During WWI, Britain was extremely worried by the losses German U-boats were inflicting in the Strait and Mediterranean, so the Gibraltar patrols were strengthened. In 1915, two 150-ton steam trawlers were hired, armed and named Cormorant II & IV, after the then Gibraltar Depot ship HMS Cormorant, which was based at Coaling Island.
One of these vessels is believed to have sunk following an explosion, circa 1917, whilst approaching the north harbour entrance.
A Lewis gun was recovered from the wreck in the 1970s, as was a Navy ships crest, bearing a cormorant. This sat on the wall of Branch 317/S’s clubroom for many years, but sadly disappeared when the club moved in the mid-1980s.
This 15m wreck now sits upright on a flat seabed in 34 metres of water, rising up 3 metres at the highest point. Surprisingly, the wooden hull is largely intact, held together by copper sheathing. There is a large boiler amidships and behind this is an engine room containing the twin two-cylinder engines which drove her two screws. The stern is collapsed and part of the forward hull has dropped away, but many of her deck fittings are still in place, including the anchor, still lashed down on the bow.
The engine and boiler rooms are often home to lobsters, eels and ling, but there is little growth and the vessel is very recognizable. A torch is useful for looking inside.
Diving the Wreck
This is a fairly small wreck in reasonably deep water, so get the position spot on and confirm with an echo sounder, if possible. A shot line is required and beware of commercial traffic using the north entrance – it is wise to check with the Port Department in advance. These efforts are well worthwhile, as this is a very picturesque wreck, with lots to see. Occasionally, currents are strong, so carry a delayed SMB. Rather than ascending up the shot, a short swim east allows you to slowly ascend the slope of the Mole, making an interesting and safe end to the dive.
Extract courtesy of D. Fa. & P. Smith: Underwater Gibraltar - A Guide to the Rocks Submerged Sites.