Shorediving St. Mary's Island

Updated 11-7-04

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Shoredive entry point photos.

Getting there.

St Mary's Island lies just off the coast a little north of Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear and about 10 miles from Newcastle. It is well signposted from most major routes, the A19 being the closest major north-south route.
Cars belonging to the general public are not allowed onto the island, instead ample parking is available in two car parks, one right at the end of the causeway access road. There is a charge for parking during "Summer" and toilet facilities are available.

General Information.

The island is accessed by walking about 80 metres across a causeway which is only slightly covered at HW during neaps but can be almost a metre deep during springs. Care should be exercised when negotiating the causeway when any tide is running as it's quite easy to walk "off-the-edge".
To dive the north side, go up the steps and follow the path between the buildings and then down onto the rocks.
The east side can be accessed by walking across the rocks on the south side of the lighthouse. Enter the water anywhere north of the concrete pillar.
The rocks below the HW-line are covered in weed and can be extremely slippery.

The island and its surrounding area has been designated a voluntary marine reserve.
During 2000 an underwater guide route was laid but this will probably have been swept away during winter storms, I don't know if there are any plans to renew it in future years.
Contact the Senior Warden, St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay NE26 4R5 on telephone 0191 200 8654 for further details.

The Diving.

Map of St. Marys Is.

Max. depth: 9 mtrs.
Minimum grade: Novice
Currents: Run north-south and are not a real problem.

The area to the south is very shallow and is not worth visiting.

To the north are a series of small reefs and gullies, amongst these are scattered plates and debris from the wreck of The Gothenburg City, although identifying anything is impossible, time and storms having totally obliterated any resemblance to a ship. Depths are no more than 6 metres.
These reefs continue round to the east and it is here that the remains of a small steamer, The Janet Clark lie. Also known as The Jane Clark (depending on which source you use), her final voyage was from Norway to Wales in the late 19th century. Bad weather delayed the ship and she eventually ran aground in heavy weather. Attempts were made to re-float her, but she broke apart. None of the crew were lost.

She lies bows-on to the island. Her bow section is completety destroyed, the stern section ribs, propeller and shaft are still recognisable in slightly deeper water, her boiler lies a little to the north of the ribs. Debris is well scattered and it's not unusual for divers to miss the main area of wreckage even after having found some of her plates - especially in poor visibility.
The marine life found here is typical of the North Sea shallows; wrasse, pollock, lumpsuckers, blennies, gobbies and butterfish. The reef also houses large populations of crabs, both edible and shore as well as some lobsters - but remember - this is a marine reserve!
Depths around the wreck are no more than 8 metres.
An approximate transit for the wreck is to use the chimneys on the lighthouse building. The most seaward chimney should be slightly to the left (south) of the landward chimney. If you take a compass bearing on this and snorkel out on a reciprocal bearing, you should pass over the wreckage. This should be about 75 metres from the concrete pillar.

Whilst diving here could never be considered particularly challenging (although the walk across the causeway and round the island in a drysuit could be considered just that), St. Mary's Island can provide very enjoyable diving without the hassle of an 80 mile round trip to the likes of Beadnell.
After a period of settled weather and during summer months, visiblitiy can exceed 12 metres and in these conditions the "Island" can prove an ideal site for a mid-week evening or training dive.

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