Duke of Cambridge Scuba Award Winners 2018!

Wow, what a day! On Tuesday 6th November Team Gun Rocks, represented by Nic Faulks, Si Smith and Peta Knott, took a trip to Kensington Palace, to meet Prince William and to receive the DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE SCUBA AWARD! We had known about the award for 6 weeks or so but were sworn to secrecy. This meant as excited as we were, we could only tell close friends and family.

It was a hard decision to make, who we should take. So many people have given their time to the project. In the end we decided to go with the core of the group, but we won’t forget how much input the project has had from club members, other BSAC members, divers from other agencies and non-divers too.

So how did the day unfold? We all met at the entrance gate at 1345 to sign in. I had to have another photograph taken as the one I sent through previously they had put on my ID badge up-side down! We met everyone else representing BSAC, Jubilee Trust and the two teams that were highly commended. After 20 minutes we were lead through into the Palace room. There was a short brief on how the greeting would work, what we should call him, if we should shake his hand…. Prince William then entered. He greeted everyone, then chatted to the Gun Rocks group for about 10 minutes, finding out all about the project. Peta had come prepared and showed him a video on her ipad of the website, photos and 3D models. I gave him a copy of the dive trail maps and leaflets. We were then presented with the award. After a few more photographs, he left, of to more meetings.

Although we were only in the Palace for an hour, it was a fantastic experience. The atmosphere in the Palace is amazing, very formal, but relaxed. ON the way in, there was also a fabulous avenue of Gingko Biloba trees, leading up to the Palace, they looked so beautiful in their autumn colours. 

We then all headed over to the Goat Pub for fizzy and a grand chat! To read more, click on the link below.

Group shot, all people!

2018 Dive Season Ending Soon…..

The diving season is coming to an end on the East Coast is seems. The Autumn gales have started, and the underwater visibility is changing on a daily basis. On the 29th September a group of us tried to dive Gun Rocks, but the strong westerly winds kept us away having to dive the sheltered side of the islands instead. We had intended to check the trail and to undertake a thorough Seasearch survey of the site, but it was not to be. What we did discover is that the marker buoy has gone. Presumably blew off during the early September storm which swept through. We have therefore decided to leave the site without a marker until next year, probably early April…. So, if you wish to dive the site before then, you will have to use the GPS co-ordinates, and the map!

In other news, Gun Rocks has been selected as a topic for presentation at the Marine Archaeology Society Annual Conference in Newport, Wales 16-17 November 2018. For more information please click Here. The talk will be presented on the Sunday morning, and will be full of photos and some video, following the events of the last few years, photogrammetry, trail laying, mapping and having fun! Tickets are still for sale, so if you would like to go, it will be a lovely weekend full of interesting talks, and possibly some new projects….

Finally, apologies to anyone who has been on the site lately, the website that is, and has found that it was bereft of images and photos. It took a bit of “googling” but it seems that an update to Jet Pack managed to remove all my photos. Fingers crossed that it is all restored now. If you come on and find them gone again, do let me know. 

Nor-Fest Gun Rocks Presentation

On Saturday 28th July, I was asked to give a talk about the Gun Rocks project and the dive trail, for the “Nor-Fest” Festival.

The weekend was wet and windy with a lot of dives cancelled in the morning, so we wondered how many people would turn up to this afternoon event; held in the WI hall in Beadnell. Luckily, about 70 divers came, which made for a great evening. First up was Tyneside BSAC 114’s very own Richard Booth, who gave a well illustrated talk about some of the wrecks off the north east coast. This was followed by tea and cakes, then my talk on Gun Rocks. Everyone seemed to listen, and even asked a few questions at the end…. more importantly i was approached by someone who said that they might have a sward hilt in their caravan, and if they can find it they will give it to me – fantastic, fingers crossed that they find it! 

The following two talks were very different to each other, and no less interesting. One on the deeper wrecks of the east coast of Scotland – by Steve Sanders. he also brought with him a deep sea divers helmet which he had found on one of his dives; quite something. The final talk was given by Ben Burville and was all about seals and their behaviour. it was illustrated with lots of videos he had taken on and around the Farne Islands…. 

The final bit of news – we have the finalised laminated dive trail maps, so if you would like one, then do let me know. You can contact me through the contact form on this website. Happy diving! 🙂 

All that media!

Wow, what a few days it has been, the Gun Rocks Project has been featured in the local press with the Chronicle, Northern Echo and the Journal picking up on the story written by Deb, at Ceidiog Publicity, on behalf of BSAC. The story came about because BSAC are hoping to promote the use of hard boats by divers, under a campaign called Save Our Skippers (SOS). As we have used William Shiel’s boat Glad Tidings VII (skippered by Michael Craig) to access the site on numerous occasions, we thought it would be good to do some publicity, for this worthy cause. (Please note, other hard boats do exist as do other ports of departure!).  If clubs and individuals don’t organise trips and use hard boats for diving, then they will cease to operate and that would be a shame. 

If you missed the articles, then do click below:

In other news, the dive trail maps have been completed and have been sent to the printers. All we have to do now is identify the wreck! 🙂 

Gun Rocks Funding: 2017-2018 Report

The funding period for Gun Rocks is now over. The funds received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Jubilee Trust had to be spent within the 12 month funding period. This was a challenge, what with the trail not being installed until May 2018, be we did succeed. In fact, over the last 12 months, this project has achieved almost everything it set out to do; though the origin of the wreck still remains a mystery! 

The CrowdFunding money was not time linked, so this money will be used for ongoing trail maintenance and website hosting costs. 

The Summary Report was written so that it could be amended accordingly then submitted to each of the funding sources to provide them with information on how their funding was spent and what the tangible outcomes of the project have been. It was also intended as a stand-along report, so that interested parties can find out what we have done during the funding period. The report has also been submitted for the 2018 Duke of Cambridge scuba prize…. (fingers crossed!). 

If you would like to read the summary report please click HERE! and it should download in PDF. Or visit the Reports Page, you can download it from there too. 

All it remains to do is say a huge thank you to everyone who donated. The project does have a legacy and will continue. Tyneside 114 BSAC, will continue to maintain the trail and the website for the foreseeable future.  We also hope that many many divers continue to use the dive trail, and that divers and non-divers alike enjoy learning about the cannon and the marine life of Gun Rocks. 

The dive trail is open!

Bank Holiday Monday – never good for traffic, and this day was no exception. The temperature on leaving home was 25oC. However, as we slowly eeeeked our way up the A1, the temperature begun to drop. Almost 2 hours later when we arrived in Seahouses, the temperature was only 15oC, much better for wearing a dry suit. We all kitted up and headed on to Glad Tidings VII, with Michael as our skipper. A merry band of 12 Tyneside 114 members, all to try out the new trail.

Sue above cannon 6012 the cannon in the gully.

The first dive was on North Wamseys, where Hanna did her Ocean Diver qualifying dive with Si Fish. The visibility was about 5 metres, with lots of marine life including a reluctant octopus. The second dive, after a shorter than normal surface interval (due to potential incoming fog, that didn’t arrive in the end) was on Gun Rocks.

We actually dived the site on slack which was great. Each buddy pair was given a map so that they could see that the trail was not circular, but fanned out in three directions from the central pile of three. Everyone was able to navigate around, and for some it was the first time they had actually seen the cannon (including some who had done the site before!). The visibility was about 5 metres which was great.

Sue looking for crabs in the muzzle of cannon 6008.

I was diving with Sue, so used her as a model, taking lots of photos for future publicity. We also took advantage of the slack to swim over a larger area than the trail. It is really evident towards the eastern end of the rock, how the storms have ripped up all of the kelp. There is just now a large pebble bed. Back on the other side of the trail, to the west, the kelp is fully intact and the short walls into the sound are still covered with life such as dead man’s fingers. We also took the opportunity to find the cannon which Si found last year, and to take some more photographs of it.

All of the photographs which I took, have been added to the Gallery section of this website. If anyone reading this post, has photos which they would like me to add, then please let me know – you can use the contact form, or my email if you have it.

The feedback from everyone was good. It seems that finally we may have a working dive trail, which will allow people to actually see the cannon in all of their glory. The maps will be updated and information put on the back about the cannon and the site in general. Once produced it can then be downloaded from the dive trail section of this website, for use in the field. In the meantime, the draft map can be downloaded here. 

Installing the Gun Rocks dive trail

Finally the wrath of the Beast from the East has abated. The trail laying day dawned hazy, but with no wind and no swell. By the time we launched at Seahouses, the sun had even come out.

The day was to entail one dive, two groups (Nic, Darren and Peta; followed by Si and Michael). The first group had the job of cleaning the cannon, the second laying the trail.

We shot the pile of three cannon then headed down. It seems that the easterly storms have taken a bit of a toll on Gun Rocks, with large areas denuded of Kelp, while some of the gullies have piles of dead kelp just floating in them. The trail area has fared better, with most of the mature kelps still remaining. On the cannons, only low growth was present, which was easy to remove. A few red seaweeds but mostly just juvenile furbelows kelp with its knobbly hold fast!

It took just over an hour for the three of us to clean the cannon, to make them all pink and shiny, for we only removed the seaweed and have left the pink encrusting algae in situ as it protects the metal of the cannon underneath. We also found a lost weigh pouch while down… We lost one 2 years ago on Gun Rocks, so good to find it again. During the clearance, a short video of the work was taken:

For the second dive Michael and Si went down with the rope to install the trail. This took a further hour, with lots of knot tying and rope shortening with very cold hands. The water was only 8oC and Si was wearing only 3mm gloves so that he still had dexterity. Brr. But eventually they manged to route the rope under, around and over all of the cannon.

The pile of three form the central point of the trail. Then there are three branches out from this. Subject to feedback this was considered to be the best configuration for joining all of the cannon together in a trail. The rope even goes over a pile of well encrusted cannon balls, so it will be interesting to see if anyone notices them!

After a long dive each, we decided to return to Seahouses, happy I the knowledge that we have finally installed the Gun Rocks dive trail, ready for divers to try on Monday.

When will the easterly winds stop?

We had planned to install the Gun Rocks dive trail this weekend. The RHIB had been checked last weekend, places organised and the trail equipment bought. But sadly we had to cancel due to a 2 metre swell on the Saturday and a forecast for a 1 metre swell and a force 5-6 wind on the Sunday.  The hard boats which sail out of Eyemouth were cancelled, but the hard boats from the Farnes still ventured out. From the people we have spoken too, it was quite rough on the Saturday, but with poor underwater visibility on both days. So in the end we felt, for safety sake, justified in cancelling the installation of the trail. 

We are now looking at installing it over the May Bank Holiday Weekend. Clearing kelp and getting the ropes in on the Friday (the tides work this way). Then updating the maps on the Saturday, getting them laminated ready for use, then having the first group to dive the trail arrive on the Monday afternoon (7th May). We are going to look into getting a hard boat for the Monday afternoon, so we can dive in comfort and fit more than 5 people on. As soon as the details are organised, information will be sent out/posted. 

Out and About in Seahouses

Today we took a big bundle of leaflets up to Seahouses, so that they are available for divers and non-divers to pick up on their travels. Everyone we spoke to was either aware of the project, or very interested in finding out more. So my tasks in the next few weeks are to get in touch with the AONB and to arrange giving some talks on the Gun Rocks Project. 

We did find out, while chatting to people, that Seahouses Pier has a couple of cracks in it, so these are being repaired over the next few months. This is going to mean no access or parking on the pier, and possible times when the slip may be rather busy with works traffic. As we like launching from Seahouses, and the situation with works is subject to change, we will keep in touch with the Harbour Master, to find out if we need to divert to Beadnell for launching or not. 

On Friday, the first of two funding reports were sent to our two main funding sources. The British Sub-aqua Jubilee Trust, who kindly donated £1000, were due the first report on our activities over the last 12 months. The second report is due at the end of April and is for the Heritage Lottery Fund. For all of the people who kindly donated through CrowdFunder, hopefully you are keeping up to date through this blog. In addition to this, we will also upload the funding report, so you can see what we have achieved so far….. all we need to do now is install the dive trail and work out the true origin of the wreck which deposited the cannon. 

The aim is/was to install the dive trail on the weekend of the 14-15 of April. However at the moment the weather gods are playing games. More large swells and easterly winds. It may be that we have to put off installing the trail until early May bank holiday. 🙁  

Gun Rocks Marine Life Leaflets.

The Gun Rocks Marine Life Leaflet has now been printed and folded. All 500 arrived at my office today, so let’s hope there are no spelling mistakes! Links to download can be found on the Downloads page.

For the marine life leaflet we have gone for a similar format to the archaeological leaflet, but have used a different livery, so it is east to distinguish. The idea of the marine life leaflet is to give divers and non-divers a snapshot of the life that is down there, rather than a comprehensive ID guide. As a result the leaflet contains no Latin names for the species, only common ones, and a range of coloured photos. The intention is also to raise awareness of Seasearch, so that if divers want to record what they see, they can do in a structured format. The records submitted through Seasearch are then uploaded on to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN), where they  become accessible to everyone and can be used for conservation, or to further our understanding of the marine life in the UK.  

The Gun Rocks site is swept by a strong current on the ebb tide, the cannon are therefore covered in a range of marine life. This site isn’t just for the rust lovers, but also provides for fish and flower lovers too!