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Scuba Diving in Baltimore, County Cork, Ireland, Europe
Dive Site: The Kowloon Bridge
Location: 51°28'N; 09°14'W (Stag Rocks, near Baltimore, County Cork, Ireland, Europe)
Description: 169,080 ton bulk carrier
Length: 300 metres (900 feet)
Depth: 6 - 36 metres (20 - 118 feet)
Visibility: 10 - 15 metres (75 - 50 feet)
The Kowloon Bridge is the largest wreck by tonnage in the world. It sank with its cargo of iron ore in November 1986 when sailing from Quebec to the River Clyde. It had to dock in Bantry Bay after sustaining some damage on the Atlantic crossing. After leaving Bantry the steering failed causing the huge ship to collide with the Kedges. RAF helicopters rescued the crew whilst tugs tried (and failed) to pull the KB off of the rocks. Over the next few days it drifted and finally settled on the seabed in 36 metres of water. Bunker fuel spilt out over coastline causing extensive damage to local wildlife and was still being washed up onshore two years later along ten miles of coastline.
The stern of the Kowloon Bridge is now well broken up but the bow remains more-or-less intact and is a stunning sight to behold when you look up at it from the seabed. The base of the bow has a number of holes in it, presumably from the stress of the impact with the seabed when it sank. The forward cargo hold is immense and you could easily spend a whole dive looking at this alone with its millions of balls of iron ore on the bottom at 26 metres. The wall of the cargo hold is smothered with plumose anemones and wrasse and pollack dart across it. We also saw an angler fish away from the hold and lots more fish hiding in amongst crevasses. At the stern end of the forward cargo hold there is a series of huge rooms that might have been part of the bridge of the ship that offers the chance of some simple penetration with lots of space. A 6 metre anchor can be found slightly further round from this still attached to the side of the wreck. A breathtaking wreck that needs more than one dive to get around just a fraction of the ship.
If you want to dive the Kowloon Bridge, be aware that it was sold to a new owner in August 2005* who intends to salvage the iron ore cargo and the steel that the ship is made from as it is worth millions of pounds so it may no longer be possible to dive there. It is a great shame as this dive site is spectacular and is covered by so much marine life - it will be a real loss to Ireland's divers.
* We were given this information when inquiring about the wreck whilst diving in Baltimore, we have recently been contacted by someone who works in the salvage industry who has said the wreck is still under it's original ownership. We are currently trying to confirm this information.
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Be aware that there can be some quite dangerous vortex currents around the bow section, particularly near the top and even on slack water if there is groundswell.
The Kowloon Bridge was wrecked on Stags Rocks about 6km east of the Kedges. I dived the wreck twice during the first week in June 06. The wreck is starting to deteriorate, particularly around the bow section; big cracks are appearing and are growing into fractures between 10cm to 1 metre. The currents around the wreck are quite unpredictable, so great care is needed.
Frank McGrath, M2 CMAS
Having dived the Kowloon Bridge now on numerous occasions I am inclined to agree with all the above comments. However this is a fantastic wreck, well worth the effort. Our group from Adventure Diving, Bettystown, Drogheda were lucky enough to dive it again this weekend with Rianne and Gerry from Aquaventures Baltimore and it is a very great shame that it may be the last time we do so.
We were unable to access the wreck for most of the weekend because the aforementioned new owner was there scanning the wreck with sonar equipment in an unmarked yacht and, according to the coastguard, no permit. When we did eventually dive it, I found it looking more beautiful than ever. The dead men's fingers and anemones were spectacular and there were huge ling and pollock everywhere. At least one conger is still in residence and on two occasions we had common dolphins feeding just to the north. This is not just a superb wreck, it is a marine oasis. There is abundant life here. What a shame it may soon be gone forever. This is very likely because on Monday 7th Aug 06 we witnessed divers laying lines for sampling of the iron ore and according to local knowledge the plan is to cut her up and salvage her and the ore.
This will be a disaster for the marine life the relies on her for life!
If they do try to salvage the wreck, make sure that the owners know that they will be personally responsible for the cost of the clean up operation. The cost of that may make them think twice.
Dived wreck in July 06 with Wexford Sub Aqua Club. Be very careful of the rusting plates at bow section. Some people will use gaps in the plates to hold onto while navigating around the bow section. There is a definite risk of losing some fingers if you put them between the plates while they move up and down in the current.
I dived this site on the 4th November '06 having heard that its depth profile had changed. Having landed on the wreck (bow section) with which i was quite familiar, discovered that it has collapsed having sheared just aft of the bulbous bow section and collapsed in on itself with the previously very intact bow very badly damaged with some of the port side gunwale still upright. A complete overview was not possible due to swell and poor visibility. I will update details when further dives are carried out.
Brendan Cahill, CMAS M2
I have not dived this site but it is more than obvious how much more sea life growth there is in this wreck since its 1986 sinking compared with the Zenobia in Larnaca which sank in 1980.
I dived the Kowloon Bridge last august as we heard it was being bought.
I have dived a lot of wrecks in Baltimore and it is by far the best diving experience I have ever had. There is so much to see explore and fish life on this wreck we must save it if we can.
Brendan O Brien
I did my advanced dive on this site, very, very good to dive and we dived with basking sharks on the way back. What a dive day will never forget this site.
I was one of the salvage divers who tried to reflote the Kowloon Bridge. I nearly lost my life trying to shut valves that spilled oil. I am pleased to sea that the wreck is a heaven for marinelife. In the future I might go back again to see for my self.
What's the status with the wreck? Is it still possible to dive it now?
The bow section has collapsed due to bad weather in 2007. Everything else is ok I think.
Miranda Murphy | Contributed: 03/11/08
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