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Diving the Hera
The Hera split perfectly in two when she sank - meaning two hull sections lie on the bottom approximately 20m apart. The Hera is very easy to dive and with a maximum depth of 16m to 18m a real pleasure to dive. 


Hera and Gull RockThe hull plates have many holes in them, with hull plates littering the floor, giving many small nooks and crannies for local sea life to establish itself. In the summer month she can suffer being covered in large amount of kelp, but that means looking around is just that little bit more interesting. 


There are only a few distinctive features left. The keel on the eastern wreck half, with one of the main mast lying near a large kelp area to the north. Not far from the mast, just follow the line, the second half of the hull can be found. The western hull section still shows the rudder section. However, after a 100 years not too much is left and a lot is hidden in the sand. 


It is worth your while to spend some time between the two hull sections, the area is littered with steel beams and other broken up pieces of her hull, giving home to many smaller animals including lobsters. For some reason, the hull seems to be home to quite a few cuttlefish, which can be very nosy. 


History

The Hera was built just before steam driven ships became the norm. She was one of the last iron clad sailing barques (Windjammer class) with 4 masts rigged with royals above double top and single topgallant sails. With her 2,771 sqm of sailing area, she would have looked splendid ploughing through the waves. Ships of her size could sail with good wind and the right sea conditions could fly along at 16 knots on the transatlantic voyages - the record for this class is 21 knots.


Even though, steamships were gaining in popularity due the fact they didn't depend on the wind and were therefore more reliable, the Windjammer class (iron and steel hull with sails) competed for a long time, as they could carry 2,000 to 7,000 tonnes of cargo and didn't require bunkerage for coal or freshwater for steam and could sail further between stops (so for a long time they were the preferred option if you wanted to sail to Australia or America). 


In addition, the crew of these ships was small, only requiring  between 20 and 30 men. The Hera was launched the Richard Wagner in 1886 and was 84m long, 12.5m breadth and 6.6m high and at 2,119 tonnes she was one of the larger cross Atlantic Cruiser. She was renamed the Hera in 1889, when she was sold and kept her name when she was sold to Rhederei von Hamburg A.G. in 1906. 


Even though, she was German owned, she sailed under British Flag most of her life. On her last voyage, she was carrying a full cargo of extremely smelling guano (bird droppings used as fertiliser, dye extract and other industrial production - interesting side fact: German Chemist in 1880s were able to develop a process to extract nitrogen from air in industrial quantities, which allowed Germany to compete in steel making, dye stuff and fertilizers and therefore breaking a long term monopoly the British held worldwide - one of the significant contributors for World War I). 


The journey from South America had taken already 91 days and she had already been beaten heavily from the storms and her crew of 24 were exhausted. Captain Lorenz thought he was still further West near the Lizard and with poor weather and low visibility, at midnight the look-out shouted "Land-ho". Captain Lorenz gave the order to put her about, but resulted into crashing into Gull Rock. Distress rockets were fired as she rolled and started to sink. The captain's lifeboat capsized, killing Captain Lorenz and three crew. The rest climbed the rigging, as the ship was sliding down the rock. The story goes that the Chief Mate used his whistle to call for help and as the ship slipped further, the lower sailors slipped into the icy sea and drowned, but not before passing the whistle further up the rigging to the next sailor.


Finally, after hours, a lifeboat found the wreck and saved the remaining five crew hanging on to the mast. A few hours later only the topmast showed above the waves and a few days later the rest of her slipped under the waves. The majority of bodies were recovered and the sailors were buried and remembered at a local service.

Hera and Gull rock

Posted on 4/22/2012 by SDA Editor

The Hera and Gull Rock are a fantastic entry level dive site in Cornwall. Maximum depth 16m with usually clear water and little current.

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Key numbers

Dive type: Wreck 

Length: 84m

Depth:  16m

Visibility: 1m to 10m

Location: 50°11.80N 04°54.21W 

Difficulty: 1 Stars 

Dive: 2 Stars

 

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