Report by George Mitchell
With favourable tides and gorgeous Bank Holiday weather (actual sunshine all day, temperatures around 29°C and a pleasant 10kt breeze) who could resist a day out on the club boat. We had an early start arriving at the marina around 7:30am. Heading out to sea on a course of 186° we seemed to be about the only boat out. On the cruise one of the engines was hunting, the revs varying over 1000rpm. Much discussion ensued as to the cause but whatever was going on it didn’t stop the boat cruising at 20kts. With the tide still running a little Julian planted the shot line very nicely not far from one of the boilers which had appeared clear as a bell on the new sounder.
Julian and Stuart chose to go first. After 20 minutes the rest of us (George, Tim and Andrew) spotted a DSMB pop up and watched it gradually drift away from the shot line. We were puzzled by two things. Firstly, why would the dive be so short if the shot was so well on the wreck. Secondly why were there no bubbles coming up near the buoy. On closer inspection it seemed that Julian had used a DSMB to lift a little pack of something interesting and after retrieving it we reckoned it was slate. After about 50 minutes our two divers did surface reporting viz of about 4m and lots of life and a good dive.
The rest of us dropped in and descended along the shot line. We hooked the lifting bag onto the shot and sent that up nicely to the surface. The boiler tubes were inhabited as usual by tompot blennies and in one of the furnace chambers there was a large smart looking conger eel. Pollock and wrasse were also there in good numbers. Heading towards the bow the wreck is very flattened but there are some decent lumps of metal recognisable including the anchor winch, a huge pile of chain and a hawsehole near the remnants of the bow. Turning back and swimming against the now slightly increasing flood tide I thought we might head astern past the boilers to see if we could find the rudder and prop, but we did a circuit round the bow again. Shortly before we finally ascended Tim spotted a very large edible crab. I could see Tim contemplating capture but the crab was having none of that nonsense and with impressively extended claws backed away under a plate.
Back on board despite the day being yet young and the conditions still very fair there seemed no appetite for a second dive. My disbelief was obvious and eventually I managed to persuade Andrew to go in again. Topping up his bottle from a spare 12l I had brought along (with my trusty decanting hose) we were dropped off somewhere near the Waldrons. It was one of those lovely lazy drift dives bobbing along at no more than half a knot around 12m down. We spotted a Dover Sole about 16” long almost completely under the sand. I was pleased to get nearly another half an hour underwater. The presence of a few jewel anemones (Corynactis viridis) on the wreck signalled a change in extent of their habitat compared to the 80’s when we never saw them this far east (not even at Swanage). That siting and the water temperature of 19°C at the surface and 18°C at the seabed only emphasise the fact that climate change is now very rapid. All in all it was a very pleasant day out on the boat in sunny England.
Information about the wreck
SS Glenlee, a British steamer of 4915 tons, was built by Chas. Connell & Co. Ltd., Glasgow in 1918 and owned at the time of her loss by Rio Cape Line, Ltd. (Furness, Withy & Co. Ltd.), Newcastle, was. On August 9th, 1918, Glenlee, on a voyage from Dunkerque to Portland with a cargo of government stores, was sunk by the German submarine UB-57 (Johannes Lohs), 4 miles NE of the Owers lightvessel (which has been replaced by a beacon these days). 1 person was lost. The wreck site is now very flat with the ship’s hull being effectively opened up and flattened on the sand. The 2 boilers stand about 4 m high. Reports of an extremely large conger eel seem to corelate with our experience. As the depth is only 20m or so it is a good first wreck dive rather like the Ore Wreck.