The Spencer family have been holidaying at Garn Isaf, Abercastle for years. But this visit they came for a new experience. Longtime diver Simon, former diver Sally and newly trained Jake Spencer came to be part of the NAS fieldschool.
We arrived at Garn Isaf, Abercastle on Sunday afternoon in lovely weather. What could be better? This was a venue we had visited many times before. Staying previously in the B&B, the self-catering house and also on the campsite. Today we were pitching our caravan, with the help of some other campers and their 4X4. This visit was combining our love for the area with our passion for diving.
At 5.55pm a bell was rung and we all trooped to the house and specifically the garden. There we were met with some tired but happy divers who had been out diving on the wreck of the SS Leysian. We heard about their experiences and also received a warning about the incoming weather. A lovely evening spent around our campsite followed and much sorting of ‘gear’ in preparation for Jake’s first sea dive.
The next morning, we attended the briefing and it was looking OK for the day. This was an understatement! The day turned out to be fantastic, beautiful weather, awesome underwater visibility and the other divers were so friendly and supportive.
Special thanks to the Chester Sub-Aqua Club who gave Simon and Jake a lift on their RIB out to the dive site. The tide was still running but the dive boat towed one us right to the wreck site shot line, from there we descended, saw all the floating marker milk bottles and the wreck standing out very clearly. We also saw the prop shaft standing up from the seabed.
Divers heading out to site
At the end of the dive we also helped to get all the boats out of the water. It seemed mad as it was such a glorious day but the forecast was not at all good for the next few days.
Jake after his first ever sea dive!
An excellent first sea dive with a cheer from the team back at evening briefing. Next time we need to add weights to achieve better buoyancy but it was awesome to see the wreck.
Simon and Jake return to shore
In the evening, complete with sunburnt heads and faces, we attended a talk at the local village hall in Mathry. Ian Cundy, who leads the team of NAS members running the fieldschool, gave a presentation about their work and why they were in Abercastle. New leads and thoughtful questions meant that the research team and the locals might be able to add more detail to the story of the SS Leysian.
We also heard from the team who are helping to restore the Charterhouse, the lifeboat from Fishguard, which helped to rescue all the crew from the SS Leysian when it crashed into the rocks in February 1917. Lots of discussion followed about the heroic sailors and lifeboatmen. It was a very interesting addition to the more practical parts of the Field Study.
Weather stopped the diving on Tuesday, exactly as had been predicted by the team and by the harbour master Nev. So we went for a walk along a part of the Pembrokeshire coastal path looking for sites of historical interest. Fieldschool Admin Officer Lynn produced a file of local Coflein records which was an excellent source of inspiration. We found evidence of quarrying which tied in with local history about chutes coming down the side of Abercastle Bay which got the stone and slate to waiting boats for transportation to other places, which another group of divers who were temporarily shore-bound investigated further.
There has been lots for all of us to be involved in. The NAS team had a series of shore activities organised for days when diving couldn’t take place or for non-diving family members like Sally to be involved with. Slick, efficient bottle filling has been carried out by Haven Diving Services and the whole event with Plan A diving and Plan B shore-based activities has been well organised, informative and fun to be part of.
We are looking forward to more diving in the days to come and we know that the clubs who have attended and will be attending in the next few days will have an excellent time, hopefully under water but if not then learning all about the work of the Nautical Archaeology Society.