Divers prepare their kit as North Star leaves the harbour.


MARINE QUEST CHARTERS has been in the news quite a bit lately with some significant submarine finds. From WW1, the seaplane carrying U12; from just after that war, the British submarine H11, and from WW2 the type VIIC U-boat U714.
Its not just subs. Exploring new marks off the Berwickshire coast, Marine Quests divers have identified a fair mix of steamships, trawlers and warships, including ss Exmouth (as reported in the accompanying story by Shane Wasik).
Many of these wrecks are beyond the normal sport-diving limit of 50m, with plenty more survey marks still awaiting identification as Marine Quest builds
a stock of regular divers for technical trips. From Eyemouth, you dont need to venture far into trimix territory to dive virgin wrecks.
But what about more accessible wrecks for the average diver It is wrecks in the normal air-diving range that I have in mind when I join father and son skippers Jim and Iain Easingwood for a few days.
Admittedly, I start the week diving the cruiser HMS Pathfinder at 65m (What Makes The Pathfinder So Special, August 2008). I then miss the U714 at 57m, though everyone else had a good dive - more of why later. But with the depth and trimix out of the way, I spend the rest of my week shallower than 50m.
A comfortably timed start on a grey day sees Iain manoeuvre North Star with a full load of divers away from the pontoon at Eyemouth, while Jim releases the ropes and waves us away.
Iain is the main skipper, while Jim usually works the late shift when they have a second charter in the evening and at weekends.
We head north past St Abbs Head to the wreck of the Scotia. This 1848-vintage dredger foundered while under tow from Eyemouth to Granton on 21 February 1893 and was identified by divers from North Star in 2006.
Iain drops the shot, and for the next half-hour we watch the buoys wake dwindle as the current slackens.
Its not fully slack but slow enough to dive when the first pair head down the line, more following every few minutes.
I lift my kit onto the vacated space on the bench, and prepare to join them.

AS I DESCEND, VISIBILITY SWITCHES between good and bad in layers. Once on the wreck at 45m the sunlight is gone and I am depending on my light.
The Scotia rises about 3m from the seabed and while visibility near the top of the wreck is good enough to let me see halfway across it, closer to the seabed
I can barely see my fingers.
It isnt other divers but the remains of the tide lifting a fog of silt from the seabed. As the dive progresses and the current slackens completely, the cloud drops and the vis improves.
I swim round the wreck once, photographing and sketching, then round the lower parts of it yet again when I realise there is a chance to take more pictures with less backscatter.
The term dredger covers a lot of ship design, from a flat raft just big enough to float a JCB through to sizeable ships with steam-powered bucket systems, like the St Dunstan off Dorset. I enjoy the challenge of working out how the Scotia fits into the diverse dredger family.
The listed displacement of 50 tons belittles the size of the wreck, most likely referring only to a hold space.
The hull is predominantly the flotation tanks of a large barge with no propulsion. This is split along the centre-line for the dredging buckets to be lowered to the seabed, powered by a single-cylinder beam engine and very basic upright boiler.
As divers ride the lift back on board and de-kit, Iain hands out the home-made shortbread, a treat after every dive, except when his mum has been baking cakes instead. You dont even have to go diving to enjoy the cooking, because the Easingwoods have a café at the Harbourside, where the dive-centre office and compressor are located.
Above the café is bunk-room accommodation for divers, with a comfortable lounge, TV and Internet. The final luxury is a large drying room. Nice dry suits and undersuits every morning make multi-day dive trips so much more pleasant.
Further across the Firth of Forth is the wreck of the mine-laying U-boat U74E.
I dont realise how unusual this U-boat is until I look it up later in The U-Boat by Eberhard Rossler. Under water it looked quite short, but its engines and conning tower were well forward to make room for internal mine-laying tubes leading out of the stern.
Unlike on earlier U-boat minelayers, these tubes could be accessed from inside the hull, so the crew could load, arm and adjust the mines before they were ejected.
When discovered in 1993, the wreck was thought to have been the similar U77E. Both were reported sunk by gunfire from Admiralty trawlers in 1916 in two separate actions, with the loss of all crew.
Neither action was anywhere near the location of the wreck, but the U77E was the closer of the two. With no nearby action reported that would fit in with the sinking, the U74E is most likely to have survived the trawler attack.
She may have suffered a subsequent accident, perhaps in handling or launching a mine.
This is an ideal submarine for the depth, but only for a few divers at a time. A single external torpedo tube is mounted above the bow, the conning tower has periscopes and windscreen wipers on the portholes, and just behind this is a deck gun, before the hull disappears into a bank of silt.
The remaining hull may even be long enough to reappear out of the other side of this bank, but there is still at least half a submarine I didnt see. It depends on how much digging you want to do.
I have yet to find a skipper who thinks shotting a submarine is easy, especially a deep one. Submarines are small, hard to hit and, with little to hook onto, Iain had missed the wreck by a few metres, so the first five minutes of my dive were taken up using a reel to make a search.
Which brings me back to the U714, where the shot was reportedly a similar distance off the wreck. I had been first down, but at 57m had decided to take a chance on heading into the tide and zig-zagging, thinking the wreck could have been just out of sight. I must have zigged when I should have zagged, and swum right past the wreck.
The next divers down had been more systematic, and used a line to search.
It took them 15 minutes, a good part of their dive at that depth, but it also meant that everyone after them went straight to the wreck. It must be something about submarines, because every other shot was spot on.

IN THE MORE RELAXED DEPTH of the U74E, I opted for the systematic approach and still had time to enjoy the wreck. It has another connection with Marine Quest Charters. One of the victims of its mines was the 2807-ton steamship Sabbia, sunk in 55m in April, 1916. Divers from North Star identified it in 2006.
A wreck with an older family connection is the River Garry, a steamship of 1294 tons built in 1883.
She foundered in a hurricane in November 1893. Iains grandfather worked as a hardhat salvage diver on this wreck, as some classic black and white photographs on the walls of the Harbourside show.

WITH THE UTILITARIAN-GREY Torness nuclear power station as a backdrop, the grey day feels even greyer, though the sun makes a break for freedom as I start my dive. Visibility is pretty good, and from 10m I can see a boiler below me. There isnt as much marine life here as on many of the other wrecks, but plenty of unusual engineering. The two boilers were configured in tandem, one behind the other, providing steam to a hulking two-cylinder compound engine.
Neither Iain nor Jim are divers, but Iain hopes to learn when he gets enough spare time from skippering the boat, climbing and cycle road-racing.
With the wreck mostly flat to the seabed at 23m, I suspect he will quickly progress to diving the River Garry.
To make up for missing the U714, I join an evening trip with a regular group from Edinburgh. An early-evening departure time constrains the choice of sites to where we have slack water. We dive at Ebb Carr, just south of St Abbs.
Above Ebb Carr, Jim uses a quick sketch of the rocks to give a briefing. The boat will stay live, with no shotline.
A reef runs south from the top of the rock, only a few metres down and split by a canyon. He will drop us just above the side of this. In the minimal current we shouldnt drift off, but he cautions us not to hang about at the surface.

THE UNDERWATER SCENERY is classic St Abbs, the big canyon decorated with white and yellow dead mens fingers and anemones. Smaller cracks and ledges on the walls house squat lobsters.
Medium-sized cracks and ledges are home for swimming and small edible crabs and tompot blennies. Larger cracks and ledges host lobsters and crayfish.
The last few rays of sunshine and 15m vis allow us to appreciate the scenery.
There are even a couple of wrecks. The MFV Vigilant struck the rock in 1976 and was dashed to pieces, except for a steel wheelhouse.
The larger 954-ton steamship Alfred Erlandsen struck the rocks in October 1907. In a force 8 wind, the cargo of pit props thrashed around in the waves and made rescue of the crew by the lifeboat impossible, despite a four-hour attempt to get the 17 men off the ship.
The only survivor was a Great Dane dog that swam ashore and was found a day later roaming the top of the cliff.
Looping out south of the rocks, the seabed is boulders and sprigs of kelp scattered across coarse sand at 15m. I find the propeller and some flattened ribs and hull plates. There is also a boiler somewhere nearby, but the engine was salvaged. There is not enough wreckage to call this a wreck dive, but Jim had told us this one was about the scenery and marine life. Its a relaxing change for me.

ANOTHER SHALLOW WRECK is the East Neuk, a wooden steam trawler converted to carry light cargo that struck South Carr off Burnmouth in August 1923. I wasnt expecting to see a great deal of this wooden-hulled wreck, but on descending the shot I am pleasantly surprised.
There is a fair amount of iron and steel wreckage, from bow post to propeller, with boiler and compound engine in-between. Beneath these, even some of the hull timbers remain.
The upper parts of the engine and boiler are covered in the big yellow and white dead mens fingers typical of the area, as are the rocky ledges either side of the wreck. For those whose attention wont be held by wreckage for the full duration of a shallow dive, exploring the rocks is a pretty diversion.
I notice this while looping out to either side, seeking more wreckage.
I am rewarded by finding the helm, one gully off to starboard and level with where the wheelhouse would have been above the boiler.
I finish by filling a gap in my logbook. For all the times I have dived from St Abbs, I have never visited the Glanmire, the areas classic wreck dive. The 1141-tonner struck Black Carrs Rock off St Abbs in July 1912, then drifted with the tide to sink north of St Abbs Head. It is next months Wreck Tour.
The set-up in Eyemouth between boat and accommodation is so convenient. The deeper wrecks were not particularly difficult as deeper wrecks go and current on the shallower wrecks was mitigated by generally excellent visibility.


Dredging
Dredging machinery on the Scotia.
The
The dredging bucket.
Preparing
Preparing for a dive.
Submarine
Submarine minelayer U74E.
Elevation
Elevation wheel on the deck gun.
Broken
Broken boiler on the River Garry.
Boiler
Boiler and fire boxes.
This
This lobster has one claw missing.
The
The deep gullies at Ebb Carr, lined with dead mens fingers, are typical of the scenery in the area.
Two
Two shots of the East Neuk trawler wrecks two-cylinder compound engine
Divernet
crankshaft
crankshaft and winch
John
John Liddiard
FACTFILE

GETTING THERE: Eyemouth is on the A1107, just off the A1. Follow the signs for the harbour. The Harbourside is on the north side by the fish quay. North Star berths at the end of the floating pontoon that runs along the south side of the harbour.
DIVING,AIR & ACCOMODATION: Marine Quest Boat Charter, 01890 752444, www.marine-quest.co.uk
FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 1407, Montrose to Berwick. Ordnance Survey Map 67, Duns, Dunbar & Eyemouth. Shipwrecks of the Forth, Bob Baird. Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Volume 4, Scotland, Richard & Bridget Larn. Diver Guide: Dive St Abbs and Eyemouth by Lawson Wood. Diver Guide: Scotland, Vol 3 by Gordon Ridley. St Abbs and Eyemouth Marine Reserve, www.marine-reserve.org.uk. Berwickshire Dive Tourism Association, www.divestabbseyemouth.co.uk.