Latitude 50° 20.140 N
Longitude 004° 09.590W
Depth 12m
Accuracy 10m
Location Description Breakwater, west
Reference NMR 1070193, UKHO 17666
Craft type Hopper Barge
Date built Unknown
Year of loss 1913
Manner of loss Wrecked
Outcome Abandoned
Construction Steel
Propulsion Steam
Nationality British
Departure port Corunna, Spain
Destination port Southampton
Hull length Unknown
Hull beam Unknown
Hull displacement Unknown
Armament None
Cargo Ballast
Crew 8
Built Unknown
Master Captain Burns
Owners Unknown

Hopper Barge No. 42

On 13th September 1913 the 150 tonne self-propelled Hopper Barge No. 42 was making her way from Corunna in Spain to Southampton at the end of a dredging contract with a crew of 8 on board.  She arrived after dark on a fine but cloudy night at the entrance to Plymouth Sound and signalled with a flare for a pilot.  There was no answer so the impatient Captain Burns then decided to enter the Sound by himself, in doing so he managed to ground the dredging barge on the breakwater.  The Plymouth lifeboat Eliza Avins was launched just after midnight and made her way to the Breakwater under sail and oars. The lifeboat was met by the harbour master’s launch who had already taken off the crew, the crew were then transferred to the lifeboat and taken to Sutton Harbour.

Captain Burns, when interviewed later, attributed to the accident ‘to the many brilliant and blinding lights inside the harbour’.  Shortly after the grounding the Pilot; who had been busy aiding another vessel into the Sound, came to pull the barge off of the Breakwater.  A line was passed to the barge but the attempt was halted when it was found that that she was holed over the stokehold plates almost to the fires.

The following day the barge was re-floated and the tugs Stag, Boarhound and Deerhound were employed to bring her into port.  However the combination of damage and poor patching meant she promptly sank again just 250m from the Breakwater lighthouse.

Diving the Hopper Barge

When examined by divers in 1969 she was found to be in two parts with the boiler separate from the upturned hull.  The wreck now lies at the western end of the Breakwater in 12 metres of water on a sand and shale seabed, to the north west is boiler and firebox and to the south west are the remains of the upturned hull, partly buried.  As the wreck sits in the main shipping channel permission is required to dive the site.  The dive is best done at slack tide but even then there may still be some water movement, and diving at mid-tide is not recommended as the current is too strong.

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The lighthouse at the west end of Plymouth Breakwater