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Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Plympton and Hathor

Location: St. Agnes, Scilly Isles (49°53'15"N 06°20'45"W)

Description: 3000 ton cargo steamer & 7000 ton German ship

Length (Plympton): 100 metres (328 feet)

Length (Hathor): 120 metres (394 feet)

Depth: 12 - 65? metres (40 - 213 feet)

Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)

Rating: ****

Diving one wreck can be great, but diving two at the same time is quite rare. The Plympton and Hathor are meshed together even though they sank 11 years apart just off Lethegus Rocks, west of south St. Agnes.

In 1909, at almost 3000 tons and 100m long, the cargo steamer Plympton hit Lethegus Rocks en-route to Dublin from Argentina, via Falmouth with a large cargo of maize. She sank across the rocks into 23m of water. After WWI the previously interned and larger German ship Hathor, at just over 7000 tons had encountered engine problems en-route across the Atlantic to Portland. The Hathor, named after the Egyptian hippopotamus water goddess, foundered on the same rocks in December 1920. Like its namesake, it's likely to have wallowed with its huge bulk (almost the same tonnage as the Thistlegorm) and settled across the Plympton, crushing it. Due to its 120m length and 20m wide beam it is not surprising that it squeezed itself the length of a gulley, going from 20m at the stern over ledges and down to nearly 50m.

A kind of cross of wrecked metal has been made and the shot is likely to be placed on the intersection, or just shallow of it. Large plates of metal associated with the much larger Hathor are splayed creating a metal seabed, which slopes down. The diver can easily reach 30m without realising, especially if the visibility is good. Slack periods can be small so it's best to maximise time at depth and seek shelter as the current starts up. Massive boilers are scattered as the hull drops steeply down the slope which is covered in red dead man's fingers and many pink sea fans. The wreck continues further to 45m, but there have been suggestions that additional wreckage could exist deeper to 65m.

Ascending from 35m the cross section is found once more and exploration of either side will reveal the wreck of the Plympton, which all occurs at roughly 23m. This area swept by currents appears clean, but many cotton spinners hang out on the wreckage. Fish life seems minimal with mainly the odd large pollack and a few smaller wrasse, solitary male cuckoo wrasse, but this may vary according to time of year. Ascending further, the Hathor's propeller shaft is found at 20m and following the gully much wreckage is found. If the current has started the higher rock provides nearby shelter where a steep jewel anemone covered wall is broken by rock shelves and kelp. Current sweeps either side of the rock and a lee area can be found, indicated by shoaling saithe pointing into the current. The rock extends effectively up to about 12m so another delayed SMB launch and potential jump is necessary.

Tony Gilbert

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