Western isles of Scotland Wreck Reviews

       Wreck penetration should only be attempted if you are suitably trained.
      A delayed SMB should be considered mandatory equipment on all sea dives. 
      Wreck diving can be engrossing, don’t forget your training & keep an eye on your air.
      Please only take pictures & leave the dive sites as you found them so that others that follow may also appreciate their beauty.

                                                                                Some of our favourite dives
                              THE SOUND OF MULL  - We usually do a couple of trips a year to the Western Isles  (not to be missed).

A deep dangerous stretch of water, some 25 miles long and between one and two miles wide, the Sound of Mull separates Mull from mainland Scotland. This narrow stretch of water offers some fascinating dives, with the added benefit of good visibility and protection from rougher waters further out. Many ships have sought out this sheltered passage for refuge from the fiercest Atlantic storms, only to fall prey to the many islets and shallow reefs that bespeckle this channel. However, the appeal of the area is not solely the number of wrecks - the fast currents that flow here also make for a rich marine biodiversity and set the scene for exciting drift dives. In addition, many of the reefs drop away vertically, with walls covered in marine life and visibility that averages between 5 and 10m.

Mull is the second largest of the inner Hebridean Islands (Skye is the largest), and also one of the wettest. At first it can seem quite forbidding, and the grey clouds that circle the highest peak - Ben More - are hardly welcoming. However it will not be long before its unique atmosphere wins you over.

As you enter the Sound, it is not difficult to imagine that you have travelled back in time several hundred years when you see the picturesque Duart castle, standing like a sentinel to the waters that lie at the foot of the hauntingly beautiful island.

Hispania Rondo
Thesis Shuna
SS Breda Port Napier

Undeniably one of the best loved dive sites in the Sound of Mull, the Hispania is often described as one of the top shipwrecks in the UK. A Swedish cargo steamer built in 1912, she was steaming from Liverpool to Varberg in Sweden with a cargo of steel, asbestos and rubber sheeting. On Saturday 18th December 1954 she encountered a storm, wind, rain and sleet that became so bad the captain like so many others mistakenly chose the more sheltered route between the Scottish Islands, but with visibility almost nil at 9pm, the ship struck a reef at Sgeir Mor (the ''Big Rock''), half a mile off the western shore of Mull. Her engines were immediately put to full astern, and that dragged her off backwards. But it was to late, she was badly holed forward, and was soon listing heavily to port. The 21 crewmen launched their two lifeboats & abandoned ship, but Captain Ivan Dahn chose to stay with his sinking vessel. During a lull in the storm the crew rowed around their ship for nearly an hour pleading with him to leave his charge, suddenly a bulkhead gave way, and she started sinking fast. Some of the survivors said they saw their captain on the bridge, hand to forehead in a salute as he and his ship disappeared beneath the waves.

The Hispania now lies as a beautiful shrine, densely covered with the most magnificent array of orange and white anemones, tunicates and hydroids. The wreck remains virtually intact & upright on the sea bed, with a list to starboard. The Superstructure, cavernous open cargo holds, engine room and deck-houses with handrails still in place are all ripe for exploration.
Today she lies with her bow pointing towards the shore on the Mull side of the sound, on an incline with the stern in 32m and the bows in 24m. At around 70m by 12m and 1337 tons gross, the Hispania is not a particularly large wreck, but it has plenty to occupy several dives as there is so much to see and explore.

At the stern which is usually buoyed there is the auxiliary steering gear, rudder and prop-shaft. The stern accommodation, cabins and corridors are brightly lit from above, as the roofs have rotted away & a large, steel, spare propeller still remains attached to the front of the accommodation. The stern holds do not contain anything particularly interesting, but above the deck lies the masts, spars and winches, festooned with yet more marine life. The midships superstructure contains a block of cabins, the engine room which houses a 175hp triple-expansion engine and the bridge. In front of the bridge are three more holds, with a further array of masts, winches and spars. The foremast with a large winch at its base is particularly photogenic. At the bow the starboard anchor lies on the seabed below.

Sheltered from all but the worst weather & with usually good visibility the Hispania at 30m is Shallow enough to get a most memorable dive. However due to strong tides she should only be attempted at slack water.-

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Another unique classic wreck that is listed in every-ones top 100 dives. the Rondo is perhaps the most unusual dive in Scotland.  She was a 2363-ton British standard dry cargo vessel with 1200hp triple-expansion engines, built as War Wonder in Florida in 1918, taken over by US Government and renamed Lithopolis in September of the same year, renamed Laurie (1930), then finally Rondo (1934).
In January 1935 the Rondo set off in ballast from Glasgow to pass round the north of Britain before heading to Dunstan in Northumberland where she would pick up a cargo bound for Oslo.  On the northwards leg of the voyage she moored at the northern end of the Sound of Mull, to ride out a bitter winter blizzard.  Such was the ferocity of the storm that she broke free from her moorings in the night and drifted powerless for several miles. The Rondo ran aground on a shallow rocky reef that runs out from the islet of Dearg Sgeir. Frantic attempts to get her off the reef in the following weeks failed and after being salvaged heavily until only the hull remained she was given up as a total loss. The seas and wind conspired to push her remains off the reef.  She slid down the vertical cliffs of the islet, her bows ploughing into the seabed in 50 metres of water as she came to rest.  She stands on her bows vertically, her bows in 53m, her stern which is encrusted with plumose anemones just 6m beneath the surface.

It's a spectacular dive. Along the way there is an a-frame and some superstructure, as well as swim-throughs between the cliff and wreck at 25m and 35m. There are often large shoals of fish hanging around this wreck, and the visibility is usually excellent.
Beware of nitrogen narcosis in the steep descent down the wreck.

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The Thesis, a small iron steamship built in Belfast by McIlwaine, Lewis & Co., Engineers and Iron Ship Builders was launched in January 1887.  Measuring only 51m by 8m and a draught of 4m, she is a very picturesque & atmospheric wreck due to the deep emerald light which beams through the holes in the ship's side making it a truly unforgettable dive & a popular favourite with many divers.

In October 1889 the Thesis set out from Middlesbrough to Belfast under Captain Wallace and 11 crew.  Her four holds, two forward and two astern contained a cargo of pig iron probably destined for the Belfast shipyards.  

At the southern end of the Sound, she ran aground on a reef at Inninmore Point during the night. Being badly holed it was clear that she was destined to sink. The crew abandoned ship and rowed ashore and the Thesis became a total loss. After only 4 hours the Thesis slipped beneath the surface of the Sound. She now lies on a slope between 20 and 30m. The very strong currents that exist between the Sound of Mull and the Lynn of Morvern (northwest of the island of Lismore) demand that she can only be dived at slack water.

Usually blessed with good visibility, penetration of the wreck is very easy as the ship's superstructure and decking have all disappeared, leaving the ribs of the hull exposed in many places. The wreck is covered in plumose anemones and deadmens fingers & it is possible to swim the length of the ship below deck level which provides a welcome shelter from any current. The Thesis can only be dived on slack water.

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The 1,426 gross tons, 73m long steamship Shuna ran aground in a storm when she struck the Gray Rocks at the entrance to the Sound on 8th May 1913 on a voyage from Glasgow to Gothenburg carrying a small cargo of coal, much of which is still there today.

Her Captain attempted to take her the ten miles or so to the sheltered harbour of Tobermory where she could be repaired.  Along the way with the Shuna in imminent danger of sinking Captain Elsper endeavoured to try and beach her on the nearby sheltered shore, hoping to be able to refloat her after repair.  The Shuna's bows drove onto the shore and stuck fast. In this precarious position the Shuna continued to fill with water and her stern sank deeper into the water, finally she slipped beneath the surface, sliding down the slope to her final resting place. The Shuna now sits upright in 30-36m of water, with the decks at a depth of 16-20m.

An excellent dive, although the wreck is fairly gloomy, the sides of the ship are covered with brightly coloured sea squirts, and the propeller and stern demand a viewing. See if you can spot the spare prop, and have a look around the engine room where small shoals of fish hang around under the walkways.

As the Shuna is lying in a sheltered spot, she is covered in a layer of silt so careful finning is required to keep the normally good visibility intact. The Shuna can be dived on any tide.

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SS Breda
One of Scotland's most famous and most popular wrecks. The SS Breda was a 6941-ton single-funnel steamer, built in Holland,1921. 418ft x 58ft. Requisitioned as a supply ship during WWII,

On 23 December 1940 a group of Heinkel 111s left their base at Stavanger in Norway. A few hours later they targeted the Breda while anchored in the Lynn of Lorn on a voyage from London to Mombassa, Bombay & Karachi. The bombs straddled the vessel but the force of a blast nearby sheared off a cooling water inlet pipe, with water killing all steam and the ship's electrics the Breda started to flood. She was taken in tow and successfully beached on a narrow shallow shelf in Ardmucknish Bay. When only a fraction of the cargo had been saved, stormy winter seas and tides pulled her off the narrow shelf & she finally sank into 25 - 30 metres of water sitting upright on an even keel.
As a result of a wire sweep her upper superstructures were removed.  Her cargo manifest included: 175 tons tobacco and cigarettes, 30 De Havilland Tiger Moths, three Hawker biplanes, spare parts for the aircraft, 3000 tons cement, Army lorries and spares, NAAFI crockery, rubber-soled sandals, copper ingots, 10 horses and nine dogs. Her 5 holds are open for inspection, some cargo can still be seen - aircraft in No 1; sandals in No 2; aircraft engines in No 3; cigarette tins in No 4; solid bags of cement in No 5.

As the wreck catches the silt deposits from Loch Etive, Good buoyancy control is essential or the normally good visibility can quickly deteriorate

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Port Napier
The Port Napier, a 9600-ton, twin-screw steamship had a rather short life. Built in 1940 she was a merchant-ship that was converted to a minelayer. On 27 November 1940 a fire broke out during mine-loading. Being full of explosives there was a frantic attempt to quell the fire. But all attempts were futile & the crew soon decided to make a rather hasty “Abandon ship”. The Napier was towed into Loch Alsh where she subsequently exploded, showering debris over a wide area. Her cargo of 550 mines and 6000 rounds of ammunition for the 10 AA guns aboard were salvaged by RN divers in 1950.

This large wreck (498ft x 68ft) is remarkably intact considering its explosive demise, with much of the hull open to daylight as much of the portside plating was removed during the salvage. She lies on her starboard side in about 20m, 300m from the shore at Sron na Tairbh. At low water, the port side is quite prominent above the waterline. At the stern, you will find four mine-laying chutes with rails running into what remains of the superstructure. Following the rails, you come to the main storage area, where mines would have sat on trolleys, ready to be deployed. The mast which is encrusted with life can be found mid-ships at about 20m & the bow still boasts a 4in gun.

It is possible to easily penetrate the wreck through several hatchways from the main deck as the hull is open and there's plenty of light.
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TAPTI In January 1951, the 6609 ton & 128m-long steel motor vessel Tapti of London was in ballast on a voyage from the Mersey to Newcastle due to pick up a cargo for India with a crew of sixty- two Indian and Chinese seamen. On the 17th January - in the middle of a violent rainstorm and sleet showers that wiped out all visibility she struck rocks on the east shore of Eileen Soa in the Gunna Sound between the islands of Tiree and Coll in the Outer Hebrides.

The impact was colossal, and though Captain Coney ordered "full astern", the Tapti would not come free. Swell after swell from the south drove her further on, until finally the waves span her round, driving her stern higher on the rocks where she stayed all night. Captain Coney admitted defeat, and sent out a Mayday. By dawn the rescue ships around her consisted of both Mallaig and Barra lifeboats, two frigates and two trawlers. When the list had reached more than 60°, her captain ordered "abandon ship". All the crew were rescued by the lifeboats, which took them to Tobermory. The Tapti stayed on the rocks for a further four days before she rolled off the rocks and sank in deep water. The rescue of the crew of the Tapti was particularly difficult & strenuous due to the rocks, very poor visibility & raging seas. The rescue was successfully carried out by fine seamanship and judgment by the lifeboats, taking some twenty-five and a half hours. The R.N.L.I. subsequently made special awards to the Mallaig coxswain, Bruce Watt, and to the seven members of the crew who had journeyed over forty-five miles of rough, gale-swept sea, in continual showers of sleet in order to reach the Tapti.

A shallow and rarely dived wreck that retains a lot of structure The Tapti can be dived at any state of the tide & lies in 13m - 20m. The wreck has collapsed to starboard, bows out to sea, leaving the keel against the rocks and the deck laid out flat on the sand. The boilers have rolled out of the hull & now lie upside-down. Aft of the boilers, the remains of the engine-room are now beneath the collapsed hull. There is enough solid machinery inside to provide a simple but low swim-through, giving access to the crankshaft and connecting rods from the steam engine. Other components still available for exploring are a number of cargo winches which are dispersed around the wreck, masts, anchor chain & the port anchor remains secured in its hawse pipe. The tip of the bow is home to a thick colony of plumose anemones and more dead men's fingers. The remains of the steering gear are just visible if you peer through gaps in the deck. If you’re lucky you may well be accompanied by seals that tend to cruise the site.
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