dives

James Eagan Layne

The “James” (or just JEL) is an iconic UK wreck dive, and one I have done many times. Last Sunday I passed my 40th ┬átime on this site, a Liberty ship sunk in 1945 by a U-boat. After it was torpedoed, the ship was beached in Whitsand bay, just to the West of Plymouth, in order to recover its cargo. Fortunately for us divers, the ship sank, with no loss of life, before it went aground. It lies upright in only 20m and its superstructure rises to only a few metres from the surface, so it is popular with all levels of diver. We didn’t even have to put our shotline in, as it dived very regularly by the many dive boats out of Plymouth.

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The JEL was carrying a cargo of US Army engineering equipment when it was sunk and over the years, these neat stacks of equipment have been cemented into interesting piles of artefacts, which after over 60 years in the sea are not easy to identify.

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The deck, bulkheads and much of the side plating have rotted away now, and the wreck has changed a lot in the 30 years I have been diving it. Whereas it once felt quite enclosed, it is now generally rather open. Successive winter storms (this site is pretty exposed to the prevailing South Westerlies) are taking their toll, though there is much of interest to see.

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She was powered by an oil-fired triple expansion engine, which now stands proud of the sea bed so it is easy to look all around it.

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The many crevices between the items in the cargo have provided ideal homes for generations of Tompot Blennies which are found all over the wreck. This pair were having a territorial dispute when I came upon them and ignored me until they had decided who was top tompot!

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The bow of a ship is one of the strongest parts and so survives the sea for the longest. This is also the shallowest point, and where the shotline was attached; you can see that there is quite a bit of algae in this shallower water.

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dives

It must be spring

Spring has sprung – despite distinctly murky conditions on the James Eagan Lane this weekend, there were Oaten Pipe Hydroids (Tubularia indivisa) aplenty to see. The numbers of these marvellous creatures explode in early spring, that is until the nudibranch eggs hatch and they all get munched!ERB_0443

Nikon D500, Nikon AF-S 60mm with +5 diopter

publications

Cover of Scuba Magazine

Scuba Cover April 2013I’m really proud to be asked for an image to adorn the cover of Scuba magazine this month (Issue 17, April 2013). I was approached to provide an image specifically of the wreck of the James Eagan Layne, a liberty ship torpedoed by U-339 in 1945, which came to rest on the seabed in Whitesand Bay, just West of Plymouth.

This is a site I know really well and have many images of. I chose this image, which was taken in June 2005 at the bow, looking up with my underwater photography buddy, Trevor Rees acting as a model. It was shot using a Nikon D100 camera with Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens and lit with dual Sea & Sea YS-90 strobes, at a depth of probably 15-20m.

James Eagan Layne

The shot shows the vertical profile of the bow, which is well encrusted with marine life, particularly dead mans fingers (Alcyonium digitatum). I was very pleased to get a pleasant green tone to the water; often when looking up towards the surface, unpleasant artefacts are produced as the camera struggles to cope with the dynamic range. I have avoided this by not facing towards the sun and because I am quite deep.