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Snakelocks anemone on the Antonios, diving Scilly Isles, England - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Antonios wreckage and Pednathise Head

Location: Western Rocks, Scilly Isles (49°52'00"N 06°24'12"W)

Description: 2600 ton Greek steamship

Depth: 8 - 25 metres (26 - 82 feet)

Visibility: 15 metres + (50 feet)

Rating: *****

Many of the wrecks in the Scilly Isles have occurred due to weather conditions, maybe causing a ship to founder on the numerous jagged rocks. A good number lie in diveable depths and have accompanying reef rocks that succeed in providing the diver with an ideal multi-level profile. The southwest prevailing wind cuts into the Western Rocks, the latter directly in the path of stricken vessels. Back in 1912 at the start of winter, the 2600 ton Greek steamship Antonios came to grief just off Pednathise Head, the southern most area of Western Rocks.

This dive is a great pleasure to do, not just for the wreckage but the surrounding rocks. Don't just spend time in the wreckage area as so much is waiting in its vicinity. Dropping down the shot a small insignificant gully is passed through and at first around 17m it doesn't seem there is much to see. But at this depth immediately on the left of the shot line a rock looks rather rounded in appearance. On closer inspection it is revealed to be a large boiler with its casing broken in places, where steam pipes can be seen - easily missed!

With the possibility of conger the shot line deepens to 20m with yet another boiler on the seabed amongst much hull plating, undistinguishable items of wreckage and winches. Dropping to 22m this extends some 30m as a wreckage area where many crabs, starfish and cotton spinners inhabit. Bottoming out at 26m directly in front and hard to miss is a deeply cut gully, some 3m across at its base. To the left hand side is a sheer vertical mass of rock extending almost to the surface, to the right a ridge some 4m high. Dives can go off in differing directions after finishing with the wreckage and our dive led 25m down this previously described gully. Dense clusters of red dead man's fingers were amassed on its flanks, along with gardens of nermetesia or sea beard, a hydroid and favourite food of many a nudibranch.

Visibility on this dive was in excess of 15m and it was no surprise we spotted a large vertical crack in the wall to our left, running all the way up to the top. It was a split in the rock some 1.5m wide with boulders jammed occasionally in its upper reaches. Turning 90 degrees into it and swimming some 35m along its length was quite exhilarating, but the masses of wrasse grazing inside were unperturbed. Ascending to 15m and turning a further 90 degrees, we crossed an area of tall slim kelp topped pinnacles, before arriving at a dark mass of rock. This turned out to be a rock which shaved the water's surface and contained vertical terraced sides from 15m upwards. Interesting for jewel anemones, but it was then the "fun" began. A vertical crack appeared, some 0.5m wide, if that, with light eschewing from its other end. Swimming around we found the other end. Here deeply cut terraces had many condensed masses of plumose anemones, crabs and squat lobster everywhere - a very impressive site indeed. The rock dropped vertically away to 25m+ to the seabed in the 15m+ visibility.

Glancing into the gully where wrasse just kept going into, a silver flash at its base was that of a grey seal. We both realised it was "road" for marine creatures great and small! This was one of those dives that you'd wished wouldn't end, but physics meant ascend and manage the air remaining. Finding a nice enclave of rock at 8m, patrolled by wrasse with occasional pelagic hydroids passing by was just the icing on the cake of delight!

Tony Gilbert

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