S.S. Stanwood

The Stanwood was a 4158 ton steamship, that had been confiscated from the Germans at the end of the Great War (WW1). It was used for carrying cargo for many years, until one day in December 1939, she caught fire.

The are several stories about her exact final moments, but my favourite is that when she caught fire, she was carrying a cargo of coal. She was towed her away from the harbour and scuttled. The idea was that she would sit on the shallow ledge, 12m below and would be easily salvaged or re-floated, but instead on landing flat on the bottom, she turned over and slid down the bank. She was heavily salvaged, then the remains were blown apart, as she had been deemed a danger to shipping.

We met up at the usual place, Customs House Quay in Falmouth, on what was a surprisingly warm and sunny day. A few boats were whizzing by taking advantage of the weather and the gentle warm breeze. The North Easterly wind had kept up overnight, which is what we expected, and the plan to dive the Stanwood was our only decent option. Once again we set off on Redeemer, nine of us in total. Usually everyone likes to sit in the heated cabin, but it was such a warm day everyone stayed on the rear deck. Shaun did his favourite thing of dropping us on the ledge, so we could decide how deep we wanted to go. I decided to do a free descent rather than use the shotline and see what I could find.

The wreck lies between 10 and 25 metres. There were huge pieces everywhere. I could see twisted beams and plates and pieces of pipes sticking up two or three metres which all told the tale of the Stanwoods’ violent end. She now makes a perfect home for lobsters and crabs, as well as the odd conger. Jewel and plumose anemones have also taken up residence, as well as the usual dead mans’ fingers. I didn’t see any shoals of fish, but there were plenty of pipefish and dogfish laying around. There was also a large area of wreckage that you could swim under quite comfortably and a possible swim through, but I thought I’d better see the other end first and choose a time when there was no current. The biggest pieces of the wreck were between ten and twelve metres, but it is scattered over a very large area. It was hard to tell where any of the pieces came from on the original ship.

The only piece I could clearly distinguish I found after the current eventually got the better of me and I had headed off with the flow.

It was the anchor and chain!