A Weekend at Porthkerris – Sunday

16 May 2006

Chynhallis Reef, Spyridion Vagliano and The Mohegan

After a nice relaxed evening and a good night’s sleep, it was up early for ropes off at 9am. We had left our kit on the boat the previous day, only taking off our cylinders to be filled.

So all we had to do was to collect our cylinders, put them on the roll able jetty and wait for the boat. It came to the jetty at 9am and off we set.

Chynhallis Reef

Yesterday we had decided to do the Manacles today on slack water, but that wasn’t until the afternoon, so it was decided that the first dive today would be on Chynhallis Reef near Coverack. On the way we saw a basking shark’s fin breaking the surface. Within seconds most of us had snorkels, fins and cameras to the ready, while Mike manoeuvred the boat a little closer. The shark decided it didn’t want to play and dropped down out of sight. Excitement over, time to head on to the dive site. Without us knowing it we were already there. This was going to be a drift dive over the reef which ran out seaward from the headland, then there was some sand and another reef. You could see the water was running; the sea looked like it was boiling over the ridge, it looked fun. We all entered in our pairs and did a free descent to the bottom. The current was quite strong and we were moving at quite a rate, occasionally finding shelter in the gullies. Going over the ridge the current was very confusing. According to my compass I seemed to be going round in circles for a little while. I kept trying to get a closer look at the reef and found small jewel anemones and cup corals. The reef was mainly covered in soft corals called dead man’s fingers and hard corals in the form of sea fans, with sea cucumbers in large numbers. On one section of sand I came across a large dogfish, but unfortunately with the current I was moving too fast to get a clear photo. There were also sea squirts, nudibranch eggs and a lot of starfish of different kinds. A maximum depth of 23m was recorded. There were places where I could have gone deeper, but there wouldn’t have been much more to see. I wasn’t sure how far I had travelled until I eventually surfaced over half a mile from the entry point.

For our lunch break we moored near a small beach away from the small swell that was further out, waiting until slack water and our dive on the Manacles.

Spyridion Vagliano

It was time to move onto the Manacles. Situated on the eastern side of the Lizard, the Manacles are notorious for claiming ships. Dozens of ships over the years have come to a bitter end on the multiple pinnacles; some break the surface, some just below. Mike had decided to drop us on the Spyridion Vagliano first. From here we could get to the Mohegan quite easily. We entered the water and as Mike said a short swim north and we were on the wreck. To be honest I had a quick look at the wreck and decided that I wanted to spend most of my time on the Mohegan, and hopefully get to Raglans Reef before the slack water was over. I headed for the bow of the Spyridion, over the various parts of broken wreckage until there were no more pieces left. I then swam on a course of 120 degrees to get me close to the boilers of the Mohegan.

The Mohegan

The Mohegan is huge, a 7000 ton 482 feet long steamship. It was drastically off course and hit Vase Rock of the Manacles losing its rudder in 1898. It then ploughed into the Voices (Maen Voes), ripping a huge hole below its waterline and taking the top off of the Voices. Previously they were always visible, now they are only visible on low tide. After my swim from the Spyridion I found myself somewhere on the Mohegan. I wasn’t sure where, the compass was unreliable surrounded by 7000 tonnes of steel. I assumed I was closer to the bows as it was more broken than I remember the rest of the wreck. I headed along the wreck past large plates and ribs, the occasional bollards and hatch doorways breaking the expanse of flat metal. I eventually came across the three huge boilers. If the visibility was 6m I couldn’t see the tops of them. It was at this point I came across Neil swimming through the gap between the boilers. I looked and thought I wouldn’t fit – Neil just did. I then decided to carry on towards the stern. I was going to try and get my value for money and also dive on Raglans. Before I could get to the stern the current had started running and I was fighting against it, so I started to drift back over the starboard edge of the wreck. The wreck has a large amount of sea fans and dead man’s fingers, wrasse of every type, bib and lots of starfish. Every time I dive the Mohegan I keep thinking that I have seen it all, but there is always something I haven’t found before. It is a massive wreck. Eventually I found myself back at the bow area and decided it was time for a cup of tea, and hopefully there was some chocolate left.

The Mohegan is a must for anyone visiting the Lizard who likes metal. You could spend all day searching the wreck for the odd plate or memento that occasionally surfaces.