Note - HMS Hood is now closed to
Scuppered across an entrance to Portland
Harbour as a defence mechanism in World War One, this wreck landed upside-down
and now makes an interesting dive for all abilities.
Click images to see full size
The usual starting point for a dive on the Hood
is a buoy outside the harbour entrance, a little to the south. The buoy is out
of the current and makes an easy entry point to descend to the blocks at the
foundation of the breakwater (1). From here, a guide rope leads between boulders
and scraps of wreckage to a post on the port side of the wreck (2).
Turning aft, a few metres' swim brings you to
the slope of stone blocks leading back to the breakwater wall, and a U-shaped
piece of debris from the propeller shaft cover (3). Above the deck (from a
diver's point of view) some large plates have broken free, giving easy access to
the inside (4).As the ship is upside-down, heavy battleship machinery originally
attached to the decks is now suspended from the "ceiling". The weight of this
machinery and that of the hull from time to time causes parts of the wreck to
collapse inwards, particularly towards the centre of the wreck near the engine
Although it is unstable, few divers can resist
dipping quickly inside and popping out again a few metres further forward where
some more plates have broken loose (5). But do take care. If you decide to go
in, remember to look up and make sure you are not venturing beneath anything
that could be about to squash you. Also beware of going too far. It is easy to
get drawn in by going just a little bit further, then a little bit further,
until a quick look has turned into a major wreck penetration that you might not
be equipped or trained for. Back on the outside, moving forwards, the
superstructure is buried up to the base of a secondary gun turret (6). Next to
the turret base a large hatchway (7) provides access to the space behind the
An empty gun port (8) provides similar access
to the interior of the wreck. A few metres above the seabed, a metal grating
sticks out perpendicular to the hull (9). This used to be a walkway along the
side of the armoured citadel. Although the gun ports lower down are more
interesting, above the walkway there are quite a few small holes in the hull and
gaps left where portholes have been removed (10). Checking carefully in nooks
and crannies can often reveal tompot blennies and the occasional small
scorpionfish. Another secondary turret base (11) is followed by a gap in the
armour where plates have broken loose (12) and a 1m-long girder frame which may
have been part of a hoist.
Interesting features along the edge of the deck
include a hoist and pulley, a huge pair of bollards and similarly sized deck
cleats. Under the bows the armoured deck has separated from a huge circular
turret base that supports the wreck above the seabed (13). If the tide is
running, a large shoal of bib will probably be holding position here against the
current that surges through beneath the wreck. The tip of the bow has been
broken to leave a square hole filled with broken and crumpled steel plate (14).
Close to the seabed is a battleship sized anchor chute. Swimming up above the
keel, the first few metres are intact, but you will soon come to a break where
plates have collapsed and the entire line of the keel has sagged inwards several
metres (15). This break goes most of the way to the stern and is full of the
jumbled remains of the battleship's machinery. Over the last winter, the engine
room (16) has noticeably collapsed inwards.
The ends of boilers and huge cranks and gear
wheels are particularly impressive aft of the engine room, follow a valley
between the port prop shaft and the keel (17). Missing plates on the sides of
the keel provide a view through the wreck. The end of the prop shaft (18) has
broken from one of its mounts where the hull has collapsed and folded, leaving
it attached by a solid steel wing to the keel just forward of the rudder (19).
More stone blocks rest against the hull, filling the gap between the stern and
the breakwater. From here it is easy to navigate back to the post to which the
guide rope is attached and follow the rope back up to the buoy. On the way, keep
an eye out for unusual marine life. This is a good area to spot black-faced
blennies, cuttlefish and octopus. Last time I dived the Hood one of the other
divers even saw a John Dory close to the breakwater wall.
RELUCTANT TO GO QUIETLY
"A bitch to the last!" was one Royal Navy
captain's verdict on HMS Hood, writes Kendall McDonald. She had just capsized as
they were scuttling her across the southern entrance to Portland Harbour in
1914. Perhaps the Hood didn't deserve that epitaph, but since her launch in
1891, the 14,150 ton armoured monster had become known throughout the fleet as a
good looker, but a lousy sailer.
She was weighed down with heavily armoured
turrets which the First Sea Lord, Sir Arthur Hood, had insisted were installed
to house her big guns. This extra weight lowered her freeboard so that she
needed dead calm to proceed at speed, otherwise great green seas came aboard and
the whole ship was covered in clouds of spray, making gunnery impossible. So it
is not surprising that shortly after her completion in 1893, the 380ft-long
warship was sent to the calmer waters of the Mediterranean.
She stayed there for nine years, was put on
reserve duties and then transferred to Portland as a target for torpedo
practices. Her guns were taken out - they had never once fired a shot in anger.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War One, on 4 November, 1914, the Hood was
sunk across the southern entrance to Portland to stop any crafty U-boat
commander firing torpedoes into the anchored Channel Fleet. But she didn't go
quietly. Once she was towed into position, the seacocks were opened so that she
would sink gracefully and upright. However, it took so long that the tide turned
and started to pull her out of place. Explosives were hurriedly used to blow a
hole in her side, she filled too quickly, did a port roll, and crashed
completely upside down into the seabed.
HOW TO FIND HER:
The Hood lies directly across the southern
entrance to Portland Harbour at 50.34.08N, 2.25.12W (degrees, minutes and
seconds). Local dive centres maintain a small buoy just south of the wreck about
5m outside the harbour wall.
I am always looking for new material, so if
you have any pictures, stories or anything which you would like to pass on to
others please contact me.