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Scuba Diving Southwest Coast of England, UK, Europe
Dive Site: HMS Scylla
Location: 50°19.655'N; 04°15.162'W(Whitsand Bay, Plymouth)
Length: 113 metres (370 feet)
Depth: 24 metres to sea floor (79 feet)
Visibility: 2 - 14 metres (6 - 45 feet)
Scylla Reef is the wreck of F71 HMS Scylla, a Leander-class frigate that served in the Royal Navy between 1970 and December 2003. During her commission she performed a variety of roles, from patrols in Icelandic waters during the second and third 'Cod Wars' to royal escort duties for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. She also provided humanitarian relief in the Cayman Islands during 1980 when hurricanes threatened the lives of many of the inhabitants, before being modified to have Exocet and SeaWolf missile launchers fitted. After being decommissioned, she was bought by the National Marine Aquarium and sunk on the 27th of March 2004 in Whitsand bay near Plymouth, where she now lies creating an artificial reef for divers, the first of its kind in Europe.
A frigate makes a very large wreck; 113 metres long with a 13 metre beam, meaning that you will need more than just one dive to truly see everything she has to offer. Due to the local shipping activities, she has had her main mast, funnels and sonar dome removed to ensure that there is 4m between her highest point and the lowest astronomical tide (LAT). However she is still easy to find as she has a large yellow BSAC buoy permanently attached to a lazy shot on her bow. There is also a smaller orange buoy that leads just aft of her bridge and another to the flight deck at the stern.
Descending down the main buoy takes you down to the deck of the bow at 11m. This area is pretty flat, allowing plenty of room to run some skills with some trainees if needs be, and also has what's left of the Exocet and SeaWolf missile launchers giving plenty to see. Three mooring chains come from out of the bow and into the gloom, leading down to the sandy seabed at around 24 metres. The owners of the wreck have created many large openings into her hull for experienced divers to penetrate deep inside her, the first of which can be found on the deck. All of the holes are clearly marked with warning signs, reminding you that this wreck has been sunk with divers interest and safety in mind. This also means that there are plenty of things to see inside, like the radar control consoles still with loads of buttons to play with!
Before diving the Scylla, I was told that there was not much life to be seen as she was still a very young wreck. I can tell you first hand that this is a myth. For a start the outside walls of the hull are teaming with anemones and sea squirts of a variety of colours (predominantly orange). Also many of the fish that can be seen on the neighbouring wreck, the James Egan Layne, have taken up residence both in and around the Scylla, including wrasse, pouting, bibs and pollack. If this is what is described as 'not much life', this reef will look absolutely breathtaking as time goes by.
Going back to the deck level, there is the superstructure holding the bridge in pride of place. The bridge can easily be entered from the sides, above or even below! Behind this lies the area where the main mast and funnel used to be, followed by the aircraft hangar. Again this has all been made very accessible to divers from both outside and within the wreck. The only area that is not accessible underwater is the engine rooms, which have been filled with concrete in the interest of safety of divers. However, this wreck offers so much else to see, that not seeing the engines will not spoil your dive. I definitely look forward to diving this wreck again and am interested to see how she will change over the next few years.
Luke Cooper-Berry, BSAC Open Water Instructor
HMS Scylla Resources
I waited a while before diving the wreck to allow it to 'mature'. I must say I was very impressed by the amount of marine growth on the site and it's going to be a photographer's paradise. I took a few shots which ultimately will be posted on www.darkanddeep.co.uk. My daughter Sally who was feeling very cold at the start of the dive and very chilly after was still very pleased to have dived it. The only comparable wreck I have dived is the Swan at Dunsborough in Western Australia. Similar size and depth with rather better viz!
This was my first dive on the Scylla and even though the viz was very poor we had a great dive, lots to see, loads of sea life to watch, I will def be back again. Thank you to the Syclla for an enjoyable dive.
I would just like to say that HMS scylla is not a dangerous dive, which is contrary to popular opinion at the moment. As long as you dive sensibly and with the correct trainning. It's also probably one of the best trainning dives in the UK.
Jack Smith, Instructor
Yeah but it still killed a dear friend of mine who has been trained and an advanced diver! So your own opinion.
Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend but it is not the wreck that killed them but some other factor occurring during the dive. It is a sad fact but a reality that lives are lost during dives but on a head for head basis it is one of the safest sports around. Divers are trained to acknowledge and account for the risks involved. The wreck is just a piece of metal and does not have the ability to make life/death decisions.
Paul, PADI Instructor & BSAC Advanced Diver
That's very sad Laura, but Jack's right - it is an excellent training dive. Sometimes things just go wrong, surely the important thing is to make sure you're as prepared as possible when they do. The Scylla can't be 'blamed' for deaths - especially when the NMA went to such great lengths to make it safe.
It's a beautiful wreck and I hope people enjoy watching it develop as much as me.
I've just completed two magic dives on the Scylla after a wait of over twelve months (we were blown of last year and couldn't get out of the harbour) but the wait was well worth it the wreck is maturing really well, pleanty to see, loads of sea life, cant wait to go back next year.
Great place to learn wreck diving, under supervision of course. Lots of varying types of penetration available for all levels. We need more of these artificial reefs, not just for us but for the oceans inhabitants too! Please do your training thoroughly and practise, practise, practise.
I've just returned from a weekends trip to Plymouth, including a dive on the Scylla. Not having dived it before and being a bit sceptical about wrecks sunk deliberately I was waiting to be a bit under-whelmed but instead I found it a stunning dive. It's covered in life (fish and sessile), is quite moody and reminds me of the Rosalie Moller. As for loss of life, the wreck has been well prepared to be safe, it's up to individuals to make sure they dive sensibly and within their limits. It's possible to get a card saying you're 'Advanced' after only 9 dives, all with direct supervision from an instructor, so the title means nothing. Laura, the loss of your friend is very sad, but as other posters have pointed out, it's the diver not the dive.
Peter Loader, BSAC Adv Inst / PADI MSDT | 28/07/2008
I've returned from Plymouth this weekend having spent a few days diving the in and around the Sound with the Royal Navy. My final dive was on the Scylla and I thought it was amazing. I've just passed BSAC OD training so it was my first wreck and despite the cold and horrendous viz it was a great 25 minutes. Loads of sponges, growth and pollack all over the shop. Hopefully if I go again the viz will be better.
Jon Cropper | 09/10/2008
Good reading, I served aboard Scylla for two years and to be honest I had a tear in my eye when she was sunk but I am pleased to know she is bringing happiness to other people. I would love to dive Scylla but have no experience at all, so please keep on diving and be safe. I believe there is a mini sub you can go on to see Scylla is this true?
I dived this for the first time and what can I say apart from outstanding. There should be more wrecks like this around. It's streaming with fish and I would say its as safe as it could get without taking the fun out of it been a wreck.
Andy Booth | 01/03/2009
Just before Easter this year I had a few days in Plymouth so a sneaky dive was on the cards. I arranged things through Aquanauts Dive Centre who have been very helpful every time I've contacted them. On the day seven of us headed out to the wreck on a brilliant spring morning with only the wind to make things less than perfect.
We descended the shot which was tight onto the wreck. The visibility was about two metres which meant that you got no idea of the size of the wreck only that it seemed to stretch away to infinity. My buddy who had dived the wreck before showed me around but quite what we were looking at was not obvious. At one point we entered the wreck and he got snagged. I unhooked the hose and attempted to follow only to find I'd managed to hook my main reg around a pipe. At this point I began to realise that this was not the safe, easy dive that I had read about. Snared in a door way in darkness with a current surging though the narrow space tends to focus your mind on the incident pit. I released that hose and hauled myself through the gap into a larger compartment where I could compose myself. My buddy had turned round and come back by this point but I'd had enough. I was a bit blase about the dive at the begining but by the end I had revised my opinion. In these conditions, swell, low visibility and a current running this is not a dive for a novice. With the right conditions this could be a great dive but not the day I went.
Jef Proudfoot | 03/05/2009
I dived the Scylla on 3rd May 2009. Having dived it a couple of times when it was newer, I could not believe how much life there was on it. Every bit of metal work is covered in life, plumose anemones the size of footballs, sea squirts, soft corals and fish swimming all around it. Correct anyone who says there is no life on the Scylla, it was sank in order to form an artificial reef, and that is exactly what it has become.
Dive her soon before she starts to break up!
Ed B, BSAC Dive Leader | 03/05/2009
This was my first wreck dive, and, wow, what a sight. This is what I took up diving for. Loads of fish just off one side (huge shoal of them) huge bass and loads of other creatures I just don't know the name of. Saw some little anenome creatures that were bright orange and purple. Lots of corral fans. Viz was excellent apparently (10m+). Managed 37 minutes in total and first time to 20m. Superb.
Nige Rustage | 03/08/2009
As a diver of some 30 years, I wish to support the view of some other divers relating to diving and unfortunate deaths in the sport. Accidents will always happen, and wrecks seem to claim more than their fair share of lives. But wrecks don't kill, misjudgement and accidents are the guilty parties, wrecks are merely the location. However let us not for one minute think that there is EVER A SAFE DIVE, it does not exist! Anyone who dons scuba gear and sticks their head two metres or 30 metres plus under water is risking their own life, period.
All sports are hazardous and risk injury or death, sometimes that is part of the appeal, pushing ones self to the limit. It's knowing when to stop that may prevent an accident. Be prepared to take responsibility for your own actions, no one forced you to take up the sport. Keep diving and enjoy our underwater world as safely as you can. The Scylla is one of the least hazardous wreck dives I have done and a superb dive too.
Gary Young | 30/08/2009
Blown out again on the Scylla. 4th time this summer. Maybe one day.
Craig Jamieson | 08/10/2009
Fantastic dive full of life, fairly good viz and good company (Doc JC Divers) this was my first wreck dive and it was a fantastic experience I would recommend it to anyone.
Mark Snell, PADI AOW | 14/01/2010
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