WHEN I DIVED THIS WRECK, it was thought to have been the Clyde. Since then, Dave Wendes has advised me that some taps have been found that indicate a Scandinavian origin, and the wreck may actually be the Spyros.
The identity is by no means certain, and at the moment you could flip a coin to decide which ship this wreck actually is. Both vessels had similar dimensions and fittings, so other clues to confirm identity are few and far between.
Our tour begins amidships by the boiler (1), an old design with a turret-shaped steam-dryer assembly on the top. The purpose of this is to apply a little extra heat and get the last traces of moisture out of the steam, as any moisture is fixed in volume and does not contribute to powering the engine, as the dry steam does.
Orientation is fairly easy. The dryer is towards the aft end of the boiler and the engine behind that, although our route will first go the other way, towards the bow. Forward of the boiler and on the starboard side, a figure-8-shaped machine visible between the deck beams is the steering engine (2), fallen here from a wooden wheelhouse that would once have spanned the ship above the deck.
The frame of a bulkhead separates the machinery from the second hold (3). The deck has decayed to drop the intact hold coaming into the hold. Similarly, much of the hull has decayed to leave just a framework of upright ribs along both port and starboard sides of this hold.
Staying inside the hold and towards the starboard side, the winches that would have once been mounted on deck between the hatches now both rest along the inside of the starboard side of the hull (4). The hatch coaming from the forward hold has also dropped into the hold, but not quite all the way, held up by the remnants of a few deck beams.
Forward of this is the bow, which I suspect was flush with the deck rather than a raised forecastle, though with the general decay it is hard to be sure.
A curved derrick lies along the bow (5), the top resting close to the end of a small anchor winch that stands on its end. There are no signs of anchor hawse pipes. Here the derrick would have been used to hoist anchors over the side of the ship, the chains guided
by a simple fairlead either side of the bow. Both anchors rest together (6) just beside the anchor winch.Off the bow and on the seabed at 33m, there are no signs of further debris from the wreck, although an old lobster pot has caught right at the tip of the bow.
Aiming for a non-stop tour at just over 30m, a fast route back to the boiler and engine is along the port side of the deck (7), simply because this is more intact than the starboard side.
The engine (8) is a two-cylinder compound unit, as fitted to both the Spyros and the Clyde. Scraps of coal among the debris at the bottom of the engine-room are more likely from the bunkers than the Spyross cargo of coal.
The engine-room bulkhead is just a frame across the wreck, with a mast-foot secured firmly against its centre-line (9).
Behind this, a cargo winch has fallen on one end into the hold (10). The deck about the aft hold (11) retains more structure than that about the forward holds, with the hold coaming still held in its original place.
Like the bow, the stern (12) has broken down considerably compared to the rest of the hull. I suspect that it continued the flush deck and that there was no raised quarter-deck. Any accommodation would have been in wooden deck-houses.
Beneath the stern, the propeller (13) is just visible with a single remaining blade, the other three blades having broken off. Behind the propeller, the rudder-post rises right at the stern to a simple steering bar (14).
Rather than being hidden beneath the stern, I suspect that the rudder simply extended from the back, in line with the primitive design of the rest of the ship.
The Spyros (or Clyde) is such a small and simple wreck that it can easily be toured in a brisk no-stop dive, so ascent on the shotline or a delayed SMB are both reasonable options.
Thanks to Dave Wendes and members of the Hampshire Police Diving Club.
She should be listed as an unknown, but divers regard all unknown wrecks as a challenge. So the identity of this ship off St Catherines Point has, as a result of some determined diving, been whittled down from all the unknown wrecks off the Isle of Wight
to just two.
Front-runner is a small iron steamer called the Clyde, which hit a breakwater as she left Portland Harbour in the early afternoon of Sunday, 25 May, 1902. Nobody on board worried about that. Just a bit of a bump, thats all, said the Mate.
And the 307 ton ship, which had been built in 1880 by the Whitehaven Shipbuilding Company, 131ft long with a beam of 20ft and drawing a mere 10ft, continued on her way, driven by her two-cylinder compound engine of 70hp and single boiler.
The Clyde was carrying a cargo of lead ore from Aberystwyth to Antwerp. She had put into Portland early in the morning for coal. It was when she was leaving that the bit of a bump took place.
There was no sign of any damage, and the matter was not even entered in the log. But it was clear by 9pm that it should have been. Water started coming in so fast that it seemed as though her keel was badly damaged.
Captain Tom Brown knew his ship was doomed. The crew couldnt stem the flow and at 10.20pm he ordered abandon ship. From their boats he and his 10 crew had not long to wait before the Clyde put her bow down and slid quietly under. The men were all picked up and landed safely at Dover the next day.
Also challenging for the unknown spot is Spyros, a Greek steel steamer, which in many ways was similar to the Clyde. She too was built in 1880, in Rostock. She was small with a gross tonnage of 387, 150ft long with a beam of 22ft and a draught of 13ft. She was driven by the same type of engine, a two-cylinder compound, single boiler producing 51hp.
In her tramping around Europe, she was named first Citos, then Nacka, then Jyden before taking her last name of all.
In December, 1921, Spyros was travelling from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to St Ives with a cargo of coal. On Tuesday, 20 December, huge seas were whipped up by gale-force winds, and as Spyros drew level - though well out to sea - with St Catherines Point, the battering she was taking sprang a major leak in one of the holds full of coal.
Spyros turned in towards the land for shelter, but when the water reached the engine room, she lost power and foundered. Few of her crew survived.
Which ship is the wreck Divers so far have found a brass tap on the boiler - with what looks like German writing on it - and diveboat skipper Dave Wendes recovered an engine-room repeater telegraph chiselled with English lettering. This wreck seems unlikely to remain unknown for much longer.
|Tiller arm at the top of the rudder post. |
|Aft cargo winch |
|Steam dryer at the top of the boiler. |
|Cargo winch fallen into the forward hold |
|The top of the two-cylinder compound engine. |
|Blades have been broken from the propeller |
GETTING THERE: From the roundabout at the M27 junction 1, turn south on the A337 through Lyndhurst and continue on to Lymington. Head towards the town centre until the road takes a sharp right and turn uphill to the High Street. Rather than go up the High Street, continue straight on and follow the road downhill to the river and marinas
TIDES: Slack water is essential and occurs 10 minutes after high-water Dover, or 45 minutes before low-water Dover.
HOW TO FIND IT: The GPS co-ordinates are 50 36.710N, 001 34.480W (degrees, minutes and decimals).
DIVING: Wight Spirit, skipper Dave Wendes, 02380 270390 www. deepsea.co.uk/boats/wightspirit.
AIR : TAL Scuba, Christchurch, 01202 473030
ACCOMMODATION : The New Forest is a popular tourist area, with everything from camping to hotels readily available. Call 01590 689000 or visit www.thenewforest.co.uk.
LAUNCHING : There is a slip in the marina at Lymington. It is tidal and dries towards low water.
QUALIFICATIONS: Suitable for fairly experienced sports divers. Average depth of just over 30m makes the Spyros or Clyde ideal for nitrox.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 2045, Approaches to the Solent. Ordnance Survey Map 196, The Solent & the Isle of Wight. Dive Wight and Hampshire, by Martin Pritchard and Kendall McDonald.
PROS: Just about the right size to see all of it in one dive, with enough to interest those happy to accumulate some decompression.
CONS: Which ship is it, the Spyros or the Clyde