cardiff to Toronto which drove ashore 11th May 1917 in dense fog during the same night that the SS Lady Charlotte was wrecked near Porth Hellick, St Mary’s 3 miles to the east. As the Italia drove ashore on Wingletang Ledge the inhabitants of St Agnes were unaware of the wreck, as the sound of escaping steam and her siren were thought to be coming from the Lady Charlotte wreck.. The Italia lies trapped in a sheltered, steep, sloping gully, her stern at 20m and the bow at 50m, myself and Andy swam the length of the ship. This ship looked like it had been ripped open down its centre line. The engine sat in the middle with conrods and crankshaft exposed. Further down the Italia at 43m is the bow light tower sat in the twisted metal untouched with the lantern still complete like someone had just placed it there.
The week wasn’t just about diving, in the evenings we met up for food and a spot of lighthearted socialising over a few drinks and food. All in all it was a fantastic trip with excellent diving, good weather and good group of people who all got on well. On behalf of all who went along I would like to thank Chris Stevens for organising such a great trip.