KendallQ

Kendall McDonald, a former Fleet Street editor, has been diving (and writing about it) for more than 45 years. He has been DIVERs wreck expert since 1960.
German or American  
Diving from Lodesman, Pat Deans dive boat, out of Salcombe, Devon, I was put on a 65m deep wreck said to be that of the 1127 ton armed merchantman Agnete, which was torpedoed by UB40 four miles south of Start Point on 4 April 1918.
I doubt if this is the Agnete. There is a massive engine block, 10ft proud. Just forward of the engine are four boilers. All that power, the huge engine and 7ft-long blades of the single prop are surely too big for a 1000-tonner. And Agnete had only one boiler and a horsepower rating of 66.
Now I have brought up a white ceramic light surround lettered GE USA. A General Electric fitting seems an odd thing to find on Agnete, which was built in Kiel in Germany in 1894.
The one thing that fits is that Agnete carried a 13-pounder gun, and there is a big gun on the square-sided poop. There is no sign of the 1500 ton coal cargo she was listed as carrying.
If this is not the Agnete but a larger American ship, what could it be
Fred Tones


When in doubt, ask the Wreck Section of the Hydrographic Office. It was, as usual, highly efficient and pointed out that it has always referred to this wreck as possibly Agnete.
I remember local Torbay divers at one time thinking it was the Hazelpark, a 1964 ton steamer which lies a short way to the south and has two boilers.
The Wreck Section helped me to sort out wrecks in the area and we finally came to the Neches, another wreck site about which it has doubts. The Neches was once charted as position approximate, though it has a position for it: 50 11.936N; 03 37.871W. A steamer-tanker built in the USA in 1914, it weighed 5426 tons, was 398ft long with a beam of 54ft, and was driven by a three-cylinder triple-expansion engine with four boilers, producing 518hp.
She was full of petrol, drawing her full 24ft, when she hit something during the night of 15 May, 1918 and started sinking several miles south of Start Point.
Captain Fred Young and his crew had time to get off safely before she went down. No one seemed to know if they had been hit by a small ship, or if they had run into the underwater wreckage of a torpedoed ship. Perhaps they hit the Agnete, which had been sunk only a month earlier!
So it looks likely that Fred has been diving the Neches, not the Agnete. His reports will mean hefty alterations to dive guides. He is sending details to the Wreck Section; will its wreck print-out now be marked: Not possibly Agnete
Receiver comes first  
Do I have to report a new wreck if I find one Many divers seem confused about the legal position - some think English Heritage has taken over from the Receiver of Wreck, or is trying to. Others say that who you report to depends on where you found your wreck. Whos right
George


Receiver of Wreck Sophia Exelby told us: There is no legal obligation to report the discovery of a wreck site, but it is important that new sites are brought to the attention of the experts who can assess their historical significance.
So if you think you have discovered a new wreck, you should contact the Receiver of Wreck, who will put you in contact with the relevant heritage agency (eg English Heritage, Historic Scotland, CADW or Environment & Heritage Service Northern Ireland).
The Receiver can also advise you on avenues for further research. It is helpful if you have a note of position, depth, type of vessel, size, construction, evidence of propulsion, evidence of cargo or any distinguishing features.
However, if you have made any recoveries you must, by law, report them to the Receiver of Wreck. Contact 02380 329474 or row@mcga.gov.uk.
Who owns the Polly  
Can you help Im trying to find the owner of the ss Politician - yes, the ship from the film Whisky Galore.
Ian Dickinson


Its extraordinary how often the old Politician, which ran ashore on 5 February 1941 in the Outer Hebrides, turns up in questions. But things havent changed much since I said there was little chance of finding a bottle of the hard stuff, because the stern section is all thats left, in 10m on a sandbank off Rosinish on the east side of Eriskay.
Now the Atlantic swells have moved the wreckage over an even wider area, but optimistic divers tell each other, on little real evidence, that there must be at least 1000 bottles still down there!
Perfect viz over white sand makes finding a bottle look a doddle, but the sand has been airlifted away once and is now back, and seaweed has been growing over the site at an rapid rate.
The owner at the time of her loss was Charente SS Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the Liverpool shipping line of Thomas & James Harrison.
She was insured with 24 companies, who were soon informed by Harrison Lines that she couldnt be refloated, and would be abandoned.
Amateur divers got involved in 1966. In 1987 Christies auctioned eight bottles found by divers for more than£4000. With that sort of money involved, full-scale salvage was bound to happen, so a Glasgow financial services company formed ss Politician plc in October 1989.
More than 500 people invested£403,000 for a bottle-salvage operation in 1990. Divers working for the public company moved more than 600 tons of sand by airlift and lifted steel plates by the ton but uncovered only 24 bottles.
Amateur divers often probe the site, but there have been no more reports of large numbers of bottles in recent years.
It would seem that the owners of the Whisky Galore ship today are ss Politician plc, which you should try contacting through Churchill Baron Financial Services of Glasgow. The Politician company chairman was Jeremy Brough.
What was Lelia carrying  
Iwatched a Wreck Detectives episode on Channel Four about the paddle-steamer Lelia, lost on her maiden voyage from Liverpool in 1865. I know that lots of divers have enjoyed these programmes, which have grown to present divers and diving around Britain in an interesting and sensible light. Most of the underwater photography has been excellent for British waters.
However, I am not so happy about the land-based research for this one. I thought that the acceptance of a letter of that time, which said she was carrying arms from Liverpool for the Confederates in the American Civil War, was a bit too easy. It was a pity that bad weather meant that the planned dig by airlift into one of the holds to prove that Lelia was carrying war supplies had to be cancelled. Is there any real evidence one way or another about the cargo
Peter Browne


I take your point and agree with your verdict on these wreck programmes, but the evidence of the American letter about war supplies being aboard was debatable. According to Lloyds reports and enquiries into her loss at the time, the Lelia was owned by WC Rickarby & Co, built in 1864 by WC Miller & Sons, was of 1100 tons and powered by 300hp compound diagonal engines, giving her a top speed of 14 knots.
She was 252ft long with a beam of 30ft and an very shallow draught of 12ft - specially designed, it was said, for blockade running.
She left Liverpool for Bermuda on the morning of 14 January. Her stated cargo was 700 tons of coal and a little general cargo, but it was openly said that she was to pick up a more valuable cargo at Bermuda, which she was then to run through the blockade into Wilmington.
She carried 60 passengers and crew and one Confederate officer - so perhaps there were already war materials in her holds, though the Bermuda operation sounds more likely.
Lelia ran into heavy seas outside the Mersey and worse weather off Great Ormes Head. Captain Skinner ordered the anchors taken on board, but one was dashed through the deck by a huge wave. The hole filled with water and she started settling by the head.
Lelia ran for home but her bows were soon under water. The four boats were launched but two were smashed. The others, one with 18 and the other 12 people aboard, made for the North West Lightship about six miles away. The boat of 18 was caught under the lightships bow and swamped, and 14 drowned.
Only eight were saved from the other boat. While the Liverpool lifeboat was being towed to the rescue by a tug, she overturned and seven of her 11 crew were lost. In all some 50 people died in the Lelia sinking and rescue efforts.
When do the salvors turn up  
Idived recently out of Littlehampton on the steamer Cairndhu, torpedoed in 1917 while carrying coal from the Tyne to Gibraltar. I noticed that the engine conrod and eccentric rod bearings had been split open, the bearing caps removed, and the bronze bearings taken. The propshaft was also exposed and its bearings had been removed.
When in a wrecks history does such salvage take place When its new, and divers go in with spanners When the wreck is blown up by explosives
Or do you wait until the ship collapses with age, lift the wreckage off and then struggle with the corroded-solid bolts Would it ever have been economically viable to salvage small lumps of bronze and white metal
Michael Norfolk


It never was salvaged. There was a period in the 60s of high prices for that sort of scrap, but such salvage would have been worthwhile only if linked with a bigger salvage operation.
One salvor told me that the fact that only the bearings were gone told him that sport divers had been on the wreck.
They might be prepared to struggle to get the bearings free to make a nice souvenir for their mantelpiece, but no professional would waste good bottom time on such small pickings.
The Cairndhu is owned by diver John Salsbury. In the late 1980s, I hear that he formed a group for a professional salvage operation. Explosives were used to salvage the condenser copper and the engine toppled over. This may have been when the bearings were removed.

Can readers help  
I have just returned home to Poland from Indonesia after a successful diving expedition. During one dive we found a wreck with lots of broken crockery pieces in it. I found one unbroken black mug with an inscription on it. It looks like HUBBUCK and LONDON. Can any of your readers identify the company, or even the ship's name, from it
Slawomir Makaruk