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The Hood

Engine room of the Hood - Courtesy of John Liddiard

Gunport on the Hood - Courtesy of John Liddiard

Prop shaft on the Hood - Courtesy of John Liddiard

Scuba Diving South Coast England, UK, Europe

Dive Site: The Hood

Location: 50°34.10N; 02°25.22W (Portland Harbour)

Description: Royal Sovereign Class battleship

Length: 115 metres (377 feet)

Depth: 17 metres (56 feet)

Visibility: 10 metres (30 feet)

Rating: ****

The Hood was sunk across the entrance to Portland Harbour to prevent any submarines firing at the fleet anchored there during World War One. It makes an excellent first wreck dive. The depth means it is easy to plan for, with the only difficult part of the dive being dealing with the current on ascent that rips across the top of the wreck. There is a permanent buoy marking the Hood's position, which you descend down and follow the distance line from it that traverses the huge boulders of the harbour wall. The Hood is a huge wreck with big open holds to look in and explore. The only downside of the wreck is that its popularity means that water is often very crowded. For the more advanced diver it is possible to swim the entire length of the Hood inside along the top level. You access the entrance before dropping down to the sea bed when you first encounter the wreck. Not many divers do this, but care must be taken not to kick up the silt, and be prepared for the ripping current as you drop down over the end of the wreck. There is a lot of marine life in and around the wreck including spider crabs, lobsters and fish.

Diving has currently been suspended on this wreck by the Portland Harbour Authority, due to forthcoming development work in the harbour and disintegration of the wreck.

Reader Reviews:

Please note that due to the unsafe state of the wreck, diving has now been banned by Portland Harbour Authority.

Brian Clough

There have been several naval vessels named after Admiral Viscount Samuel Hood - he was a brilliant tactician who defeated the French at Dominica in 1783 and captured Toulon and Corsica - if you are interested the Maritime Museum at Greenwich has a full list. However, two particular Hoods instantly spring to mind. The ill fated Battlecruiser that sailed from Scapa Flow to hunt the Bismarck and blew up with 3 survivors, and the 14,000 ton Royal Sovereign class Battleship that was deliberately sunk, in the southern entrance of Portland Harbour, on 4 November 1914, with the aim of protecting shipping in the harbour from prowling submarines.

She arrived on the 18 metre sea bed completely upside down, with the result that her broad wide bottom can be as little as 2 metres from the surface at low water. Because of her depth, and the fact that the Hood is completely sheltered from most winds, including south westerly gales, she can be considered as an excellent back up plan, should all other diving get blown out. Additionally, long bottom times can be pulled, because she is such a shallow wreck.

Divers should note however, that because the Hood is located where she is, great care should be taken when diving her at certain times of the tide, especially on an ebb. The water movement can run like a train on, around and through her and divers happily bimbling along the outside of the wreck can suddenly find themselves inside the structure should they swim past a large opening.

That said, generations of divers have enjoyed her, either as a fun dive or have conducted part of their training on her. I have to admit that until this year I had never dived the Hood. This has all changed and I have now had the pleasure of diving her half a dozen times and each time has been completely different. She has great potential, whatever your experience.

The Hood is an excellent wreck for honing all diving skills, but especially wreck penetration techniques. This should however only be done by properly equipped and experienced divers, as the wreck is deteriorating and, in some places, rusting quite badly. She can be quite silty, so the diver should be prepared, and lay line. Gavin Newman discussed line laying techniques in the Winter edition (volume 1, edition 2) of 9-90 and this is a perfect place, with loads of belay points to get those reels out and try not to 'knit cardigans'.
The Hood is absolutely swarming with life, with the hull covered in some places by subtle shades of pink growth. Consequently it can look quite elegant with the kelp swaying in the current. Plump Dead Mens' Fingers and glorious Jewel Anemones abound, and there is plenty of fish life. Schools of Pollack, Tom Pot Blennies, Cuckoo Wrasse, and several Spider Crabs were all spotted.

Other key features such as bollards and companionways are still visible and rumour has it the engine room can still be penetrated. You certainly get an unusual view of the various fittings and fixtures as they are attached to the 'ceiling'. Just beware, because there is a potential for machinery to become dislodged and fall on you!

Rosemary Lunn | 22/04/2009

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