Investigating unrecorded wrecks in Chuaig Bay, Wester Ross

Unidentified wreck in Chuaig Bay

The photo shows one of several previously unknown wreck locations near Chuaig Bay recorded through community engagement undertaken for the SAMPHIRE project. This location was first mentioned by locals in Shieldaig as the site of the SS Sheila, an early MacBrayne ferry. After we had finished our diving in the area we were given more detailed information by two divers from the Aberdeen Sub-Aqua Club. John and Jo Beaton discovered the wreck in 2011 and kindly provided us with accurate coordinates, a beautiful sketch, several photos and a detailed description.

Sketch map of site looking from the east (John & Jo Beaton 2011)

Review of all available information now suggests that the Sheila is probably at another location 500 metres to the south of this wreck, on the edge of Chuaig Bay. Another possibility is that is that this could be part of the wreck of the Hersilia whose loss is recorded at the island in 1916 and which has never been located. The Hersilia was an armed iron naval yacht built in 1895 and registered in Leith. It was 52 metres long and sank at Chuaig Island in 1916.

Diving in Shieldaig – 26th July 2013

The SAMPHIRE team are in Shieldaig today, following up on a possible wreck site at Murchadh Breac reported to us by a local creel fisherman. We are working with Torridon Sea Tours and mobilised our dive team today from the pontoon at Shieldaig. We were fortunate to have local historian Robert Gordon joining us on the trip and to be able to compare notes with boat operators Kenny and Gemma Livingstone, whose family have lived and fished in the area for generations. We sent two divers down on the west side of Murchadh Breac, at the mouth of Loch Torridon. The area was found to be heavily covered in kelp and no wreck material was encountered today but chatting with locals we now have more info on wreck sites in the area and will be following up on these leads.

SAMPHIRE diver in Shieldaig

Torridon and Shieldaig – 11th May 2013

We arrived in Torridon on the 11th of May and immediately began chatting with the local community about marine archaeology. We met some interesting local people with lots of useful contacts at Torridon and were given some contacts for local scallop divers. After leaving some promotional material for the project we moved on to Shieldaig.

At Sheldaig we followed up on some previously unrecorded sites reported to us ahead of the field trip, visiting a couple of locals in their homes to chat about the project and the sites they had discovered. We followed up with a visit to the local hotel where we met and chatted with several fishermen. Shieldaig is off-limits to trawling so all the local fishermen use creels, primarily for prawn.

Following up on a lead from Gairloch we contacted some of the local boat operators who pointed us to a large cannon lying on the main street of Shieldaig. The next morning we bumped into a local man Robert Gordon, a former fisherman and local historian. He filled in the story of the cannon which was in use at nearby Ardheslaig as an anchor for many years. Robert gave us a video interview and told us that it has only been in its current location for the last five years. A quick search of CANMORE seems to suggest that this important artefact has never been recorded before. The SAMPHIRE team made a complete record of the dimensions of the cannon and hope to identify its nation of origin and age once we get back to Edinburgh.

Recording cannons around Shieldaig.

Chatting to another local, Andrew Patrick, whom we worked with last year in Torridon we were informed that there was a second unrecorded cannon in Shieldaig! Investigating further we found that a neighbour of Andrew’s has a small cannon in his garden and that it was recovered during dredging of the Congo river in Kinshasa before ending up in Shieldaig. Although this cannon is not of local origin we recorded its dimensions and hope to come back with a more detailed origin for it too.

Next stop Applecross!