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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙁
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!
Today the Gun Rocks Leaflets arrived from the printers. They are A4 trifold leaflets containing lots of information about Gun Rocks. The front page has a picture of the all important F from one of the cannon trunnions, and a picture of one of the cleaned cannons, just showing off its cascabel. The inside flap gives a brief summary of the Gun Rocks history, which wasn’t easy to summarise in to so few words!
The inside of the leaflet is set out as an A4 spread, with a copy of the cannon map in the centre, surrounded by photographs and text. We couldn’t show the dive trail on the canon map because it hasn’t been installed yet; but what we hope is that the leaflet will direct people towards this website, where they can download the most up to date version of the map and find out more information about the project.
That’s the purpose of the back page of the leaflet. It is centred around Gun Rocks Further Information and what the reader can expect to find on the website. A QR code has even been added to aid in finding the website!
The next print run will be of the marine critter ID leaflet hopefully. Then we intend to install the dive trail in mid April. As soon as the dive trail is in, we can update the dive trail map and put a downloadable PDF on the website.
Today it was snowing, the wet snow that no one likes, so I took the day to sort out some of the photographs for Gun Rocks. This has resulted in me installing a new widget for photo albums to the website and learning how to use it. Followed by uploading about 100 photographs on to the Gallery Page. There are plenty more to upload, but for now, they give a good flavour of what the project has been about over the last year, and how Tyneside 114 (BSAC) has been involved. Two of the albums are dedicated to the original team from the 1970s.
If anyone else has any photographs that they would like me to add, then do contact me through the contact form, or directly if you have my email address, and we can put them up in an album.
Next task is setting up the templates for the leaflets, so that we can have them ready for the setting of the dive trail in the spring (as soon as the weather allows us). If anyone can make leaflets, or has experience of publisher, then do let me know.
Bill Smith was the Branch Diving Officer of Tyneside 114 back in the late 1960s, and was the inspiration for the club’s subsequent involvement with Gun Rocks. He lead the first project to investigate and map the cannon in 1970, was the author of the first report on the site, and was immensely proud of being the ‘Salvor in Possession’ of the Gun Rocks wreck.
Sadly, Bill died in 2016. On a sunny July afternoon, and with Bill’s family watching, members of Tyneside 114 were honoured to take Bill on his final dive and scatter his ashes amongst his beloved cannon.
For more information about Bill, the inspiration behind Gun Rocks and a short video showing divers releasing his ashes on to Gun Rocks, please visit the Tyneside 114 website.