Stevie
Stevie Adams sketch of the wreck.



THERES A REAL BUZZ ABOUT wreck diving from Eyemouth at the moment. It seems that a new wreck is being discovered every few months, and some people have even suggested that the area is beginning to rival Scapa Flow.
Iain and Jim Easingwood of Marine Quest are slowly working through their to-do list of new marks, and each one kindles a wealth of interest.
Divers are jumping at the chance to be first on a virgin wreck and two bells have already been recovered this year! There are few places around the UK that could make such claims in recent years.
Around 30 miles north-east of Eyemouth, the seabed rises over a number of banks to a depth between 40 and 50m, and this is where numerous wrecks can be found. This far offshore the visibility tends to be excellent, with divers reporting in excess of 25m.
However, it is only on certain days that the weather allows diving in this remote area. I was lucky enough to take advantage of one of these weather windows on a day when we made one of the biggest undived marks our target for the day. The wreck, 40 miles north-east of Eyemouth in general depths of 55m rising to 38m, was suspected to be a World War One oil tanker.

ROPES OFF AT EYEMOUTH was at mid-day, most people arriving early to load the boat and prepare kit. There was a bit of grumbling at the thick brown soup that could be seen in the harbour, as there had been torrential rain all week, but Iain reassured us that this would not be a problem further out.
We set off into a healthy northerly swell that had picked up over the previous few days, and these conditions ensured that most of us jostled for position in the wheelhouse. Iains new 420hp Caterpillar engine wasnt really tested on the way out as the boat punched its way through the towering swells, though it was a bit disconcerting down in the troughs as you looked up at the next peak!
After three and a half hours, many passengers were feeling as though they had done a few rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson, while others were seeing their breakfasts again!
As we were so far from shore, we had brought along a decompression station, and insisted that everyone return to this to carry out decompression stops.
A drop-bottle was left on the boat as well, ready to be deployed on a pre-arranged delayed SMB signal.
Iain shotted the wreck first time, and kitting-up was a rock & roll affair with side-mounts and camera. Glad to be in the water and heading down the shot, my buddy Stevie and I could see the outline of the wreck from 20m.
The first thing that struck us was its size. It was sitting upright with a 40 list, and we landed in the midships area around the collapsed superstructure.
Dead mens fingers covered every part of the hull, providing a bright spectacle in the wonderful offshore visibility, with the ambient light rendering a torch useful only for highlighting features.
Heading for the stern, we found a prominent area with a lot of collapsed superstructure.
In this jumble of metal I noticed a number of boxes and, as I rubbed off what would turn out to be 64 years of silt, I read the words Radio Titan.
These bakelite batteries were probably used as emergency power for the ships radios, so we knew we must be close to the bridge area. In among this pile of wreckage numerous pairs of blue claws pointed up menacingly.
These lobsters certainly hadnt seen divers before and were fearlessly coming out to have a look at us.
We could see an odd structure lying on the gravel and stone seabed. As we got closer, we could make out the barrel of a large gun in a circular mounting. Sitting in around 55m, this was one of the 20mm cannons fitted on both sides of the boat deck, the drum magazines lying loose on the seabed next to it.
Heading towards the bow, we passed the collapsed funnel, patrolled by a large shoal of coley, and heard a commotion of excited helium squeaks! This usually indicates that something major has been found, and so it had been - what was left of the bridge, collapsed on the deck.
In a small area lay the compass binnacle and intact head, along with the steering pedestal and telegraph, with numerous portholes and gauges scattered around. Few wreck-divers are lucky enough to see such artefacts lying in situ, untouched. It was a defining moment of the dive!
All the divers finning, digging and cleaning in this area did not make for great photography, so we ascended on the forward part of the bridge, which had collapsed away. This enabled us to peer into one of the cavernous holds.
The ambient light at this depth was illuminating some interesting shapes, but time was ticking away, so we elected to head sternwards.
On the way we found a large winch that a male cuckoo wrasse had made home. I stopped for a few pictures of the winch cable, drums and gears.
Further aft we reached the shot and, with around five minutes bottom time remaining, had a last look in this area.
Here we found a row of valve handles and, next to them, a gun tub containing another 20mm cannon, this time with the barrel pointing towards the surface.
This signalled the end of our 35min bottom time, and I felt I had seen more on this dive that I had on many of my previous trimix dives.

FORTY MINUTES OF STAGED DECO lay ahead, though this was made fairly comfortable on the decompression station, as we drifted with the tide. The swell had not eased much on the surface, and we could feel the big ones going overhead.
On the surface, one short lift-ride onto the deck and we were plonked down on the engine cover for dekitting. Almost as quickly, home-made soup and bread were thrust into our hands, with tea and shortbread for afters!
We heard from all nine excited divers the full tales of their discoveries. Two who had James Bond-style Aquazepp scooters had managed to see the whole wreck. They reported that the bow had broken off at an angle and had three guns mounted on it. There was a larger 4in gun and a smaller one at the stern.
They had recovered a couple of china plates and trinkets to help with identification of the ship. The crests on the plates read American Export Lines and United States Army - Medical Department.
The wreck seemed more modern and with a far superior armament than that carried on a 1915 oil tanker, and no one had seen the expected tanks, valves or pipework. We had three hours of surfing the swells on the way back in which to consider the identity of the wreck.
By the time we had unloaded the boat at around 9pm most of the team were ready for bed, although two of them now had to get to a wedding. At least they had a good excuse for being late!

IN THE WEEK AFTER THE DIVE, using the line crest on the plates and research on ship loss records in the area, divers Jer Cameron and Stevie Adams, were able to identify the wreck as ss Exmouth.
The ship had an interesting past. US-built and owned, this 4879-tonner was launched in 1920. She plied the route between New York and Italy, but her most noble voyage came in 1941, after being chartered by the Red Cross as a relief ship. Marked with 4m red crosses on both sides and floodlit at night, she was loaded with a $1.25 million worth of insulin, vitamins, childrens clothing and powdered milk for occupied France.
She was later used on war service, carrying cargoes in Atlantic convoys. Finally, in July 1944, it was a British mine that signalled the end for this ship, while in ballast on a passage from Southend to Methil as part of an unescorted convoy. We were relieved that there had been no casualties.
The mine was probably one from the eastern defensive minefield that protected the Firth of Forth. Why the Exmouth strayed into the minefield will probably never be known.
The discovery adds another name to Marine Quests fast-growing identified wreck list. All the wrecks have been left with fittings intact to be enjoyed by future divers. It still has a number of undived marks, so who knows what the next one will be, and what will turn up!

Binnacle
Binnacle compass in the bridge area.
Diver
Diver highlights a winch.
Divers
Divers with crockery recovered from the wreck to aid identification.
Stevie
Stevie Adams shines light on a porthole.
Gun
Gun on seabed
Divernet