The Hera, the first time

Dive Details

Launched from – Falmouth
Boat used – Redeemer
Date – 21/01/06
Time – 15:12
Max Depth – 15.3 m
Duration – 62 minutes
Temp – 9 C
Rating – 3

The Hera was a 4 mast 280ft long steel barque, that foundered in rough weather on the 30th January 1914. Her cargo was 30,000 British Pounds worth of nitrate from Chile, a valuable cargo for the time. When it sank in 15-18m only her masts and rigging remained above water, the crew were clinging to the wet ropes for their lives. With one whistle between them, they passed it along and blew in turn until the Falmouth lifeboat, guided by the whistle rescued the survivors.

The wreck now lies a few hundred metres north of Gull rock, east of Nare head in 15-18m of water. I was diving at low tide, so it was going to be only 15m maximum, despite much of my diving being far deeper, some of the my best dives have been in shallow waters. I wasn’t to be disappointed on this dive.

It was a bit of a change for me diving the south coast of Cornwall, but due to recent weather conditions the north coast had very poor visibility, and I felt it was about time I did some more south coast diving.

The Hera is a popular dive with everyone in Falmouth, it is well protected from all winds except an easterly, and is a popular destination when the sea is less inviting.

Diving on a hard boat, Redeemer from Falmouth, we left early to catch slack water. The cold crisp air was fresh and sweet, we headed out on a mirror flat sea and clear blue skies, the only noise being the rumble of the engines, the chatter of the divers and the scream of the seagulls overhead. The bow sliced through the calm waters, creating the only surface disturbance as we made our way to the dive site. By the time we arrived the rest of the divers were kitted up and entered into the clear water as soon as the shot was dropped over the side by the skipper, I followed a few minutes later following the line encased in shimmering bubbles from the divers beneath, down into the pale green.

The visibility was around about 6-8m allowing me to get a good view of the wreck site. There were several large Wrasse and Pollack patrolling around their hunting ground, their presence showing as slowly moving shadows on the edge of the visibility.

The wreck is very broken, rusted metal pieces lie jumbled, broken by the many winter storms leaving the visiting diver with no instantly visible means of telling whereabouts on the wreck you were. I started off in a clockwise direction, the wreck lies on bed of pale flat sand so I wasn’t going to get lost.

Small and not so perfectly formed

Soon I pass some of the divers coming back, already having circumnavigated the wreck, I wasn’t too far from one end of it! The sand around the wreck appeared to be normal, but close to the wreck it looked more like dead coral, it turned out to be dead Maerl, a form of calcified seaweed.

The wreck had a small covering of kelp and a reasonable growth of ‘Dead man’s fingers’ giving it a fuzzy appearance if they have their feeding arms extended, magnificent plumose & a scattering of jewel anemones. Thousands of young starfish cling to the metal, their many feeding arms under their tough pale bodies picking the wreck clean of detritus as they move slowly as if a living carpet.

As I rounded what I assumed was the bow before me gaped a dark opening, about 1.5m in diameter, I decided not to enter this time and followed back up the other side.

The bronze fronds of kelp sway in the gentle surge on the wrecksite, amongst which I spotted a Nudibranch ‘Limacia Clavigera’, about 13mm long, slowly making its way over the smooth surface. I refrained from pinning it down and managed to photograph it whilst it was in it ‘natural state’.

Onward and Inward

Making my way onward I came across what was the other end of the opening I had seen earlier. I carefully entered into the dark interior and swam through about 30m of wreck making my way to the bow. The inside was fairly empty, a few Bib darting away from my obviously unwelcome presence, anemones inhabiting the comparatively sheltered waters of the dark recesses and dead man’s fingers again festooning many of the exposed plates.

Retracing my route, my torch beam picks out large frame among the jumble of plates and girders, similar in shape to an �A� frame on a RIB but standing 5 or so metres high. It was covered in plumose anemones, which were all closed giving them a jelly like appearance, and vibrant jewel anemones clung the underside. To the other side of the A frame I found one of the masts lying as it must have fallen when the vessel sank, and could see some more on the sand away from the main bulk of the wreck, tracking off into the green.

My attention was drawn to a large rather inquisitive Ballen Wrasse among the kelp. He wouldn’t let me close enough to get a good photograph, but he wouldn’t swim that far away either. He even tried to play hide and seek, just sneaking a peek around a piece of kelp.

I was now back to where I had started from, it only took 20 minutes to swim around, so off I went again, this time I spotted a ‘Football Jersey Worm’ making its way over the coarse sea bed and a wide variety of fish proving this wreck has a plethora of life. After my third lap of this incredible little wreck I remembered that there were two brave people in semi-dry suits on the boat and thought it better I return. I released the anchor from near the wreckage for the skipper and made my ascent.

A very easy and pleasant dive for any level of diver, in perfect conditions, Cornwall at its best.