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Diving the SS Italia

SS Italia Dive MapThe SS Italia at 99m is one of the many traditional cargo vessels that roamed around world at the end of the 19th century. She lies now in a steep gully. A quick free descend to the top of the gully at around 17m makes her very accessible.  The whole wreck is well flattened and the hull plates rest against the floor and gully walls, giving her many secluded areas for the local fish life. An interesting note: the few times we have dived her, the current in the gully can be quite strong - and it usually flows stern to bow - this means often a bit of a "crawl" along the hull plates if you want to avoid the deeper bits - the current usually drops off at the mount. Check with the skipper - as the current can make her challenging dive.


Depending on your depth limit, find the boilers, which are easily distinguishable from the gully top. Drop onto the boilers which are around 25m. If you wish to go deeper follow her to the bow and you will drop down to about 40m. There is some debris around the bow at 45m, but we haven't been able to rummage around long enough to find anything of interest.


The more interesting part of the wreck is the rear half of her. From the boilers, at around 30m you will find the engine, completely exposed, giving you a good view of what the inner workings of the engine. The prop shaft lies just behind it and you will follow the wreck line slowly up. The stern lies in around 17m to 12m of water. You can follow the underwater mount (usually covered in kelp in the summer) up to a shallow depth and deploy your SMB from there.

History

The SS Italia seems to be a bit of mystery ship. During the time of this cargo vessel, there were three other registered steam ships with the name of SS Italia registered in France, Norway, a ferry in Greece and a sailing barque in Italy (see The Hera for what a barque looked like). After  searching extensively in various archives, not much could be found about her.


She was built in 1891 as the Gulf of Florida by Hawthorn Leslie & Co in Hebburn-on-Tyne. Her measurements at 99m x 12.8m x 7.2m and 2,792 grt made her typical steel hulled cargo ship of the late 19th century. No reference to her engine, which is likely to have been a triple-extension-engine producing somewhere between 250 nhp and 350 nhp (next time diving on her, we will need to spend a bit of time investigating the engine). We now from the salvage in 1966, that she had a stern gun mounted, a normal occurrence for cargo vessels operating in WW I. 


Between 1891 and 1895, 6 cargo ships were build with approx. the same configuration, equipped with triple expansion engines from the wharf itself and two single boilers. Of all the six cargo ships on the SS Novillo has a photograph in its archives. 


No information could be found on who her Italian owners are and when she was registered in Italy. On her last voyage,  she was carrying her crew of 63 and a full load of welsh coal from Cardiff to Toronto. On 11/05/1917 (or 14/05/1917 - two references found) in heavy fog, the Lady Charlotte had run aground a 3 miles away on St. Mary's. The SS Italia hit the Wingletang Ledges on St. Agnes and started to take on water immediately. The crew were signalling for help, but the local inhabitants on St. Agnes thought that the noise was coming from Lady Charlotte


No reference can be found what happened to the crew, according to the ship registry no records could be found of any casualties (as it is not an English registered vessel, the records could also be missing)


 

SS Italia

Posted on 4/22/2012 by SDA Editor

The SS Italia is a cargo ship which ran aground in fog on the Wingletang ledges in May 1917. She lies in 12m to 45m in a gully - making a her perfect dive for everyone.

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Key numbers

Dive type: Wreck 

Length: 99m

Depth:  12m to 45m

Visibility: 5m to 15m

Location: 49°52.50N 06°20.18W

Difficulty: 3 Stars 

Dive: 4 Stars

 

Pictures
The Novillo
Dive Log

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SS Italia Log Book