A few years ago I wrote a few guides about Falmouth underwater. These were short separate guides about wrecks, marine life, snorkelling, shore diving and dive sites around the area. These were well received and a few people said I should sell them. With that in mind, I have collated them, added more information and lots more photos. I have just converted them to a Kindle Book and it is available on Amazon for just £2.99. Packed full of full colour images of the underwater wildlife and wrecks around Falmouth. You can preview a few pages or buy it here – Falmouth Underwater Kindle version
This book is now available in print, re-formatted so it looks quite good, full of updated and improved images, it isn’t cheap as it is print on demand and full colour. The print version is also available from Amazon – Falmouth Underwater Paperback
Close to the wreck of the Volnay there is a small sea mount. We hadn’t noticed it in the past but recent nautical chart updates made it stand out. We headed out there in our boat, Stingray, to have a look. It was high tide, the sounder showed 13.9m at the top of the pinnacle and 21m at the bottom. The top of the pinnacle looked like a camel’s back with two humps, there were several steps on the reef and a lot of noise around it. We were on another job at the time, so couldn’t dive, we would go back though.
A week later we headed back, this time it was low water. The top was around 10m with the sea bed at 17m. We dropped a shot line on the south side at 17m, it was just after low water, so any tide would take us over the pinnacle. We descended, there was a little amount of tide. The first thing we noticed was that there were a lot of big rocks around the area. Under the rocks there were crawfish, crabs and lobsters, around the rocks there were and several species of wrasse, bib and pollock. The deeper areas were quite sparse and a little silty with several urchins and starfish. As we ascended the pinnacle we noticed there were still quite a few large rocks, some lying on top of others creating a bridge. Various sea weeds appeared as we got shallower, still plenty of fish and other marine life. At the top there were more than just the twin peaks, several large boulders and a few rocky tips.
The whole area had a lot of rocks around it, they grew less the further away you went. It was typical of a fallen stone stack. When it had fallen may never be known, it may have been a hundred years ago or even thousands of years ago. What we do know is that it is now a haven for life. The visibility around low water wasn’t great at between 2-4m on this day, it may be better at high water or on another day. It was quite interesting and although it is quite small, we only covered less than half of it. We shall return to have another look, we may even find some divers who would like to visit the site.
At the end of the Great War, the Keisers’s high seas fleet was interned at Scapa Flow, Orkney. Due to some miscommunication or maybe the lack of communication, Rear Admiral von Reuter ordered the scuttling of the entire fleet. Most were removed straight away, except some of the vessels that were in deeper water. The German U-Boats, in UK waters went to Harwich to surrender, receiving various fates over the next few years. Some were dispatched to Falmouth. The exact reason why any were sent to Falmouth does not seem to be documented too well. There are also misleading reports about the actual number sent, somewhere between five and nine. One supposedly broke it’s tow near Dodman point and started taking on water. So they used it for a bit of target practice. Apparently it was easier to sink it than try and restart the tow. There are two U-Boats near Dodman Point, UB113 and UB118. UB113 was on patrol when lost according to official records, UB118 was part of the convoy to Falmouth. The remaining U-Boats ended up moored in Falmouth Bay, awaiting whatever their fate would be. There are stories that a south easterly wind arrived and the U-Boats came adrift from their moorings. The large waves drove them onto the rocks. What we do know is that there are the remains of five left in the area.
Although the reason for the U-Boats being sent to Falmouth is not documented, it may well be that what happened to them once they arrived, was the actual reason for their trip to Falmouth. Naval records within the National Archive, state that they were used in experiments, to test for weaknesses in their construction. A huge lifting rig, Cyklops, carried them out into deep water, lowering them down to the seabed. Cyklops moved away. Charges were set off at various places around the U-Boats, the subs were then recovered and inspected for damage. This was repeated several times for each of the submarines. At the end of the tests, they were dropped off close to the rocks on Pendennis. Within the National Archive, there is a photo of UB86 and the stern of Cyklop, captioned “BEACHING U.B.86. STERN OF CYKLOP”. They were then manually hauled up onto the rocks, below the castle. The official records did not state whether this happened over a period of a few years, or just the one occurrence.
The official records stated that UB86, UB97, UB112, UB106, UB100, UB128 & UC92 arrived at Falmouth. So what is left now?
Over the years, many photos were taken of the submarines. Most offered no clues as to what they were. One photo, from an unknown source, shows a U-Boat in a gully, with it’s stern out of the water. On the side of the conning tower, it’s markings of UB86 are visible. Quite a bit of the submarine remains underwater. On a very low spring tide, some of it is visible from the surface.
A lot of the contemporary photographs showed both UB86 with another submarine close to that. Within the records at Historic England, they have a collection of photographs, taken by a British Naval submariner at the time. They are of UB86 and the other submarine, one of the photos shows the markings of that submarine, UB112. There are some remains of this submarine left, although most of it lies close to the sea bed. Divers notice a large three pronged fork, which is the highest point of the wreckage that remains. It is thought to be part of the hydrovane’s mechanism.
A little further east of these two wrecked submarines, there are remains of two more. Most of the time these lie hidden under the sand, only becoming exposed after some storms. These are virtually impossible to identify, although one may be UB106, according to an excerpt from the National Archive.
Wessex Archaeology spent two days in July 2013, investigating the Castle Beach site, taking photos etc. I assisted and even revisited to go and take a couple of extra measurements for their official record. There are six circular features near the shore end of the sub, measuring 1m in diameter and 9m from front of the first to the rear of the last. This was the last piece of data required to determine that it is in fact UC92. The six circular features are the mine shafts, UC92 was the only mine layer of the six. Records state it was lifted in 1971 and scrapped, it looks like it wasn’t lifted, just dragged up onto Castle Beach to be scrapped. The stern lies at 50.147027, -5.055695, the bow at 50.147299, -5.055984, it is visible on Bing maps or Google maps. On a low spring tide, the bow is visible out of the water.
Over the years the Falmouth U-Boats have had a hard time. They were gradually broken up and salvaged. Whatever was left was then possibly flattened by George Renton in 1966/7. Contracted by the Navy or maybe by the Harbour Master, George did a fine job of flattening the remains.
Details within the National Archive “Explosive trials on German submarines: 1921“ ref:ADM 189/102, are held at the National Archives, Kew.
A group of volunteer divers, led by Mark Milburn, went out into Falmouth Bay today to release seven hundred juvenile lobsters for the National Lobster Hatchery. Their chosen location was just off of Rosemullion Headland. Diving in two groups, Mr Milburn dived with the first group, they descended and released around half the lobsters. They then headed along the reef to do a little exploring. It wasn’t long before they came across a piece of net, standing 4-5m from the sea bed. They then realised that it continued a long way and was stretched across the reef. Within a few metres they came across some spider crabs, caught in the net, they started to cut the crabs free. Once they had released the crabs, placing them some distance away, they continued along the net. The net had dozens of spider crabs, brown crabs and lobsters trapped along it’s length, stretching out for over one hundred metres across the reef. The divers left a surface marker buoy in place for the second group to locate the net. The first group thought it was going to be a very dangerous operation to remove the net, the nest group could offer a second opinion about potentially removing the net. The first group headed for the surface, where their boat came to collect them. They dropped a buoyed anchor by the surface marker buoy, which was then recovered.
While the second group was kitting up, a local fisherman, Tim Bailey came across to see if the representative from the National Lobster Hatchery was on board. She hadn’t gone out on the boat but had returned to the hatchery in Padstow. Mr Milburn told Mr Bailey of the net, explaining it’s size and direction as best he could from what he had seen. Mr Bailey offered to help recover the net using his mechanical hauler aboard his boat. It would be a lot safer than divers trying to do it. The second group entered the water and descended down the buoyed anchor line. Once they reached the sea bed, they released the rest of the baby lobsters, they then tied the anchor to the rope of the net. Once they competed they dive, Mr Bailey picked up the buoyed line and attached it to his hauler. Four of the divers went aboard Mr Bailey’s boat to help bring the net aboard. For over thirty minutes they pulled and hauled at the net, slowly dragging it aboard. Eventually they managed to bring the whole net aboard, with an estimated length at well over one hundred metres. Once back at harbour, more fishermen came to help Mr Bailey with the disposal of the net. How many creatures it has caught and killed will never be known, it won’t be able to kill any more.
At Atlantic Scuba we have a large air system, with a high output high pressure compressor. We have 16 filling whips, DIN or INT (A Clamp/Yoke), so can simultaneously fill 16 cylinders at once. We also have a gas booster and can offer nitrox and trimix mixes.
We can offer out of hours fills for clubs and large groups at our normal filling prices. We quite often fill cylinders for several BSAC and other clubs on trips to Penzance, Hayle or St Ives. Gas fills for all around west Cornwall.
So for Penzance air fills or Hayle air fills, contact Atlantic Scuba.
If you are needing to get some dives logged, you don’t have a buddy or know where to go, then give us a call.
We often go shore diving for fun during the week, sometimes on protected wreck sites that we have a license to visit.
We also run our own boat throughout the week, for fun or for charter. If you need or want to dive, we are quite likely to be going out. At weekends we schedule diving around Falmouth, dives are advertised and booked through a Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/falmouthdiving/
Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall has become the first dive centre in England to become affiliated with The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS).
Traditionally, NAS organise skills days for their Recorder and Surveyor courses, as well as many other archaeology related courses. These are usually at a set location and on a set date and are organised up to a year in advance.
Atlantic Scuba will be able to hold courses ‘on demand’ as they do for the range of diving courses they already offer. The Recorder and Surveyor courses can be taught as underwater courses for the qualified diver, or as intertidal courses for non-divers.
Mark Beattie-Edwards, CEO of the Nautical Archaeology Society, said: “Atlantic Scuba have set up a team of experienced instructors, including a maritime archaeologist. They are the licensees of four protected wreck sites in Cornwall, so they have plenty of fieldwork experience too.”
Atlantic Scuba intend to offer taster sessions for anyone who is interested in Nautical Archaeology. They will also be offering fieldwork days for those who have already completed the required NAS courses.
Find out more at www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.
Find out more about the nautical archaeology Society at www.nauticalarchaeologysociety.org.
WeSUP have their own webcam at Gyllyngvase Beach, it is only on during their opening hours, which is when we need it for diving.
It is a You-Tube streaming cam, so you have to press the play button. You can also go full screen, which is nice.
Since the sinking of the Scylla artificial reef near Plymouth, it has attracted many divers. The ten year estimated income generated, was £63m for Plymouth. It almost killed off the Cornish diving industry. Since then, many Cornish diving businesses have failed. Falmouth does still support three recreational diving businesses, partly due to the university, partly to do with it’s location in relation to the sea.
I have an idea for an artificial reef, near Falmouth. I choose Falmouth, as it is the only area that could support the potential arrival of more divers, for both diving and non diving wise. It would be pointless putting it in Penzance, the closest place to get air for the divers, is our shop, Atlantic Scuba, in Mabe.
The reef itself will not be a ship to sink, it is quite different from that. The idea is to construct something that resembles a ship, from 3m cubed hollow concrete blocks. Each concrete block will be made up from different aggregates and recycled materials. Different materials for each block could include:
- Standard aggregates like Granite and limestone
- Added materials like crushed glass (of different colours) or rubber beads
- Sand from different parts of the country
- Cement would be restricted to a sulphate resisting cement, due tothe harsh environment
Each block would then attract different life. Some blocks would have pipes, recesses etc. as habitats. Cornwall College or Falmouth Uni, could design and experiment with the aggregates. Cornwall College could actually make the blocks. Once made, someone like Fugro or Fal Divers could maybe place the blocks in situ. Keeping the costs to a minimum, wherever possible. My idea is NOT to construct it in one go. It would be to construct it over several years, even decades. Always evolving, always generating interest. The base blocks could be solid, to help anchor the site,the rest would be hollow. The use of hollow blocks would allow cameras to be installed, away from souvenir collectors. The images could be relayed to land and available on-line, to be connected to any screen, anywhere in the world. Potentially, live underwater images in every premises in Falmouth, or anywhere. The blocks could be filled with various items to attract life, with letterbox viewers to see inside.
The finished article would be somewhere between sixty and a hundred metres long, twenty metres wide and around the top of the bridge, would be at around fifteen metres in depth. Maximum depth would be thirty metres at high water, so something for almost every level.
The potential for studying wildlife would be endless, the life of the structure would be the potential length of the wildlife study.
So that’s the idea.