Bid to create the North East’s first underwater dive trail

Diving near one of the cannons.
Diving near one of the cannons.
Share this article

A bid to create the North East’s first underwater archaeological dive trail, exploring a historic wreck site off the Northumberland coast, has been launched.

Nic Faulks, from the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Tyneside branch, wants to raise £1,000 through crowdfunding to attract more scuba-diving tourists to the area to help unlock a maritime mystery.

BSAC wreck champion Nic Faulks, of Tyneside Sub-Aqua Club, with Jane Maddocks, BSAC's wrecks and underwater cultural heritage advisor, looking out to sea where the Gun Rocks site lies.

BSAC wreck champion Nic Faulks, of Tyneside Sub-Aqua Club, with Jane Maddocks, BSAC's wrecks and underwater cultural heritage advisor, looking out to sea where the Gun Rocks site lies.

It comes as the 40-year-old ecological consultant and diving officer from Northumberland was appointed one of Britain’s first wreck champions by the BSAC.

The accolade is in recognition of six years of dedication to the award-winning Gun Rocks project, which was established in 1970 when divers from the 114 Tyneside branch discovered what’s thought to be an 18th-century Dutch vessel at the site off the Farne Islands.

A collection of forgotten cannons was also found at the spot off the rugged coast and now Nic is hoping a new dive trail will lure enthusiasts wanting to help unlock its secrets.

The cannon which lie on the bed of the North Sea in eight to 10 metres of water have already been mapped out as part of the trail, which is suitable for amateur divers.

Nic said: “We believe a Dutch vessel was carrying cannons back to Holland for recycling. It would seem likely it was blown off course and foundered on Gun Rocks.

“We simply do not know what the name of the ship was and there is nothing left of the vessel which would have been made of wood. Being in relatively shallow water, it will have been pounded by the sea over many years and basically disintegrated.

“There are six cannons at one site, thirteen at another. There were Swedish and British cannons on board.”

Nic explained that although the vessel has gone, some artefacts remain, including some 17th-century German pottery.

“The advantage we have now is 3D imaging which gives us the ability to fully map the whole seabed,” she added.

“So we thought it would be a good idea to create a dive trail to get more people who are keen on diving to help discover all we can about this important wreck site.”

Work done by Wessex Archaeology, on behalf of Historic England, resulted in the discovery of a further six cannons a short distance from the original site where 13 cannons had already been found.

“We are now also looking at a list of 30 anomalies from the seabed and are hopeful some of these anomalies could reveal something of the wreck or even more as-yet-undiscovered cannons,” added Nic.

To donate to the appeal, before November 30, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/user/nicfaulks/dashboard/dive-trail-gun-rocks-farne-islands
The money from the crowdfunding account will go towards cutting back the dense kelp which surrounds the cannon, that will make the dive more visible and accessible.

It will also go towards producing the underwater maps which will pinpoint the cannons and direct people around the site, hopefully finding new cannons along the way.

Nic, who took up diving while at university in 1996, has already won an award for her research into the project and said she was delighted to be appointed as one of BSAC’s first wreck champions, a network of ambassadors appointed to help raise awareness of the UK’s fascinating water heritage.

As the governing body for scuba and snorkelling in the UK, BSAC represents more than 30,000 divers and 1,000 plus family friendly and sociable clubs, run by volunteers, up and down the country and abroad.

There are around 40,000 wrecks lying in UK waters, including around 100 that have special protection and so permission must be sought to dive on them.

BSAC upholds the ethos of the Respect our Wrecks initiative which encourages responsible scuba diving, to ensure wrecks are preserved and lasting resting places are given due respect.

Jane Maddocks, BSAC’s wrecks and underwater cultural heritage advisor and a national diving instructor, said: “Nic is a fantastic ambassador for responsible UK wreck diving.

“Her idea and aim to create a dive trail for the Gun Rocks project is an excellent idea. It’s important the legacy of these dives is spread far and wide to inform future generations about our underwater heritage.”