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Scuba Diving Southwest Coast of England, UK, Europe
Dive Site: City of Westminster
Location: 50°1.33N; 5°40.33W (Runnel Stone, Cornwall)
Description: 6094 ton steamship
Length: 143 metres (470 feet)
Depth: 20 - 35 metres (65 - 115 feet)
Visibility: 5 - 15 metres (15 - 50 feet)
This really is a top site, it is right on the Atlantic's edge so can be challenging! Runnel Stone and its inshore reef lie about a mile offshore of Lands End and cover a large area, much of which is relatively unknown. Most divers seem to stick to the area near the main stone where several wrecks are lying, although without doubt there are others nearby that have not been found yet. Runnel Stone used to protrude above sea level until the City of Westminster hit it hard enough to shatter the top section in October 1923. En route to Rotterdam from Belfast, the night that saw this steamship sink was thick with fog, which was particularly bad around Lands End. The impact of hitting Runnel Stone caused a gaping hole to be gouged into the hull of the ship, and it quickly sank. The Captain managed to order his family who were on board and all of the crew off of the ship and with the help of local lifeboat crews, no one was lost.
The City of Westminster is still recognisable as a large vessel with much of the steel plating, ribs and deck fittings lying down the west side of the stone. The more intact stern section lies further south. There are numerous mature plumose and other anemones on the wreckage together with some stunning large ballan wrasse, congers, ling, tope, bib, cod and bass. All this in a setting of granite pinnacles and white sand bottomed gullies makes for a potentially stunning dive. Visibility here on a good day can substantially exceed 10 metres.
Not a site suited to inexperienced divers as strong tidal currents and challenging surface swell is often experienced here. Slack is 1.45/1.30hrs before high water at Newlyn on neap tides; there is very little if any slack on springs.
James Buchanan, PADI Divemaster
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