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Bishop Rock Lighthouse, diving Scilly Isles, England - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: HMS Eagle

Location: Bishop Rock area, Scilly Isles (49°52'14"N 06°26'30"W)

Description: Man-o-war

Depth: 4 - 30 metres (13 - 100 feet)

Visibility: 15 metres + (50 feet)

Rating: ****

On October 22nd 1707, some 4 years after "The Great Storm", a squadron of ships commanded by Sir Clowdisley Shovell sailed straight into the Scilly Isles in a storm. One of the greatest maritime disasters of all time is being commemorated on Scilly Isles. Four man-o-war were lost, the biggest of which was the Association with 90 guns, a second rate of the line. These are known as the Association wrecks, as the flagship was HMS Association. The three others were the Eagle, Firebrand and Romney. Wrecked in various parts of the Scilly Isles they have been heavily salvaged back in the 1970's and are protected wrecks. The disaster led Parliament to look for a solution to the problem of longitude, solved in 1772.

The Eagle was lost with all hands on Tearing Ledge, a few hundred metres away from Bishop Rock. This is a great dive, and like many of the wreck dives around, is wreck then reef. Descending the shot situated over a rock dropping vertically into deep water, it is best to follow the line all the way otherwise the wreck remains can be missed! The shot is likely to be on an anchor - what anchor? Then suddenly the eyes realise that the light grey fissure extending metres away is the anchor spar! Ships anchors were enormous in those days and this was no exception. The Eagle's was some 3m long to the tang and about the same across; a serious amount of metal.

The depths are towards 30m, so bottom time is limited when on air. The anchor points towards a gully where a few cannon may be found. Impressive, but not as much the next gully, where 15 can be found some stacked on one another! The weight of each measured many tons, their dimensions are several metres, and they were the latest technology of their day. Several were recovered from the Association wrecks and one is located in the Gardens on the island of Tresco, outside the Valhalla collection of ships figureheads.

There are several more gullies containing cannon, but it's wise to turn back and head towards the descent rock which provides a great multilevel ending to the dive. I have heard that more cannon are to be found on the top of the rock itself. The rock ascends mostly vertically, with occasional shelves at 20m, 15m, and 12m, where numerous wrasse species congregate and patches of jewel anemones adorn. These not the only denizens here; crabs and small lobsters may be found in the plentiful small fissures.

The rock eventually rises to 4m. Some current can be encountered in places and surge will certainly be encountered in the shallows. The shallow areas provide a great place for densely packed colonies of pure white sagartia anemones. These may be found by sticking yourself (and buddy) through the kelp, and are mainly around the base of the kelp stypes. Look out into the water to watch passing hydroid strands, and when we dived here the visibility on the whole site was around 15m+. Shoals of many saithe can be seen pointing into the current and it's a pleasure to get around the upper edge of the rock and drift effortlessly back over the top, where drying weeds and bladder wrack wave. This probably just dries at very low spring tides and is a good place to launch the SMB and reel - but don't drop them!

Tony Gilbert

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