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Milford Haven

Milford Haven is known globally for its deep inshore channel and as the fourth largest freight port in the UK, and set in the heart of the only Coastal National Park in Great Britain, there is a huge contrast between the beautiful coastal scenic views and the vast amount of boat traffic and refineries you’ll find there. The Milford Haven Waterway is the largest estuary in Wales. Its sheltered, tidal waters are surrounded by a diverse 200-mile coastline providing habitats for an abundance of wildlife, both terrestrial and marine. When the weather is rough, and conditions are bad, divers tend to dive the Haven as a last resort. But if you dive the Haven when the visibility is good, you’re sure to be in for a treat. There are many wrecks in the Haven, some of which are never dived. Although the depths are not great (8m-20m) they do provide some of the best wreck diving in the UK. Everyone who comes to Pembrokeshire wants to dive the Lucy, but with a bottom time of some 10 mins for the non-enriched air users, it’s really a long way to come for such a short dive. In the Haven there are over 12 wrecks, and we’ve listed below some of the better ones along with some known reef dives. I would suggest however, that for marine life, it’s always best to get out of the haven to Skokholm or Skomer.

Dakotian Wreck

The ‘Dakotian’, a 6426-ton British steamer some 400ft long and 52ft wide, was one of the first to fall victim to a parachuted magnetic mine dropped by a German Heinkel 111H bomber during the closing stages of WWII. She had called into Milford Haven for cargo and was just leaving on the night of November 21, 1940, when she was warned of German aircraft activity outside St Ann’s Head. Bound for St John, New Brunswick, Canada, with a general cargo of 1300 tons of tinplate, Christmas puddings and bicycles, and armed only with only a 4in Vickers gun of World War, the captain decided to await daylight in Dale Roads area.

Unluckily for him, the German bombers had already passed that way and as the ‘Dakotian’ let out an anchor off Dale Point, there was a massive explosion as a magnetic mine blew out a chunk of her port side. The blast also broke her back, and she began to sink very quickly. Within three minutes, her 48 crew who had not managed to get into the lifeboats were in the water and swimming. Surprisingly, all were saved.

Although she is somewhat broken up now, there are still areas being uncovered by the flow and ebb of the tide. Only this year (2005), two of our divers found an unexploded mine on her, much to the bemusement of the Navy’s underwater demolition team! Other than that, there are still ammunition boxes and medicine bottles found. The stern end of her rises up to some 6m depending on the tide, and has plenty of marine life on her. Swimming forward of that area, you’ll be able to traverse a number of swim throughs, in and amongst the shoals of fish life you’ll find on her too. Max depth is about 19m, and even though the currents can occasionally run a bit on her, she is a relatively easy dive to do. Good first time wreck dive for wreck virgins!

TIPS: You’ll find her about 80m north of the Dakotian cardinal buoy. Best to use an echo sounder to find her, then shot her. Now and again you may find someone’s put a buoy on her, but don’t count on it. Always carry a delayed SMB with you as when your doing your safety stop, you’ll be drifting. Be careful of the cable on her, and in bad visibility watch out you don’t swim inside open sections of her by mistake!

View virtual wreck tour

Behar Wreck

The 1928, steel-built 6100 ton Behar, measuring 436ft long by 57ft wide, was carrying 4770 tons of government stores from the Clyde to Milford Haven when she hit a German Heinkel 111H bomber parachuted magnetic mine. However, none of her crew were injured and they managed to beach her near Great Castle Head. The wreckage can be found about half way between the Behar cardinal buoy and the white buildings on Great Castle Head. Use an echo sounder and you find part of the wreck comes up to about 9m where the gun mount is. Another easy wreck dive with a maximum depth of about 15m. There’s a reef close by which has quite a lot to offer too, so essentially a dive site that has a bit for everyone.

TIPS: Now and again you may find someone’s put a buoy on her, but don’t count on it. Always carry a delayed SMB with you as when your doing your safety stop, you’ll be drifting. Be careful of the cable on her, and she does have a few sharps too. Slack water is not essential to dive the Behar, but visibility is definitely better on an incoming tide. The best visibility is in the three-hour period before high tide. This applies to diving the Dakotian too.

Adamantios J Pithis Wreck (The Greek)

This wreck is well broken up, but other diver friends of ours said we would have to include it! The wreck lies in approximately 10m to 16m of water, just under the cliffs to the right of the old coastguard HQ building. Currents can be strong, so keep well into the cliffs and make sure you dive it on slack. You can spot the cabin, together with many bricks, which used to be the ballast of the boat. There are also some scattered boilers about which rise to about 6 meters from the surface. It is controversial whether this is indeed the wreck of the Greek, but most think another wreck has either sunk nearby, and had its wreckage strewn over the Greek area. As the wreck lies over the reef system, you will find a variety of marine life around too.

TIPS: Always carry a delayed SMB with you as when your doing your safety stop, you’ll be drifting. There are a few sharps around but not many. Slack water is a better option when diving this site and visibility is definitely better on an incoming tide.

Loch Shiel Wreck (Whiskey Wreck)

The Loch Shiel was carrying gunpowder and sank in 1894 off Thorn Island. She weighed in at 1218 tons, and was 205ft long and 36ft wide, but is now well weathered and broken up, bearing no resemblance to a majestic sailing ship of her previous years. She lies in 8m-15m of water. She’s also known as the whiskey wreck as the ship was carrying 60 cases, all 100 percent proof, which was picked up by locals, and hidden in cliffs and buried. Some remained concealed for years, and as far back as only 1950 2 bottles were found in a roof of a nearby house in Angle.

Bits of pottery found marked as Royal Dalton are still being found together with glass from the whiskey bottles. Can dive under the wreck on the side nearest Thorn Island. The main part of the wreck lies at 10m and is in an E/W orientation. Some divers found 6 bottles of beer there in 1999. Wouldn’t have fancied drinking the 100-year-old beer myself!

TIPS: Always carry a delayed SMB with you as when your doing your safety stop, you’ll be drifting. Best to dive on an incoming tide, as visibility is better. There is sometimes a current running around Thorn Island. The wreck is often marked and is located on the NW side of Thorn Island.

St. Ann’s Head

An area where there are numerous wrecks, and even though most of them are broken up, divers are still finding bells and portholes there. Depths vary from 6m to 20m, and currents can be strong if you don’t hit slack water right. The area is well sheltered from N an NE winds. Away from the wrecks you’ll find some nice gullies located just behind the large rock island, underneath the lighthouse. The Greek wreck is located in this area.

Watwick Reef

This reef runs out from Watwick Bay. It’s a small reef containing a variety of marine life, and isn’t particularly deep (10m-15m depending on the state of the tide). It’s a nice reef dive if the winds are strong and you can’t get out of the haven.

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