Farne Islands

Whirl Rocks – An Unlikely Dive

The wreck of the Jan Van Ryswyk lies at the base of Whirl Rocks, a submerged reef East of the Knivestone, which is the furthest out island at the Farnes. This is an exposed site with very strong tides, and it can only be dived when the weather conditions and slack water are perfect.
As such it is not dived very often! The sea was calm and low water slack was predicted to be around 10:20am. Because of the big spring tides, the slack window would be short, allowing for only one wave of divers from a RHIB.

The boat launched from Beadnell with the tractor service now in operation after the COVID 19 lockdown had been eased. We arrived on site with some tide still running but visibly calming. Surface conditions were good.
The engine block is very impressive, not dissimilar to that of the Somali, and we could easily see the crankshaft, the prop shaft, the spare prop, and a lot of flattened plates, all covered in life. We moved the shot weight clear of the wreckage to allow for an easier recovery, but as we swam away from the boilers with the reef wall on our left we could already feel the tide starting to turn and flood south. We had only been down 10 minutes!

We moved north east into the tide, passing a mooring bollard on the sea bed, and round the corner of the vertical reef wall into a gulley. Every surface was covered in anemones and dead mens fingers, and as we turned the corner a large shoal of fish swam past out into open water, revealing an admiralty anchor. Behind this the gulley narrowed with an increasing amount of wreckage crammed into it; winch, anchor chain, plates, and with everything smothered in marine life.

Retracing our steps out of the gulley we found the tide had increased. It was impossible to swim against, so we just went with it, drifting quickly back over the wreckage towards the boilers and the massive engine block clearly visible behind them. We managed to get some shelter behind the engine, and one of the boilers has the outer casing removed exposing the fire tubes and inner construction. Somewhere inside amongst those tubes is one of my shot weights from several years ago. It was so well stuck that we had to cut the rope in order to get free!

The current had really picked up now, so leaving the safety of the wreckage James sent up his DSMB and we ascended, drifting quickly past beautiful reef walls covered in marine life. By the time we hit the surface we were well south of the Knivestone.

What a fantastic dive. If you have never managed to get there, I hope these photos will give some indication as to how beautiful and special this dive site is.

Harrogate BSAC