Random Jottings

End of June and initial Somali thoughts

Well the weather up here in the North East has been terrible with the wind a very strong westerly, so bad I thought that the conditions for shore diving would be terrible, not that I was able to dive of course!

But at Beadnell and Low Newton the prevailing wind meant that there was very little wind causing waves, the swell was none-existent and the visibility looked excellent……oh bugger!!! The most surprising thing was the total absence of divers at Nacker Hole, there are normally a few guys doing open water (or equivalent) courses, but today none! Oh and a couple of the skippers who run trips out to the Farnes were playing golf, I guess that the conditions meant that some of the charters had pulled the plug.

That said there was a RIB that was running back in to Beadnell Bay; I think from his route that he had been on SS Somali. I have yet to complete my guide on this iconic wreck, but I thought that I would give a few details on the ship in this entry.

Firstly the wreck, owned by Stan Hall of Farne Diving, a nice guy, well known and very respected. He was one of the first to set up a ‘diving service’ based in Beadnell way back when and his operation is still running, look for the link and check out his site.

SS Somali was a steamer of 6.809 tons, built in 1930 by Harland & Wolff Ltd of Govan with overall dimensions of 459ft by 61ft. At the outbreak of war she was armed with a 12-pounder on stern, I am currently struggling to locate any post-hostilities photographs, any help appreciated. On this final journey, from London to Hong Kong she was loaded with cosmetics, horses, bicycles, toy lead soldiers, mercury, medical supplies, jeeps, tyres and Chinese coins. There were other bits and pieces and I am always amazed why cosmetics and lead soldiers were ‘vital’ for the war effort.

Anyway, the convoy assembly was at the Firth of Forth with SS Somali being assigned as the Convoy Commodore vessel. However, on the 25th March 1941, she was bombed by a Heinkel 111. Although burning, she was kept afloat for two days before finally exploding and sinking off Beadnell. The explosion was such that the bow section was detached and blown away from the body of the wreck (not yet reliably marked) and Chinese coins ‘rained down’ on the beach!

I will give some details of salvage work carried out on the wreck and some dive details in my next post, however my advice would be get out there and dive the vis looks great!

Dive safe


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