Those of you that have browsed this page in the past will know that it remains virtually unchanged from when it was first uploaded. That is quite a shame given the rich content of shipwrecks that lie off this part of the coast. Having forged new alliance's I aim to rectify this matter however even so, I can only begin to scratch the surface as there are so many shipwrecks along this coast my local chart number 134, lists over 530 wrecks. Inclement weather, poor navigation and Two World Wars have added to the wealth of vessel lost off this part of the Yorkshire coast. One of the first shipwreck books I purchased covered wrecks off the the Yorkshire Coast and was written by Pete Lassey & Godfrey Arthur, it was without doubt the first book to list in detail many of the wrecks.
The waters around Whitby provide dive sites of varying quality and standards to encompass all individual requirements. Due to it's small size it is relatively easy to travel from one dive site to another, giving divers the opportunity to travel for one, or more, interesting dive sites. The dive season generally starts around May and ends around September it is possible, of course, to dive outside of this, but due to adverse weather and sea conditions it is not very appealing.
Diving off Whitby is best done after a prolonged spell of gentle south-westerly winds, if this is followed by a light easterly wind then good visibility can be assured. However a northerly blow can and probably will reduce underwater visibility to almost nil, this can take a long time to settle. Tidal movements can also cause problems as quite a few dives require slack water (Two hours after low or high water) there is also the problem of spring tides which means such a movement of water often reduces the visibility anyway. Don't let all this put you off though, as there are some spectacular dives waiting for you. The harbour slipway is not too bad, but is best avoided at the lower stages of the tide. The town had its own BSAC branch up until 2005, it is pretty sad that a port with such a unique maritime heritage no longer has its own diving club. Whitby is of course well served with accommodation available to suit all pockets ranging from a bunkhouse, camping sites, through to guesthouses and hotels for visiting divers contemplating longer stay.
Useful GPS Initialisation Points
Whitby Harbour Entrance / 54 29 660 N 000 36 762 W
Whitby Bell Buoy / 54 30 762 N 000 36 580 W
NOTE:Care should be taken when crossing Whitby Rock and going to any of the wrecks South of Whitby, many vessels have foundered when running onto Whitby Rock. Boats should go out towards Whitby Bell Buoy before crossing safely round the rock. The table below is slightly out of alignment in terms of positions per wreck and is something I am aiming to correct soon.
The Wreck HistoriesROHILLA
No visit to Whitby would be complete without a trip to Whitby's most famous wreck, the hospital ship the "Rohilla". A commissioned liner lost early Friday morning on the 30th October 1914. During wartime blackouts she was caught in a severe Southeast gale when she ran onto reef just a mile south of the harbour. Many heroic rescues were made to save those on board, with quite a few losses. The inshore end of the wreck lies in about 6 metres whilst the seaward end sits in around 15 metres, there are very large boilers to be seen, with lots of wreckage left. The Rohilla was the chosen topic for my third book "Into The Maelstrom - The Wreck of the Rohilla" and it is only natural that I have a sub domain dedicated entirely to the wrecked hospital ship.
The Swedish cargo vessel Skane ran aground onto Whitby Rock on the 30th November 1915 in fine weather? local fishermen tried to refloat the ship but couldn't as she had been holed. A tug towed the ship off the next day and had to beach it, the weather worsened and the sea became really rough. The ship eventually became a total loss and much salvage has been done to remove the wreck from the beach however quite a bit can still be seen and this makes an easy dive, diveable in all states of the tide. Good for trainees and for those wishing to finish off their air on a third dive.
Built in Hartlepool, the Polruan was used as a collier until October 25 1916 when she foundered after striking Whitby Rock. A Board of Trade inquiry decided that whilst this was probably the case, they would discount that it may have struck a mine, this wreck like the wreck of the "Rohilla" is one which is owned by local divers. Average depth for this wreck is between 27 - 30 metres. This is a slack water dive and although well broken there is still quite a lot of wreckage to be seen over a large area, not a dive for novices, but good for those seeking some depth with lots of wreckage. Lying just to the east of Whitby Bell Buoy this wreck is only a short distance from the Harbour eliminating lengthy boat journeys.
Confusion surrounds the name of this wreck, known locally as the Steeple-in-street due to the transits used to locate it. The sparrow also known as the "Spero" and was lost on the 13th of January 1923. Wreckage is quite big however care should be taken when diving this wreck as it normally shrouded in nets. But they are the old heavy type and can be seen unlike the modern "monofilament" type, this tends to be a dark wreck so a good torch is needed, again this wreck should only be dived during slack water. General depth is between 27 - 32 metres.
Most clubs visiting Whitby will dive the wreck of the German Submarine the UC 70 which lies in around 25 metres general depth, sat upright, this is a really good dive and one which is highly recommended. The UC 70 was spotted by a seaplane, which dropped a bomb large enough to sustain critical damage; this was followed up by depth charges from the destroyer HMS Ouse. The submarine went down all hands on August 28 1918, and is a war grave and should be respected as such local fisherman have quite strong feelings about divers and the submarine. The hatches are open and you can see inside her but under NO circumstances should any attempt be made to enter the wreck. The gun sits on top and is well worth inspection, a slack water dive that is sometimes buoyed by the local charter boat. There is normally a shoal of "Bib" or Pollack around the Stern.
The following video gives a clear example of a dive on the German submarine and the conditions divers experience.
The wreck of the Giraldo was torpedoed on August 28 1918, 5 miles north of Whitby possibly by the UC 70. It sank with the loss of six men, however 13 were saved, and some confusion surrounds stories that the wreck was beached some half a mile from where she now lies. Sitting in around 13 metres this wreck is good for novices, although quite broken up and scattered it makes for an interesting dive, which can be, dived at most stages of the tides excluding springs.
During thick fog the Viola went aground just half a mile south of Kettleness point on the 19th September 1903. Carrying iron ore from Spain, the wreck became a total loss two weeks after running aground. The wreck is in around 8 metres surrounded by the scar, this can make identification difficult when using a sounder, this is best dived on a flood tide however can be dived during most stages of the tide. Well broken up but still worth a rummage good for trainees and those who wish take it easy.
During an attempt to escape a German submarine the Vanland struck Kettleness Point just as a torpedo hit her killing six men, as a lifeboat went to the aid of the stricken vessel a submarine was reportedly seen outside the bay. After burning for a week she eventually sank. The wreck lies just inside Kettleness Point in only 5 metres with little left, it still remains a nice little scenic dive with quite a bit of marine life to be seen, diveable at any time.
The African Transport was torpedoed on June 25 th 1918, the wreck is a large wreck over 4400 tons gross, she was armed for defence and now lies 5 miles north of Whitby and 2 miles off shore in 30 - 37 metres. There is a gun which sits on a memorial plinth on the foreshore reportedly . This dive is not for the novice, requiring slack water it tends to in a dark area irrespective of the weather, good torches are required, there is lots of wreckage to see, this wreck can sometimes be fouled with net care must be taken, use the following link to access a better information page.
Torpedoed when running in ballast and sunk by German submarine off Runswick Bay on 26th January 1918. The Athos sits well broken with some quite large bits of wreckage, although generally dark it still makes a good dive for sport divers or above, it is a slack water dive sitting in 25 metres general depth, the following link accesses a better information page.
Round in Robin Hoods Bay is the wreck of the Britannia, which struck rocks and backed off but sank in deeper water. At one point just the masts where visible, a lot of salvage was done and the wreck now lies in around 8 metres well scattered but is uncovered from time to time after storms, good for novices, can be dived any time.
After colliding with another vessel in February 1941 the Paris was beached but became a total loss. Not a great deal remains today and the wreck is sand scoured although like the Britannia can be uncovered after storms. The wreck is easy to find as during low springs it breaks the surface although visibility then is generally nil, best dived on neaps during which it lies in around 6 metres. Whilst it can be dived as a shore dive it can be a bit of a trek over rocks.
Sat in the middle of the bay the wreck of the Paul is in around 30 metres. The wreck is generally buoyed by Scarborough yacht club it makes a good dive although on race days it can be quite busy, some wreckage stands 3 - 4 metres high, this dive is another slack water dive. The wrecks down at Robin Hoods Bay are not dived as much as some because of the duration time for getting here from Whitby Harbour so tend to be quieter.
During a storm the Fred Everard ran aground under the cliffs of Ravenscar. The became a total loss, and now sits in around 8 metres although well broken up it is a very good dive as there is a lot of recognisable wreckage including the masts and blocks, the bow section houses some impressive anchors, one still sat in it's hawser pipe. Care should be taken when approaching the wreck for the first time as the wreck sometimes dries at low water. the wreck can be dived at any time and is great for clubs and novices. I have recently added a photograph of the ship before its loss, as well as a better quality image of the ship during its wrecking and of the ship's crew after their recovery.
On August the 14th 1918 the Wallsend was torpedoed by the German submarine the UB - 104, just half a mile of Ravenscar. The wreck now sits in 27 - 30 metres with the bows upside down and the stern on it's port side, the Wallsend was armed for defence and the gun lies on the sea bed just to the stern of the wreck. This wreck must be dived at slack water and is quite a good dive with plenty of wreckage to be seen.
The Afrique was a 2457 ton French steamer built in 1911. A German torpedo sank her on June 12th 1918. She is a Slack Water dive, use the following link to access a better information page.
A 2114 Spanish steamer the Anboto Mendi was torpedoed off Runswick Bay on 10th May 1918. She was 275ft long, with a beam of 41ft and that wreck is a Slack Water dive. This wreck shows up well on echo sounders due to the height of the wreckage, the following link accesses a better information page.
This collier was lost to a mine on January 12th 1917. She was inevitably one of the first casualties of the year. She is a slack water dive, the following link accesses a better information page.
The Deptford was a steamer, which became stranded on Whitby rock. Although she was refloated she sank of Boulby, Staithes on March 13th 1862. She is reportedly standing 4 metres of the seabed. She should only be dived at slack water.
The Audax was a 3-masted schooner armed for defence. She was torpedoed on September 6th 1918 round of Robin Hoods Bay. She is a Slack Water dive.
The Ellida was a Norwegian steamship of 1124 tons, which was sunk by a torpedo of Runswick bay on April 19th 1917, and it is like the many wrecks off this part off the coast, a slack water dive. As an extra incentive for Whitby shipwrecks you might find the following link about finding gold on this wreck interesting.
This wreck was an armed collier, which was torpedoed on December 8th 1917. She was 281ft long, with a beam of 40ft, this is a Slack Water dive
Whilst on duty as a hired trawler she was reportedly mined on July 24th 1918. She is a Slack Water dive.
This vessel was torpedoed on January 26th 1918. She had survived an earlier attack from a sea-plane, which had attempted to torpedo her on June 9th 1917. She was armed for defence. She should only be dived at slack water.
The wreck of the Hercules can be found approximately three miles north of Whitby. She was another victim of the dreaded U-boats. She was lost on December 30th 1917. She is a Slack Water dive and should only be attempted by experienced divers. This wreck is always dark, however it stands quite proud.
The wreck of the Disperser, was for many years a wreck that was filled with wonderful expectations. The former salvage vessel was lost in 1934 when overcome by heavy seas. There were always been stories that she foundered with all her equipment including some Siebe Gorman diving helmets. Andrew Jackson and Carl Racey carried out extensive research and like many of the east coast wrecks they found and positively identified the wreck they had been searching for. The wreck sits upright and although well broken is still an impressive sight although it is a strictly Slack Water dive for experienced divers only. The Scarborough divers website has a page dedicated to the Disperser with more detailed information and is well worth viewing.
The video below showcases the helmet as being built to last and re-used during an intrepid walk within Scarborough harbour in 2009 in conjunction with The Historical Diving Society. The following page is one from the Scarborough Divers website about the intrepid walk.
This 203 ton steamer was caught in a severe gale. The bad weather prevented the lifeboats from launching and the vessel went down with all her six crew. She is a Slack Water dive and should only be attempted by experienced divers. She sits upright on a rock seabed. The bridge has collapsed, but it is still an interesting dive.
Ex DUNELM, 971 tons, the vessel built 1916, acquired by Stone & Rolfe Ltd in 1934 and was lost in collision off Whitby. Reports indicate the vessel was lost on March 15th 1942. She is a Slack Water dive.
This Large Roll on Roll off ferry is the most recent wreck off this coast. A large engine room fire disabled the ship with catastrophic consequences, sinking after a large explosion. She is a Slack Water dive. The wreck was dispersed, as it was a danger to shipping but there is still a lot to be seen. The seabed is at 40 metres, although the wreck can be reached at 27 metres. I have just added a page which has two very good photographs of the ship before its loss as well as the Hydrographic information.
The wreck of the UB 30 is sitting upright three miles out of Whitby. The German submarine sits upright and is very intact with her hatches open. The submarine is filled up with silt ( it lies close to a spoil ground frequently used by the local harbour dredger) however NO attempt should be made to enter the wreck. She is a war grave and is a dive which should only be attempted on " Slack Water". The wreck is for experienced divers only, and should be treated with respect, sadly a personal and well respected local diver was lost on the wreck in 1992. Andrew Jackson, has captured footage of one of the dives on the submarine which is hosted on YouTube as below.
The Venetia was a 3595 ton Glasgow steamer, which was torpedoed on December 9th 1917. Like many merchant ships she was armed for defence. Her dimensions were 353ft long with a beam of 45ft. She is a Slack Water dive. The wreck is spread over a large area and requires a few dives to see it all. It is a good dive for those starting to venture into decompression diving.
New Comprehensive Wreck List
I have recently added a new page which has a wealth of wreck sites north and south of Whitby, I would encourage you to have a look at the following GPS page.
© Colin Brittain 1999 - 2013