Islay Wreck Diving and Shipwrecks

The treacherous waters around Islay have often been subject to ships in trouble and unfortunately many ships are sunk in heavy storms and also during the last world wars. Exact figures are hard to get but it must have been more than hundred ships that sunk around the Isle of Islay. The Islay Museum holds records of many of these ships and some disasters are well known among many people. For instance the disaster with the Exmouth in 1847 where 241 lives of Irish emigrants were lost when the ship sunk during a heavy gale on Islay's Atlantic west coast. A memorial near Sanaigmore Bay is a reminder of that terrible disaster. A detailed report of that tragedy is available on the The Ships List website.

Other disasters that left a deep impression are of course the Tuscania and Otranto, both American troop ships. The Tuscania was torpedoed by a German submarine and sunk close to the Oa peninsula. The Otranto collided with another ship during a heavy storm and was wrecked near Machir Bay, causing the loss of more than 400 lives.

Where there are shipwrecks there are also divers who make attempts to discover and chart shipwrecks and their locations and dive occasionally to these wrecks, also in the waters surrounding Islay. A few days ago I read about people travelling to Islay to dive for shipwrecks. Finding the location of these wrecks isn't easy and I managed to find a website that shows the location of five wrecks in the waters surrounding Islay. The website is the UK-diving website and they have a map with locations of wrecks. There are 5 locations on the map close to Islay:

  • The Rhinns of Islay off the Frenchman's Rocks.
  • Catalina Seaplane in the Sound of Jura.
  • The Shuna, a Dutch steamer sunk in 1908.
  • The HMS Tuscania South East of Islay. This entry also holds a very detailed report of the disaster.
  • The HMS Drake torpedoed by a German submarine.

  • Islay Shipwrecks - A magnificent new page about the many disasters that took place in Islay's waters. An overview and pictures of these shipwrecks including underwater pictures of the many dives that were made. This is an extract of the book Argyll Shipwrecks.

    Divers who visit Islay for shipwreck diving might find the following information useful:

  • The book 'Dive Islay Wrecks' which is available from the Underwater Bookshop.
  • The UK Diving website offering a wealth of information.
  • The Islay dive centre, 10 Charlotte Street, Port Ellen, no website found.

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