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Cuckoo wrasse on the Italia, diving Scilly Isles, England - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Italia

Location: St. Agnes, Scilly Isles (49°52'52"N 06°20'18"W)

Description: 2792 ton steamship

Depth: 5 - 45 metres (15 - 148 feet)

Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)

Rating: ****

On the same night other wrecks were being created around Scillies, 11th May 1917, the 2792 ton steamship Italia bound for Toronto from Cardiff carrying a consignment of best Welsh, came ashore in dense fog on the Wingletang Ledges which are located just offshore of St. Agnes at Horse Point in the south. Small wonder, as these teeth are sufficiently offshore to ensnare unsuspecting ships.

This monster wreck site cannot possibly be appreciated in one or two dives. The wreckage is laid out as if some unearthly tin opener has splayed it. Lying in a steeply sloping wide gully the shot is likely to be placed around mid-ships in 15-17m, where boilers reside a short distance away. The light coloured wreck quite open, with many plates fallen away creating a "seabed", above which are ribs. The propeller shaft and tunnel can easily be found to the right if you are pointing deeper. At around 25m the engine rests and a huge expanse of crankshafts and pinions, one of the most intact you'll ever see, as much of the engine room fittings were salvaged leaving it exposed. More hull and interesting pieces of wreckage extend to 45m where the bow lies. This wreck is distinct not just for the cuckoo wrasse but several large colonies of football squirts that can be found on the structure, in particular adjacent to engine.

Turning around at 30m a reef ridge ascends sharply, covered in sea cucumbers and red dead man's fingers. At about 15m a dense kelp forest has claimed the wreck's stern section, but still makes for a good rummage. Exploration continues to the higher reaches of kelp-covered rocks that probably accelerated its demise, from 12m to 5m. These provide a great multilevel dive option to off gas, and are home to numerous lobster, crabs, shrimps and anemones. Many of the common varieties of fish frequent this area and it breaks the dive into two parts. Look out for clingfish in the narrow fissures, and the rocks have many vertical walls to interest any diver. Some of these rocks just go to the surface, and it's quite a pleasant hop from one pinnacle to the next. The visibility can be quite clear here, with bootlace weed wafting in the swell.

An SMB launch is necessary and if near rocks, some of which break or are close to the surface, it is best to swim away from them during the safety stop before surfacing.

Tony Gilbert

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