Wreck Appreciation course – April 2010

This is a fairly new BSAC course with the defined objective:

to enable divers to safely dive wrecks and recognise and appreciate what they see’

The course was held specifically for BUDC and was run by the project director of The Nautical Archaeology Society, Mark Beattie Edwards and a voluntary helper, Sara and ran over two days.

Andrew, Jenny, Malcolm, Dave, George, Steve, Jacqui  and myself were in attendance.

The syllabus is a mix of theory and practical with two dives on a specific wreck, no clue was given as to the identity of the wreck just to add an air of mystery.

Day One

Off to a classroom at the Portland Leisure Centre for the initial lectures on wreck location and ship construction and wreck layout, Jenny was delighted to discover what a ‘prop shaft’  was as Andrew had been referring to them for years and she was none the wiser! We all learnt that what we commonly refer to as bollards on ships are in fact bitts (bollards are on quays/bitts are on ships)

Then it was time to get wet, suited up we boarded a RIB provided by Scimitar Diving for the short crossing over to the breakwater, weather was sunny and calm. Was it going to be the ‘Countess of Erme’ we speculated? Dropped in to 14m of water right next to the breakwater, viz was mulligatawny so we groped down the shot until we hit something hard, this was a preliminary dive meant to orientate us to the wreck which we inspected rivet by rivet, at the stern Mark very kindly pointed out several letters just distinguishable N…C…..L (nuclear?) in fact it was Newcastle!

All pairs returned safely from the murk and we sped back to Portland, mad dash for lunch then back to our classroom, more lectures then outside to learn basis site survey techniques and the laying of distance lines.


After a hard day, we walked over to Chesil beach for a few beers, supper and a spectacular sun set.  

Day Two

Began the day with a lecture on wreck laws and site recording and wrecks and marine life, then back aboard the RIB clutching measuring tapes and recording slates, the sun still shining and the sea calm, dropped on to the wreck, viz had improved to scotch broth!

Each pair was allocated a section of the wreck, Malcolm and I had the port side of the bow which was uppermost so no too much grubbing in the primordial ooze. We diligently measured our target area, made comprehensive sketches and after  50 mins we ascended, upon surfacing I discovered to my horror that my slate was gone, all that vital data lost to the depths! Malcolm couldn’t stop laughing!

Boarded the RIB, de-kitted then indulged in a bit of acrobatic jumping from the boat much to the disgust of the senior BUDC members.  Andrew and Steve also had data problems in that by some freak of nature all their measurements and drawing had been erased from their slate. Discovering the identity of this wreck was going to be an even greater conundrum. Fortunately the other two pairs had not suffered any equipment failure although Dave got so wrapped up in the tape he arrived on the surface like a trussed turkey! Back to shore, scramble to get some eats then back to the classroom.

Under Mark’s supervision we diligently entered the little data that was left after the morning’s debacles and came up with a ship shape (result!) and where the bitts and railings were so by a stroke of brilliant detective work and much prompting the M/V Cragside revealed itself!  

It was a great course, we all learned something new about the wrecks we dive and their structure and would recommend it to all. (PJC)


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