There are hundreds of wrecks lying off the coast of Great Britain many of them from the two world wars. Now, five of these wartime wreck sites are being investigated by divers.
The study involves divers gathering information on the condition of the sunken ships, and learning more about the vessels and the impact of war at sea. The Remembrance Wrecks of WW1 and WW2 project is a pilot venture by the Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust backed by a £20600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The United Kingdom has the largest and most significant collection of world war wrecks anywhere in the world. Half of all dives in the United Kingdom are undertaken on such war wrecks. The experts focused their research at The Oslofjord – a transport ship, a German submarine UC-32, SS Eston – a cargo ship, SS Coryton – cargo steam ship, and a steam tug Bullger.
The Oslofjord was hit a German mine on December 1, 1940, off the entrance to the river Tyne. The site also includes the wreck of the Greek steamer Eugenia Chandris. The Germans in Norway took advantage of the Oslofjord sinking in their radio propaganda broadcasts, by trying to convince Norwegian sailors that this proved how dangerous it was silly to sail for Britain. The Eugenia Chandris collided with another ship, the steamer Exmouth, on March 15, 1943. UC-32 was a German submarine credited with sinking six ships, but was sunk by the detonation of one of her own mines on February 23, 1917, off Sunderland and now lies in 13m of water.
SS Eston was reported missing near Blyth in January, 1940. It is suspected that the vessel had detonated a mine. SS Coryton left a convoy near the Farne Islands when attacked by German bombers. Steam tug Bullger was sunk by a mine off Druridge Bay in Northumberland in 1941.
The experts are looking at the dive sites from an archaeological standpoint. Specialists are also testing the idea of wrecks as a platform for invasive species. These organisms are relocating across the marine environment by either the direct or inadvertent consequences of human activities. Such artificial platforms, including shipwrecks and other man-made “reefs” are providing the stepping stones to encourage and support such movements.
(after Chronicle Live, Mark Willis & Northumbria Scuba Divers)