There are lots of huge surprises underwater in Portland harbour and after a recent trip there I think I’ve discovered the biggest of them all. The Landing Craft is a well know boat, made infamous by the D-Day landings, but lying right next to this wreck is something even more surprising.
If you are un-familiar with some of the technological ingenuity used to help make these landings during WWII successful or the Bombardon Unit and its role in this part of history, read on, but firstly you have to wonder how did they end up sunk just inside the harbour wall?
During a particularly fierce storm in 1944 a Landing Craft, Bombardon Unit and probably a Tug (no-one knows for sure, but there was a war on after all and lots of boats went missing) all broke free from the moorings inside the harbour and were dragged by currents out toward the harbour wall, where they all met their match and sunk. Now they make up one of the fantastic sub-aqua attractions in Portland harbour.
The Bombardon unit’s role was to act as a floating breakwater, to protect the Mulberry harbours - mobile buoyant concrete blocks used by the allies to protect the landing craft and troops from the seas during those treacherous beach landings.
Anyone familiar with the size of a Mulberry harbour will understand that a unit designed to protect it from large waves must be pretty big too. I didn’t appreciate this properly until I actually saw one underwater!
Having dived on the Landing craft just a few weeks earlier, we made the decision to head off along the connecting rope toward the Bombardon Unit as quickly as possible – the Landing Craft can be a bit silty and if there are a quite few divers going around it, the visibility can be badly affected. It’s quite a long way to fin along the connecting rope, around 20 metres, but when the Bombardon Unit finally emerged out of the gloom ahead I was not disappointed. It is massive!
Being the first divers to arrive on the unit we were rewarded by un-spoilt visibility and this continued for most of the dive without seeing any of the other 10 divers, such is the size of the wreck.
Like most lumps of metal that have been under the sea for several decades the wreck is now colonised with various corals and anemones.
I was particularly impressed by the Devonshire cup-corals, especially so as they were feeding, which made their appearance even more spectacular and an amazing small colony of pure white Jewel anemones settled around a hole in the wreckage wall.
I also discovered several ‘bunches’ of squid eggs on various parts of the wreck prompting a debate later on about why we never see squids in the UK (apparently they are very shy and have excellent hearing and vision, so they tend to zoom off before a diver can get anywhere near).
A big thank you to Sarah and Smudge of Scimitar Diving for looking after us so well (again).