Countess of Erne - 14m

The Countess of Erne was built in Dublin for the London and North Western Railway in 1868. She was an 830 ton iron hulled paddle steamer used as a ferry for the Holyhead to Ireland run carrying a 100 first-class passengers, 600 2nd and 3rd class passengers and also an additional 700 tons of cargo. She was sold to the Bristol General Steam Navigation Company in 1889 and used for two years before being sold for scrap. In early 1891, she was converted into a coal hulk and was moored at various ports and harbours supplying steamships with coal. During the conversion her superstructure and cabins would have been removed. She was finally moored at Portland Harbour and on September 16th 1935, broke free of her mooring and drifted across the harbour, hit the rocks and quickly sank. She lies upright, with her hull mainly intact. She lies at the foot of the breakwater wall and almost parallel to it with her bows towards the east ship channel entrance. Her three holds can generally be penetrated with ease. The wreck stands 7m high. Depth to the deck is 7m. She often has a lot of life on her - look out for black faced blennies! Distance from Weymouth 2.5 miles.

James Fennel - 16m

This steam trawler built in 1918 of 215 gross tons. 123ft long with a beam of 22 ft. She was lost in thick fog , and ran aground on the rocks on the west coast of Portland on the 16th January 1920. Her stern is still complete and stands almost 5m high above a large propeller. Amidships is her engine boiler. Her bow is detached and twisted but still contact with her hull. There are huge boulders amongst the wreck adding to the contours of the wreck. There is always a profusion of marine life amongst the fronds of kelp. Distance from Weymouth 10 miles.

Black Hawk bow - 16m

The Black Hawk was a 7,191 ton US Liberty ship, built 1943 and powered by a single 3-cylinder triple expansion engine. She measured 441ft by 57ft and was armed with a 4 inch stern mounted deck gun. On the 29th Dec 1944, she was bound from Cherbourg for Fowey in ballast, part of convoy TBC 21 when hit by a torpedo. The blast wounded four of the ship´s 41 crew (one of whom died later) but there were no casualties among the 27-man armed guard. However, the damage caused the vessel to rupture and the stern third of the ship broke off and sank. Bizarrely though the remainder of the ship remained afloat and was towed to Warbarrow Bay and beached. Causing a hazard to shipping the vessel was dispersed by explosives. However, today there are still masses of steel sections and plates up to 3m high. The bow section can be identified by the heavy anchor chain that runs almost 75m south to a 3-ton anchor. A pretty dive, usually with lots of life on it. Distance from Weymouth 8 miles.

Chesil cannons - 14 to 26m

There are many cannon sites littered all along the sea bed just off of the Chesil Beach, testimony to the many ships that foundered in storms on that stretch of coastline. One of the more interesting is a set of cannons tight inshore together with a stack of cannonballs, with more a few hundred yards out. Despite site assessments conducted by Wessex Archaeology from Wey Chieftain IV, we are still uncertain of their provenance. Suffice to say they would appear to come, judging by the size of the guns, from a significantly large 18th or 19th century ship. Distance from Weymouth 14 miles.

Binnendijk - 26m

The Binnendijk was 7,000 ton Dutch Steamship, 400ft in length. And was built in 1921. In September 1939, at the outbreak of World War II she was bound for Rotterdam from New York with a cargo of tyres and copper wire. On arrival into the English Channel the Royal Navy requested ship to dock in Weymouth/Portland for inspection due to suspicion of ship carrying contraband. On the 7th Oct 1939 captain Morée requested ship drop anchor off the Shambles as the sun was setting. By 10pm the ship struck a newly developed German magnetic mine, laid by U-26 on 10th Sept around 2.5 miles southeast of the Shambles light. The mine caused fire on board & at time of sinking was alight from stem to stern. All her crew were disembarked and rescued. The wreck was then dispersed by explosives on 10 Oct. Today she lies on the sea bed at 27m and stands some 6m high. Her holds are strangely full of sand despite lying on shingle/rocky bottom. Distance from Weymouth 7 miles.

The Brandy wreck - 26m

A few seasons ago we were target diving east of Portland when one of our divers, the late Andy White, emerged from the water with the onion bottle pictured in the image opposite. We were searching for part of an aircraft at the time, but neither the brandy bottle after which the wreck is named (of south-eastern French provenance by the way), nor the cannons Andy reported having seen seemed to fit the description of aircraft parts! Despite numerous dives on this site, we are still not sure what it is. We know it is old – some of the artefacts on it possibly dating back as far as the 1600s, but nothing so far has given us a positive identification. Distance from Weymouth 6 miles.

Alexander cannon site - 26m

Like so many sites in this area, this cannon site remains a mystery. From a location perspective one obvious candidate is the East Indiaman the Alexander which foundered in March 1815. But while some items seem consistent, not all the artefacts on this site seem to match with that of a merchantman. If you come dive the site you will immediately see why. Distance from Weymouth 13 miles.

Elana R - 27m

This steamship weighing 4,576 gross tons and 370ft long was built in Virginina, USA in 1917 and launched as the Munindies. She was acquired by a Greek shipping syndicate which renamed her Elena R after the wife of its head. Working initially in the Mediterranean, during WWII she worked between South America and the Mediterranean. She sank on 22 November 1939 while on voyage from Argentina to Antwerp carrying a full cargo of wheat. Whilst avoiding the Shambles Lightship, she was struck by a mine which exploded on the port side of her bow. The 24 man crew had time to take to their own lifeboats, and reach the light vessel where they were picked up by the Weymouth lifeboat and landed at Weymouth.

She is fairly well broken and lies with her bow to the south-east but makes a good dive with some parts standing up 6m. Distance from Weymouth 8 miles.

Alex van Opstal - 28m

This Danish built, Belgian owned 5965 ton cargo and passenger liner was one of the first large ships to be sunk by mines just 2 weeks after the start of WWII. She struck a mine laid by a type 1A U-boat on 15 September, 1939 when she was returning from New York to Antwerp and had been requested by the ship’s owners to divert to Weymouth for inspection. She was only built 2 years earlier. On board were a crew of 49 and 8 passengers. The explosion beneath number 2 hold lifted the ship out of the water and broke its back forward of the bridge. All crew and passengers were rescued by the Greek steamship Atlanticos. The Alex Van Opstal sank soon after, falling across a cable and put number three submarine detection loop, part of the harbour’s defence system, out of action. Distance from Weymouth 8 miles.

St Albans cannons - 28m

This site was discovered diving from Wey Chieftain IV in June 2016. A number of cannons of differing sizes and shapes exist at the site. One thing is for sure – they are all very old and unusual guns, dating from the 18th century and possibly even the 17th century. We believe there must be more artefacts to be found on the site between the cannons and huge anchor which sit approximately 70m apart. More waiting to be discovered. Distance from Weymouth 15 miles.

St Dunstan - 28m

Built as a bucket dredger in 1894, St Dunstan was requisitioned and is believed to have been working as a minesweeper at the time of her sinking on 23rd September, 1917. On her final voyage from Portsmouth to Haulbowline (Cork) via Pembroke she was forced to take anchor in Weymouth Bay to repair a fault with the steering gear. She continued the voyage with two trawler escorts but was struck on the port quarter which completely incapacitated the port engine. Initially it was thought St Dunstan was hit by a torpedo but no submarine or torpedo was seen and so the area was swept for mines and 5 were discovered and destroyed. The explosion jammed the lifeboat which couldn’t be cleared quickly enough and the men were ordered to jump fearing the vessel would capsize. The St Dunstan turned over and her boilers exploded as she sank. Two men her first mate and a deck hand drowned.

Although she lies upside down on the seabed, you can find the two enormous boilers and the engine exposed behind them and dredger chain and cogs and buckets. There is often an abundance of life on this wreck. Distance from Weymouth 19 miles.

Aeolian Sky - 30m

The Aeolian Sky was built in 1978 in Japan and owned by the Greek Proteus Maritime Shipping Company. This freighter was huge, some 148mlong and weighing 10,000 tonnes. On her final voyage she was travelling from Hull via Rotterdam to Dar es Salaam carrying a full cargo including trucks, Land Rovers, two diesel electric railway locomotives for the Tanzanian railways and 4 million pounds worth of brand new Seychelles Rupees notes (printed in New Malden!). On 3rd November 1979, she collided with a German coaster Ana Kneuppell in a storm and dense fog close to Guernsey. The Aeolian Sky came off worse. Hold 1 was flooded and the Master requested assistance from a French tug to pull her into Cherbourg. A RN helicopter arrived from Lee-on-Solent and started the evacuation of the crew before having to abort due to engine problems. By this time the ship herself was also experiencing engine problems, and drifting with just a handful of crew on board. Bulkhead 2 broke and she started to take on more water, so the initial plan was abandoned and the tug headed for the Solent. However, the port authorities of Portsmouth and Southampton, concerned that the ship would sink fouling their busy waterways, declined permission for her to enter either port. With the weather at gale force, the tug started to tow the Aeolian Sky into the storm to try to make the shelter of Portland Harbour. However at 03:45 on the 4th November 1979 she took on too much water and sank 5 miles south of St Aldhelm's Head, still 12 miles from the safety of Portland. She settled on her port side in 30m of water with her bows facing south, but she stood within 9m of the surface, making her a shipping hazard. Some salvage work and explosives cleared her to 18m. The stern and superstructure are reasonably intact, some of her cargo can still be seen including a large truck chassis, masts, derricks and a Land Rover chassis. Distance from Weymouth 14 miles.

HMS Landrail - 31m

HMS Landrail was a Curlew Class British torpedo boat built in 1886 at the Devonport dockyard, Plymouth. Besides guns, she was armed with one bow torpedo tube and two torpedo launching carriages.

At the time of her sinking in 1906 she was based at Portland Naval base and was used as target ship. After one such exercise in Lyme Bay she was being towed back to Portland Harbour and sank suddenly (despite being filled with cork) claiming the life of one man. Distance from Weymouth 15 miles.

HMS M2 - 32m

Built by Vickers in 1912, this 296ft submarine is classified as a war grave due to the fact that she sank as the result of an accident on the 26th January 1932 killing all hands. The M2 was unique in that she carried a small aircraft in a hanger built on to the conning tower and it is thought that whilst practising emergency diving the hangar door was not properly closed, quickly flooding the ship and sending her to the bottom.

She is an amazing dive virtually intact apart from the crane for aircraft recovery having been trawled off a few years ago and some clandestine salvage, which saw the removal of her propellers. The conning tower rises to a height of 9m above the sea bed, and jib of the winch is still visible in the open hanger. Distance from Weymouth 13 miles.

Moidart - 33m

Built in Sunderland in 1878, this steamship designed to carry coal (collier) and industrial goods was equipped with a 2 cylinder compound engine measured 72m long and was 1,878 gross tons. Latterly she was equipped with a gun on the stern and two Royal Navy gunners joined her crew.

On June 9th 1918 she was carrying a cargo of 1550 tons of coal and 80 tons of steel plates from Barry to Le Havre when at 2am she was torpedoed amidships by German submarine UC-77. Only 6 men out of her complement of 21 crew survived.   The Moidart sank so quickly that none of the lifeboats could be launched and all the men found themselves in the water. Those who survived (by clinging to an upturned boat) were picked up 6 hours later. The master complained to the authorities but as they had no wireless and had not let off flares the authorities had no way of knowing. The UC-77 which also sank the Pomeranian didn’t pick up any of the men stranded in the water, though spoke to them to demand the name of their vessel.    

The torpedo hit just aft of the engine-room and she now stands upright in two pieces with the rear third of the wreck lying off her port side. The gun mount can be seen on the stern section, however the gun was recovered by divers. The cargo and anchor winches can be seen as can a large single boiler. Distance from Weymouth 21 miles.

Pomeranian - 33m

Built in Hull, she launched as SS Grecian Monarch in 1882, a passenger ship of the Monarch Line. Her maiden voyage was London to New York. After the company went into liquidation in 1886, she was acquired by the Allan Line in 1887 and renamed SS Pomeranian sailing the London – Montreal and Glasgow-Montreal routes.  In 1893, in a severe storm that carried away her bridge, chartroom and foredeck saloon, 6 crew and 4 passengers were swept to sea. She returned to Glasgow, was rebuilt and her masts reduced to two. In 1902 she was fitted with a larger triple expansion engine.

In 1916, the Allan Line was acquired by Canadian Pacific Ocean Services, Montreal. Her final voyage was from London to New Brunswick carrying a general cargo including ground chalk , Fullers earth and the famous diving helmets. She was on route to Falmouth to pick up orders when at 05h30 on April 15th 1918 her crew -quarter was hit by a torpedo from UC-77.  At the time, the majority of the crew was asleep and only one man survived out of a complement of 56.  The survivor, second engineer William Bell, who initially went to the ships telegraph awaiting orders following the impact eventually managed to climb part of the rigging which remained above water after the sinking and hold onto the mast for 1hr until a patrol ship rescued him. The Admiralty noted that so many died because of the cold water and absence of life rafts aboard.

HMS Sidon - 34m

HMS Sidon was a S -class Royal Navy submarine launched in September 1944 built by Cammell Laird, Birkenhead. In 1953 she took part in the Fleet Review to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. On the morning of 16 June 1955, HMS Sidon was moored alongside the depot ship HMS Maidstone in Portland Harbour. She was about to be testing a new peroxide (HTP) powered MK12 torpedo code-named ‘Fancy’. However one of the torpedoes exploded on board the submarine prior to the test. HMS Sidon flooded and sank within 20 minutes taking with her 13 men including Maidstone's medical officer, Temporary Surgeon Lieutenant Charles Eric Rhodes. He had gone aboard with the rescue party, assisted several survivors, and suffocated because he was using a DSEA set that he had not been trained to use. One week later the wreck was raised and towed into a causeway on Chesil Beach. The bodies of the 13 casualties were removed and buried in the Portland Royal Naval Cemetery. The torpedo programme was terminated and the torpedoes taken out of use by 1959. HMS Sidon was refloated, then sunk to act as an ASDIC target on 14 June 1957

She lies north-west to south-east and rises 8m off the seabed. Distance from Weymouth 14 miles.

UB 74 - 34m

UB 74 was a 651 ton UB III class German submarine built in 1917. She was powered by 2 x 6 cylinder diesel engines and 2 Mafferi electric motors. She carried 10 torpedoes, had 4 bow torpedo tubes, and 1 stern torpedo tube, and a 105mm deck gun. On the 26th May 1918 she was on patrol and harrying a number of merchant vessels in the area. She had already fired a torpedo at vessel Jabiru, but HM armed yacht Lorna was also steaming towards the area in protection of the merchantmen. At 21:55 a crew member on board Lorna saw a periscope. Lieutenant Tottenham ordered the helm hard over and it passed over UB74 brushing over the top of the conning tower. Lorna immediately started depth charging. Two loud explosions followed and the sea erupted. Four objects were seen in the water and Lorna followed up with a third depth charge, only to then see the objects were in fact men. Three were killed instantly, the fourth brought on board Lorna. Before dying the German sailor e told the crew of Lorna that the vessel was UB 74 commanded by Oberleutnant Ernst Steindorff and that they had torpedoed three enemy ships. Lieutenant Tottenham was awarded the DSO for the action and many of the crew of Lorna decorated. A salient reminder of the suffering on all sides.

Today the wreckage stands well proud of the sea bed and makes a very interesting dive. The torpedo tubes are all still clearly visible. Distance from Weymouth 12 miles.

Ailsa Craig - 35m

Ailsa Craig was a British Steamship built by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co in Troon in 1906 and operated by Hugh Craig & Co, a Belfast based coal-merchant and ship-owner. Some 601 gross tons and measuring 185 ft, with her 80 horse power engine she would travel at ~10 knots carrying coal across the English Channel. The Ailsa Craig was armed with one 13 pdr gun.

She was carrying 705 tons of coal from Cardiff to Granville (Normandy) consigned to the French State Railway when she was sunk by the German submarine UB-80 on April 15th 1918. Her master, Captain Millikew, was on the bridge at the time maintaining the zig-zag course required at the time to avoid the U-boats. The torpedo hit at 7.10am and took out the whole midship section of the ship’s keel. The crew of 15 and DEMS gunners who were all British were ordered to abandon ship, immediately took to the port lifeboat and were clear of the Ailsa Craig which sank within 5 minutes. 

At the time, the UB-80 patrolled the area between Start point and Portland Bill and sank the steamships Grane and Martha the previous month. The Pomeranian was also sunk on April 15th 1918 (a mere 1.5hrs before the Ailsa Craig) by UC-77. In total the UB-80 sank 20 merchant ships. The Pomeranian was also sunk on April 15th 1918 (a mere 1.5hrs before the Ailsa Craig) by UC-77. Distance from Weymouth 21 miles.

Frogner - 35m

Frognor was a Norwegian Steam Cargo Ship built in Oslo in 1907. Her name Frogner comes from an exclusive district of Oslo – Oslo's equivalent to Knightsbridge in London. Built with a triple expansion steam engine, she weighed 1,476 tons gross and measured 260ft long.

On April 29th 1918, Frognor was on route from St Malo to Montreal in ballast. She started the journey in convoy but parted from it when she was close to the British Coast. Isolated from the convoy, she was sunk by the German submarine UC-17, hit by a torpedo in the aft hold.  Her crew of 19 (mainly from the Nordics) survived and landed at Weymouth.  Distance from Weymouth 12 miles.

 

Holmtown - 36m

SS Holmtown, built by R. Thompson & Sons, Ltd., Sunderland in 1907 was a British 598 ton steam cargo ship (53 x 9 m) with a single triple expansion engine and screw. On February 3rd, 1918, Holmtown, on a voyage from Rouen to Penarth Dock in ballast, was sunk by the German submarine UB-59 (Erwin Waßner), east from the Shambles light vessel with the loss of all fifteen crew. This is now the most likely candidate for the wreck at this position. For years people haved dived this being told it was the Arfon, only for the HMT Arfon to be discovered and identified in 2014 by Bryan and Martin Jones. Distance from Weymouth 15 miles.

Ethel - 38m

The Ethel was a British Steamship built in Stockton-On-Tees in 1898. She weighed over 2300 gross tons, 88m long and was fitted with a triple expansion engine. On September 16th, 1918, en route from Rouen to Barry in ballast, defensively-armed, without warning she was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-104. Her crew survived.  The wreck was discovered in the late eighties and lies outside the Shambles bank. She is in two parts (the bows are detached and are lying on the western side of the main body of the wreck), well collapsed amidships but stands at the bow and stern. The wreck is often attracts much life.  [Image of the Pontwen from the same builders]. Distance from Weymouth 9 miles.

Anworth - 38m

Discovered in 1988, the 'Anworth' or 'Lobster wreck' is a small steam coaster about 150ft long with a beam of 25ft. The bow is broken and lying in two sections though the stern missing. A single boiler, condenser and other machinery are present. The cargo included bags of cement which can be seen throughout the wreck. A bell was recovered from this wreck engraved with the name 'Anworth' on it, hence the name attached to the wreck, but so far no record has been found of an Anworth in the archives. She sits upright and stands 8m off the seabed. The bridge and accommodation superstructure is lying complete but detached on the seabed, near the bow on the portside to the north-east. Distance from Weymouth 12 miles.

P555 - 39m

This American S – class boat was completed in 1922 at the Bethlehem Yard in Massachusetts and immediately joined the US Naval Fleet (as the USS S-24). She had a crew of 42, was 67m long, and weighed 854 tons. Armed with twelve 21 inch torpedoes and a 4in deck gun, the submarine had a speed of 11 knots when submerged. Operating out of Connecticut, she served in several locations including California and Pearl Harbour, however her design was not considered satisfactory.

She was decommissioned in 1942, transferred under lease to the Royal Navy and renamed the P555. She was assigned to the 7th Submarine Flotilla based at Holy Loch and used as a training vessel.  She was the first ever serving British Submarine to be commanded by a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) – Edward Preston “Teddy” Young, who, in his other life, was a graphic designer working for Penguin Books, responsible for designing the cover scheme used by Penguin for many years as well as drawing the original Penguin logo. Following damage caused by a collision in the Clyde, ownership transferred back to the US Navy in 1944. In 1947, the P555 was intentionally sunk by the Royal Navy for use as an ASDIC target (an early form of sonar used to detect submarines). Her gun-deck and propellers were removed before the sinking. Distance from Weymouth 12 miles.

Netley Abbey - 39m

The Netley Abbey was an iron screw steamship, built at West Hartlepool in 1878, and was registered at Cardiff, her official No. being 79,383.   She was 260 ft long with a gross tonnage of 1,725. She was brigantine rigged, and fitted with a 2 cylinder compound engine. On the 4th August 1899 when en route from Cardiff to Cronstadt carrying a cargo of coal for the Russian Government she collided in fog with HMS Surprise at 04:25. HMS Surprise took the company of 23 men aboard and the Netley Abbey sank at 04:49. Previously the wreck was thought to have been that of the Start or Hartburn. Distance from Weymouth 14 miles.