Diving the Targets
On a sunny day in June 2010 a team of divers gathered in Padstow with the aim of exploring a number of targets found during a geophysical survey as part of the search for HMS Whiting. The conditions were ideal that day on the Doom Bar; the sky was blue, the sea was flat calm and the water surprisingly clear. The Doom Bar was better known for rough seas and big waves so this would provide an unusual opportunity to dive.
The divers were a mix of professional maritime archaeologists along with a number of amateur divers from the Nautical Archaeology Society keen to try out the skilles they learned as part of their training. The boat used for the job was a well equipped catamaran called Atlantic Diver skippered by Chris Lowe.
The divers clip a rope to the shot weight in the middle of the search area then swim in a circle around the weight looking for anything unusual. When one circuit is complete they move out along the rope further from the weight then swim around in a circle again.
The plan for the dives was to drop a weight on to the seabed at each target position with a rope and buoy attached so the buoy floated on the surface, this is called a shot line. The weight could then be used as the centre of a circular search, if the divers find anything of interest they can mark it with a buoy. A metal detector carried by one of the divers could be used to scan the seabed and would detect any metal objects buried just below the surface. probing into the seabed using a short metal rod may also find anything buried.
The first divers in were Martin and Matt along with Greg and Mal and they were put on Targets 2 and 3 in the shallows alongside Clouter Rock in about 5m depth. The current from the incoming tide made swimming in a circle difficult but the area was well searched, unfortunately nothing was found after 20 minutes except flat sand, drifting weed and jellyfish. Next in were Allen and Sarah, they were put on Target 1 which was the target most likely to be the Whiting. The water was so clear that the divers could be seen swimming along the bottom, but again the only thing seen after an hour's swimming was more flat sand. Kevin and Matt did another search just to the north of the area searched by the previous pair but again found nothing.
We were running out of time at this point so we decided to miss out on the targets to the north and look at target 15, a target visible on the side scan sonar so should be visible above the seabed. The estimate from the magnetometer suggested this target had 76 tons of iron on board so it was originally thought that this was a small iron boat. As the boat sailed towards the target guided by the GPS a large dark patch appeared on the seabed, so from the surface we could already see that we had found something. Again a shot line was dropped near the wreck and this time all the divers went in together.
After a minute or two Kevin surfaced and reported that this was in fact a small wooden wreck.