Lundy dive trail officially opens

Remnants of Iona II paddle steamer brought to life

Author: Pat
15th June 2014
 

A ship that sank off Lundy Island in 1864 has re-emerged 150 years later for visitors.

Divers are now able to experience the protected wreck of the Iona II, thanks to a new interactive dive trail.

Officially launched this weekend, the underwater self-guided trail has been created by Wessex Archaeology, on behalf of English Heritage, for the wreck of the Iona II which had a short  but colourful history before it sank off Lundy, near the Devon coast.

paddle steamer acted as a blockade runner during the American Civil War

English Heritage commissioned Wessex Archaeology to design the dive trail in consultation with the diving community. The end result is a series of four themed underwater guides that will allow divers to easily navigate around the wreck and learn more about the vessel, its history and the local marine life.

The Iona II was a paddle steamer built in 1863 by the renowned Clyde shipbuilding company J & G Thomson. After serving only a few months as a luxury passenger steamer between Glasgow and Western Isles towns, the Iona II was sold to the Confederate cause to act as a blockade runner in the American Civil War.

Striking out from Ireland towards Madeira, a storm blew up and the vessel started to take on water. Despite the best efforts of the crew to stem the leaks in the hull and to get the vessel into a harbour, the Iona II sank on 2nd February 1864 in the shelter of Lundy Island.

Rediscovered in 1976, the Iona II was deemed historically significant and declared a protected wreck in 1989. Since then, all divers wishing to visit the site have been required to apply for a free licence from English Heritage.

The aim of the new dive trail is to encourage responsible licensed diving and provide an interesting and informative dive experience both for local and visiting divers.

The local diving community has been heavily involved with creating this dive trail, from providing images and information about the wreck, to testing the underwater guides on the wreck site. Divers who have frequently dived the wreck reported that the underwater guides gave them an increased understanding of the wreck and the information booklets gave new insights to the history of the vessel.

 
 
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