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Axinallae spawning on the HMS Firebrand, diving Scilly Isles, England - courtesy of Tony Gilbert
Dead man's fingers on the HMS Firebrand, diving Scilly Isles, England - courtesy of Tony Gilbert

Scuba Diving in the Scilly Isles, England

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: HMS Firebrand

Location: St. Agnes, Scilly Isles (49°53'20"N 06°20'35"W)

Description: Fireship

Depth: 8 - 25 metres (26 - 82 feet)

Visibility: 5 metres (15 feet)

Rating: ***

Tucked in near to the island of St. Agnes on its south western shoreline, to the east of the Lethegus Rocks and through Smith Sound is a series of small rocks. Just to south of these is what is believed to be wreckage remains from the Firebrand, a fireship and one of the Association Wrecks to sink on the 22nd October 1707. It had about 8 cannon and lies in 25m of water. Because of its location, the area is prone to silt and is very dusty, so good buoyancy is essential. Currents sweep through so at bad times visibility can be reduced.

Isolated rocks play a very important part to the diving, because many of the sites in the Scillies are deep. The Firebrand rests on a level bottom at 25m, so to just dive this becomes a square profile. It is best to agree with your buddy where to go after visiting the wreck, based on the skippers briefing. On our dive we went north east and then cut in east towards the land. Staying on the shot line right to the end is very important and coming off the shot end 2m above the silted bottom is a good idea. Take note of other divers and currents - we had a current flowing NE which was hard to swim against, so stayed a short while on the wreck site. There maybe markers left by the underwater archaeologists, please leave them alone.

A large anchor exists and further north is an anchor and several cannon. Don't expect to see much wood as the seabed composition is such that all wood has gone, not like wrecks covered by heavy shifting sand. Heading north the seabed is a conglomeration of large rounded rocks with many filter feeding sponge varieties. Dogfish and cuckoo wrasse roam this sparse looking landscape. Heading eastwards is a good idea; ascending a slope from 25m to 15m, where many outlying & tall submerged rocks are found containing fissures and overhangs. The kelp and bottom composition is very dusty, but at least it gets you out of the current. Occasional patches of sand occur and if near holes at the base of rocks will reveal shrimps, sand masons and leopard spotted goby. Rock cook, corkwing, cuckoo and ballen wrasse enjoy this area too, and are seen in large numbers. Some are territorial, others inquisitive and may stay with you for a while.

Owing to the profile, it's likely no decompression limits are nearing, so a shallower place is sought, further east at rocks in 8-12m, some almost reaching the surface once more. And, when ready it's an ideal place to launch the delayed SMB and head off into the current during the safety stop.

Tony Gilbert

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