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 email@example.com. I'll
try to keep this document up-to-date, but need your input to do so.
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.
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
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
National Maritime Museum Reading
London RG2 0EH
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.
Type: Steam Collier
Owners: James Cormack & Company, Leith
Sunk: 9/6/1918 Torpedoed in English Channel
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.
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
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:
Official Number: 105749
Signal Code: PCKR (convoy number)
Description: Steel Screw steamer, schooner-rigged
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
Builder: Workman, Clark & Co. Ltd
Port of Registry: Liverpool
Owner: China Mutual Steam Navigation Co. Ltd (A.Holt & Co. Mngr)
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
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.
041 330 5516
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
"British Merchant Vessels Lost at sea 1939-45" - Patrick Stevens
"Merchant Ships" - Duncan Haws
"British Merchant shipping sunk by U-boat in the 1914-1918 War"
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.
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
Underwater World Magazine
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.
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'.
CRS Epsom Ltd
43 Delaporte Close
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.
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
Glos. DT4 7DE
GL14 1PG Weymouth 779774
Adrian Barak Mainmast Books
Underwater Books Saxmundham
Baydon Cottage Suffolk
61 Folders Lane IP17 1HZ
Burgess Hill (01728) 602359