Great Wrecks of

the Clyde

The cold dark waters of the Firth of Clyde are a graveyard of shipwrecks.

 

The Beagle

The Beagle lies to the West of Great Cumbrae at the northern end. This was the first of the Clyde wrecks that I dived from the club boat and found it exciting. It lies at around 35 metres and although still shaped like a ship most of the decking and superstructure have gone. According to one of the boats that take fishermen out there is another wreck nearby. Anyone got any information?

Launched on the 21st July 1864 to the order of Messrs. G & J Burns of Glasgow, the Beagle, a small cargo passenger steamer, worked mainly between the ports of Belfast and Glasgow. Advertised to sail from Glasgow on Tuesdays and Fridays and from Belfast on Mondays and Thursdays, she could offer a return trip with first class cabins for 30 shillings.

It was on this service that, on 8th November 1865, inward bound, she collided with the steamer Napoli off Skate Point, Cumbrae and sank shortly afterwards. The Napoli struck the Beagle on her port side, twelve feet aft of her forecastle, slicing through her hull and decking to the foredeck hatch. The large open forehold of the Beagle quickly filled with water as the vessels separated. The crew of the Beagle, in all states of dress as some had been asleep, were rescued by a passing tug, the Pearl, which had been inshore of the Beagle when the collision occurred. Everyone aboard was saved but the Beagle quickly sank, some nine minutes later. The Napoli sustained damage to her stern and bow plating and returned to Greenock under her own steam. She was towed to Glasgow the following day for repairs.

The Wreck Today

The Beagle lies in a general depth of 34-38 metres, on an even keel, orientated 170/350 degrees, with the stern pointing northwest. The open hull has a shallowest depth of 30-32 metres and can be located on position 55o47.324’N, 004o56.649’W (GPS).

The straight stern rises 4.5 metres out of the sand, silt seabed covered with orange and white plumose anemonae. On top of the forecastle the main anchor can be seen along with the bow steam winch. Heading aft you can descend into the forehold area, which is a profusion of silt covered debris. On the port side the huge tear of the collision damage is clearly visible. All decking and support beams have collapsed into this area from above. At the rear of the forehold is the engine room forward bulkhead and you need to ascend to the main deck level to continue aft.

Just forward of the net shrouded boiler stack would have been the wheelhouse area, although this too has collapsed into the forehold. Astern of the boiler stack lies the engine room area and, as the aft bulkhead has crumbled, it is possible to pass into the stern section unhindered. The stern accommodation area resembles the forehold, with piles of debris and lurking conger eels. At the stern itself all that remains in board is the emergency steering post and some tangled metal, the remains of the stern decking. In good visibility, dropping onto the seabed can provide interesting views of the wreck.

Visibility on the wreck averages 4-5 metres although, as with all wrecks in this area, this will vary with the state of the tide and prevailing weather conditions. Tidal movement over the wreck is generally weak and rarely exceeds 1 knot, although surface currents running slightly harder have been experienced down to 6 or 7 metres at spring tides.