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The Armchair Guide

By Callum Beveridge

This guide is to help would-be wreck researchers on the path to enlightenment and greater understanding of the vessels on which they dive, and life aboard at the time that they sank.
Many divers want to know more about the 'lumps of rust' on which they dive. Researching a vessel can bring a whole new dimension to wreck diving.

This guide will outline the main resources available to the amateur wreck researcher in the UK. It includes the addresses of museums and libraries, references to widely available texts, and a list of services specialising in wreck information.

Any comments you'd like to make or omissions you feel need including should be sent to the author at I'll try to keep this document up-to-date, but need your input to do so.


Starting Out
So, where do we start? Lets assume that we've been diving a wreck off Cornwall and want to find some detailed information on it. All we have to go on, is a name (Kintuck) from one of the local Penzance divers, and a DECCA position from the boat (15,14.44 05,31.94).
As in keeping with most wrecks on the North Coast of Cornwall, very little remains of the vessel, other than two main boilers, a smaller auxiliary boiler and a collapsed Triple-expansion engine. The stern of the vessel appears to be completely smashed...or missing? Acres of plating lie surrounding the engine like a pile of collapsed cards, with fittings and portholes well secured. A couple of portholes recovered are found to be closed with steel plates welded to the outside of the porthole, a good indication that the vessel was sunk in wartime.

First stage would be to look at an Admiralty chart of the area to see if the vessel is charted. The Home Waters Catalogue (available from chart agents/chandlers etc) shows all charts covering Britain and a list of Chart Agents. From this, we can see that Admiralty Chart 1149 (Pendeen to Trevose Head) covers the area we are interested in.

Having examined the relevant chart, we can see that a wreck is charted very near to this position. This leads us to making an enquiry to the Hydrographic Office asking for information on a number of wrecks in that area including this one.

Hydrographic Office
Ministry of Defence
(01823) 337900 ext 604
The 'Wrecks Section' booklet NP 96 is available from the above address which outlines the services available and the associated costs. In this case, we request details of 5 wrecks in that area and enclose the initial search fee of £11.75 (check this is still current before sending money -ed)

Thus begins the first period of waiting.

Once the details come back, we can see that the wreck is the S.S Kintuck, a British vessel sunk on 2nd December 1917. We can now make some more enquiries having confirmed the name and date of sinking.

These details can now be sent to the following establishments with a request for further details along the following lines:

Maritime Information Centre 24 Essex St
National Maritime Museum Reading
Greenwich Berks
London RG2 0EH
SE10 9NF

Dear Sir,
I am writing to you in the hope that you maybe able to help me. I am trying to research a vesselon which I have been diving, and would like to obtainmore information about it, with a view tofinding aphotograph or builders drawings.

Name: Moidart
Type: Steam Collier
Built: 1878
Tonnage: 1303
Owners: James Cormack & Company, Leith
Sunk: 9/6/1918 Torpedoed in English Channel

Yours sincerely

Callum Beveridge

These establishments will reply in four or five weeks, with a letter, outlining details of the vessel, and photocopies of pages from any relevant source. If photographs or drawings are available, then an order form will be supplied with details of costs. If any further work is required, they will send you a proforma invoice with details of the costs involved. Some establishments ask only for a donation.

Typically, a 10x8 bw photograph will costs approx £10.00, but may take a month or so, as these have to be printed in the darkroom, from the archive of negatives.

Maritime Information Centre
National Maritime Museum
London SE10 9NF
081 858 1167
(Historic Photographs Section - 081 855 1647)
The National Maritime Museum holds photographs and drawings of merchant and Naval vessels as well as a comprehensive collection of books. They can provide details of the vessels history, Captain of the vessel, cause of loss, area and position of wreck as well as other interesting details.

Guildhall Library

071 260 1868
Contains copies of Lloyds Registers Of Shipping between 1740 and 1981 and can provide brief details of the vessel, circumstances of loss and any subsequent Board of Trade Enquiry Reports

Department of Printed Books
Imperial War Museum
Lambeth Road
071 416 5374
Can provide brief technical descriptions of 20th Century Naval and Merchant vessels, accounts of the loss, and in some cases, photographs of the vessel.

Lloyds Register of Shipping Information Group
71 Fenchurch Street
071 488 4796
Can provide details of the vessel and circumstances of loss published since 1890. A search fee may be charged, commensurate with the work involved. The replies from the Maritime Information Centre are most useful in this case, providing details of the loss, a copy of the Masters Certificate of Joseph Edmonson (Born 1858 and Master of the Kintuck when it was sunk), technical details of the vessel and a further contact with the 'Ulster Folk and Transport Museum', who hold the archives of the builders:

Name: Kintuck
Official Number: 105749
Signal Code: PCKR (convoy number)
Description: Steel Screw steamer, schooner-rigged

Place: Belfast
Date: 1895
Builder: Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd.

Tonnage: 4616 (gross) 2996 (net)

Dimensions (in feet)
Length: 410.0 Breadth: 48.1 Depth: 27.4

Type: Triple Exp, 3cyl 28",47" & 77"-60", 180lb 600 NHP
Builder: Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd

Port of Registry: Liverpool
Flag: British
Owner: China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. Ltd (A.Holt & Co. Mngr)
Master: A.T.Shaw
Class at Lloyds: +100A1
Source: Lloyds Register of Shipping 1917/18
The archives of Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd. are held in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, but enquiries there fail to reveal any further details other than the vessels yard number.

The next clue, is the ship owners - China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. A quick look through 'British Merchant Shipping Sunk by U- Boat in the 1914-1918 War - A.J.Tennant' reveals that the vessel was managed by Holt & Co, under the flag of the 'Blue Funnel' line. The 'Blue Funnel line' is just one of the flags detailed in a series of books called 'Merchant Fleets'. This book gives a history of every vessel sailing under that flag. In this case, it reveals that the 'Kintuck' was attacked by U-Boat and drove it off with gunfire exactly a year to the day before it was sunk. Details are also given of its sister ship, the 'Pak Ling', as well as a drawing of it. From the drawing, it is clear that the stern of this wreck is not with the rest of the wreck. It now seems possible that the ship was mined in the stern, causing it to break off before the vessel sunk.

A Search through the index of the British diving magazines, reveals that an article was written on the 'Kintuck' in Sub-Aqua magazine, June 1973. This article 'The Blades of Kintuck' tells of the vessels discovery, confirming that the stern section of the wreck is separate from the main section, and the subsequent raising of the propeller.

At this point, we now know quite a lot technically about the ship, the history of the vessel, it's cargo and the fate of it's crew. We have a drawing of the vessel as well as a painting of it's sister ship, and from all of this information, we can see start to sketch the wreck as found on the seabed, confirming that the stern section is missing.

The next step, is to mount a trip to locate and dive the stern - any offers?

The shipyards of the river Clyde were responsible for the building of a large proportion of the worlds shipping, although sadly, very few of these shipbuilders still exist. Their archives, however, do still exist with the University of Glasgow. A letter to the University Archives may be able to turn up some useful information.

University Archives
Glasgow University
G12 8QQ
041 330 5516
E-Mail ARCHIVES@Glasgow
Reference Books
Below is a brief list of useful reference books, which are an excellent starting point in researching a vessel. Most of these can be found at a good library, or picked up from a specialist bookshop:

Lloyds War Losses - the First World War (1990)
"Janes Fighting ships" (various years)
Mercantile Navy Lists (various years)
Admiralty List of 1st World War Loses (1919)
Conways "All The Worlds Fighting Ships Vol I, 1860-1905"
"Ships of the Royal Navy" (1987) J J Colledge
Lloyds Resisters of Shipping (various years)
"British Merchant Vessels Lost at sea 1914-18" - Patrick Stevens Limited (HMSO)
"British Merchant Vessels Lost at sea 1939-45" - Patrick Stevens Limited (HMSO)
"Merchant Ships" - Duncan Haws
"British Merchant shipping sunk by U-boat in the 1914-1918 War" - A.J.Tennant.
BSAC Wreck Registers
BSAC publish a number of wreck registers covering all areas around the British coast. These are cheap, and available from BSAC HQ.
Underwater Publications
Diver Guides - These are the most common 'wreck guides' in Britain. Details most of the known diveable wrecks around the UK, but details can be out of date, or even wrong.
Great British Wrecks (Vols I-III) - these concentrate on the history of some of the UK's most widely-dived wrecks.

British Diving Magazines
Over the years, many British diving magazines have run series of articles covering British wrecks, which are now a valuable source of information. An index of the following magazines are available from the author, which outline the British wreck articles run from approx 1954 to the present day:
Diver Magazine
Sub-Aqua Magazine
Triton Magazine
Underwater World Magazine
Sport Diver
Scuba World
Local Knowledge
Another good source of information, not surprisingly, is from a local BSAC branch, or the local dive-shop. They should be able to point you in the direction of someone who has dived the vessel, and may be able to provide clues to its identity.
Sonar Soundings
For those people fortunate enough to have them, the navy publish lists of 'sonar contacts' organised by grid section along the coast of the UK. These lists detail every 'contact' on the seabed, whether it be rock, wreck or shoal. It takes patience to transcribe these onto a chart, but perhaps they will reveal a yet undived wreck.
I'm not sure how available these documents are, they may well be 'classified'.

Wreck Specialists
CRS Epsom Ltd
43 Delaporte Close
KT17 4AF
(01372) 728728
This company (Ron Selwood) specialise in ships drawings and photographs. He can provide framed technical drawings of well- known ships from rigging plans to copies of the original ships blueprints.

Book shops
There are a number of new and second-hand booksellers who specialise in books connected with the sea and shipping. This is just a short list of establishments I have used in the past.

Patricia Larkham John Ritchie
Wye and Severn Books Books Afloat
Severn Mill 66 Park Street
Strand Lane Weymouth
Westbury-on-Severn Dorset
Glos. DT4 7DE
GL14 1PG Weymouth 779774
(01452) 760368

Adrian Barak Mainmast Books
Underwater Books Saxmundham
Baydon Cottage Suffolk
61 Folders Lane IP17 1HZ
Burgess Hill (01728) 602359
RH15 0DY
(01444) 236229

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