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Diving the SS Volnay

The Volnay Dive MapThe wreck is extremely well flattened and only a few protrusion, coupled often with poor visibility, can make her a bit tricky to dive. We have dived her with visibility of 10m, but also with visibility less than 1m and pitch blackness. The water around the Lizard can be very varied indeed.

The best way to dive her is from bow to stern. The skipper is likely to drop you off either on the bow or the boiler. Make yourself forward to the bow. If you had an outcrop of rocks (ca. 1m to 1.5m high) then you have gone too far. The bow lies right in the "middle" of it. Have a look inside the bow, but don't climb in - it is full of protruding sharp metal edges. You should see a  large number of fish have made this their home. Just of the bow, you will find an upside cable winch.

Follow the wreck along, the steel hull is well flattened, but it is quite easy to follow and you will find the donkey and twin boiler looming up ahead of you. It is an easy swim around them and you can follow the wreck along. This area is often covered in sand and it is quite easy to miss the rest of the wreck (especially in poor visibility). 

Near the stern you will find a couple of bollards, which basically indicates that you are near the stern and the end of the wreck. If you can make your way back, as this wreck doesn't really suffer from current, go up the shot you've come down from, otherwise deploy your SMB and surface a bit further away.


The SS Volnay  (117m 4,610 tonnes)  was built in 1910 by Russell & Co Ltd in Greenock. She was purchased by Gow, Harrison and Co of Glasgow. She was a general merchant ship. She was classified as a defensively armed merchant ship, but no detail could be found on her actual configuration during her last voyage.

Her triple expansion engine allowed her to plough the sea at around 10 knots (not confirmed). Her main route was between Canada / USA and the UK. She was on her way from Montreal to Plymouth via Barry. She carried a mixed cargo of butter, jam, tinned meat, coffee, cigarettes, potato crisps and peanuts and timber. In addition, she also carried anti-personnel shells.

On 14th December she was hit by a mine (laid by UC-64 commanded by Erich Hecht) 2 miles from Manacles Rock. The crew were lucky that the shells on board did not explode. The was taking on waters relatively fast and the crew tried to beach her on Porthallow Bay. However, she floundered and sank at her current location. According to a local fisherman, the cargo piled "6-foot high on the beach", giving everyone an un-rationed Christmas.

Her position was considered a danger to shipping and according to a local fisherman, she was dynamited twice (not verified).


Posted on 4/22/2012 by SDA Editor

The SS Volnay is a wreck which sunk off Porth Kerris in 1914. She lies in ca. 20m of water and is a nice wreck dive - for many it is the first wreck dive they do in British waters

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Key numbers

Dive type: Wreck 

Length: 117m

Depth:  20m

Visibility: 1m to 10m

Location: 50°04.25N 05°04.03W 

Difficulty: 1 Stars 

Dive: 2 Stars


Dive Log

Download a free log book page of this dive

SS Volnay Log Book