Saltee Island, Co. Wexford

Low tides

Saltee Island, Co. Wexford

Makestone Rock
This dive site lies on the east end of the Great Saltee. It is a submerged rock which comes within a few metres of the surface. The general depth around it is 10-15, it can be prone to a silt current. On each rock there is a flat sandy bottom. The area is suitable for trainees and makes a pleasant second dive.
West End
This area is prone to strong currents but is worth a drift dive for the more qualified diver with good boat cover. The general depth is around 15-20m. It has a rocky sandy bottom and a wide variety of fish life

East Brandy
Lying to the east of West Brandy this is another good dive site, but again prone to strong currents. The rock shape is not as sharp as the West’s but it does go down to 33m. The wreck of the “Verfadio” lies at its centre at a comfortable 20m.
Coningbeg Rock
(GPS 52.04.16N 6.38.517W)

Further to the west of the Coningmore lies the washed rock of the Coningbeg. Underwater you may come across metal pylons which were the main supports for an aborted lighthouse. From your entry point on the surface you can dive quickly down the rock wall to 45m. The Coningbeg is a site that even hardened wreck divers rave about, as it has profuse fish life and fantastic colours. Again, beware your approach, like its larger namesake the Coningbeg is prone to strong currents.

The Idaho (1878)
An other shipwreck worth a mention is that of the 3500 ton sailing steamer Idaho. Wrecked during a fog on the Coningmore Rocks in 1878, thankfully without loss of human life. The Idaho’s remains are extensive but far less intact than the Inverclaud. Although collapsed and silted there are many wreck-holes to explore with the bright surrounding sand contributing to the visibility. The bell and an excellent model of the Idaho may be seen in Kehoe’s Pub and Parlour bar, Kilmore Quay.
SS Lennox
(GPS 52.06.789N 6.36.757W)

At the back of the large island is the wreck of the SS Lennox. While trying to avoid unwanted attentions of a German U-boat in 1917, she hit one of the rocks behind the island and sank. Her Chinese crew made the short swim to the island and onward to Kilmore. You too should pay attention when motoring around here as there is a sunken rock to the right of the bay as you approach from seaward. The GPS co-ordinates are an idea of the location of the wreck but you should confirm it by searching for the large sonar readings of the bow or boilers on your sounder. The wreck lies parallel to the Collough Rocks with its bow pointing out to sea.
Two large boilers are on the bottom and come to within 5m of the surface. To head toward the island from here (north) brings you to the stern of the ship and a projecting davit arm is on your left. The best plan is to swim directly out to sea where the bow lies upright on the bottom. Keep an eye out for the anchor on your left and its winch. This site can be dived at any time and is affected by only the slightest of currents. If visibility is good you may get the chance to see razorbills dive underwater and swim around you.
West Brandy
(GPS 52.05.847N 06.35.034W)

This is a spectacular dive site. The rocks are covered with anemones. The seaward side has a very dramatic drop off to a depth of 35m. It is advisable to seek local knowledge on slack tide times to strong currents in this area.
Coningmore Rock
(GPS 52.08.152N 06.37.465W)

The Coningmore Rock is easily seen at all times, as it stands up large from the water. It is situated due south from the larger island. It is possible to get shelter here from strong running tide. When diving, keep in the shelter of the rock so as not to be carried away during your safety stop. As scenic dives go it is brilliant, but the thing that makes this dive is the large colony of grey seals that will immediately enter the water when a dive boat appears. On the dive they will circle you, come up to your mask looking at you with their huge black eyes and chew at your fins. The majority of the time the seals are very placid, but during the mating season the big males can become more aggressive. Do not panic and avoid being isolated in mid water where the seals can become a real nuisance. Keep close to the rock. As wonderful as these creatures are, they are wild, so if you like your fingers intact don’t pet them. It is unusual for the seals to follow you below depths of 15m. The shallow safety stop can often go on longer as you watch these wonderful creatures swimming around you with incredible speed and agility. This is the one dive guaranteed to make everyone surface with a smile. Maximum depth here is around 25m.
The Invercauld (1997)
The Invercauld was a large iron barque which was attacked and sunk by the German U-boat. U84 off Mine Head. It apparently drifted and sank just south of the Coningmore Rocks. The wreck is sitting upright and is discernable throughout its length, its ornate bow is worth inspection. The wreck lies in 45m and as the vessel was quite large it is difficult to see the whole ship on one dive. As with all diving in this area it must be dived in slack tide otherwise the currents are treacherous.
U-Boat 104
(GPS 51.59N 06.26W)

U104 was damaged on 23 April 1918 by the USS Cushing and sunk two days later when the HMS Jessamine found her surfaced. Captain Bernis dived but was blown to the surface by three depth charges. Ten men tried to escape but only one was picked up. He was the sole survior on 3-7-1917 and the deck gun at the Wooden House, Kilmore Quay.

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