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The S.S. Inkosi lies on her starboard side in deep water about 6 miles South of Burrow Head. On a low water neap tide it is about 51 metres to the seabed and 39 metres to the shallowest part of the wreck, the stern, port gunwale. The wreck is about 2 kilometres south of the silty Solway outfall and consequently visibility can be better than on the wrecks nearer to the Galloway shore. That said visibility can be variable, changing dramatically from day to day. It is also swept by strong tidal streams as is evidenced by the white Elegant anemones on the port side which only thrive in strong currents. This and the depth mean that the wreck is best dived on low water neap tides particularly when there is little tidal variation. The slack period appears to be about 40 minutes either side of the stated low water time, certainly on neap tides, but care needs to be taken as the current can flip and pick up very quickly leaving divers like flags flying on the shot line. The ebb tide flows from the north east and the flood tide from the south west, both running right across the wreck.
Because of its size and the limited dive times possible the wreck is best dived in sections. This tour is principally concerned with the stern section of the vessel.
Going down our fixed shot line you arrive at a large pair of mooring bollards where the line is attached (1). These sit at the port side of the stern. Once you have got your bearings swim over the gunwale and you will see that the side of the vessel is covered in both Plumose anemones and Elegant anemones, giving it a white ghostly appearance. In this area (2) are a line of port holes. The glass in one is intact with plumose anemones growing beneath it trying to get out. In another the glass is broken and in a third the port hole is actually open. Swimming down to the stern the huge four bladed propeller (3) can be seen along with the enormous rudder, these too are covered in marine growth.
Swimming between the propeller and the rudder you follow the starboard gunwale which sits on the seabed. Here you will find the 4.5 inch stern gun (4) which along with its mounting plate has fallen there from its position on the stern castle. The breech of the gun is open with the misfired shell still inside. When the gunners abandoned the vessel they obviously left the breech open to prevent the misfired shell accidentally exploding. Interestingly the gun has a brass pistol grip firing mechanism.
Moving now along the seabed towards the bow you can see the remains of the teak decking which has rotted and fallen away from the inclined vessel in some areas (5). Above you now hangs the super structure of the aft wheel house. Ascending here you can peer between the deck beams into the depths of the vessel seeing the supporting beams of the various decks disappearing into the gloom. The aft wheel house (6) contains the remains of the steering quadrant mechanism even though the auxiliary ship’s wheel has long since disappeared. The framework of this superstructure has been strengthened with curved ribs which were added to support the weight of the gun platform which sat on top of the wheel house so giving it a good arc of fire. From photographs of the wreck in civilian days it seems that this wheel house was larger and formed the main support for deck awnings covering what would have been a promenade deck. At the very stern of the vessel are two posts now with rope snared around them which must have been added to support part of the gun platform. It is in this area around the wheel house where large areas of the teak decking are still intact.
Moving forwards you now come to a skylight (7) and just forward of this a small hold opening which provides easy access inside the vessel. Here the structure of the deck beams is relatively open. Forward of this again is the step down from the stern castle to the lower deck level where the main rear hold is situated (8). This can easily be entered and was where the general cargo was stored. The deck in this area is beginning to peel away under its own weight from the port side of the vessel. Just forward of this hold are the large cargo winches (9) the weight of which is a major cause of the deck collapsing. It is here that the main centre superstructure of the vessel begins, but this too is peeling away from the port side and collapsing to the seabed.
Returning now along the port gunwale you come across a large stanchion tangled with old ropes which needs to be avoided. Looking in through the holes in the deck in this area you can see the bathrooms and toilets in what was either steerage accommodation or crew quarters (10). This now brings you back to the shot line ready for your ascent.
Whilst this covers the area of the wreck which we have explored, Darren Kelly, who has dived the wreck on numerous occasions informs us that the forward section of the vessel lies on a slightly different alignment to that of the stern caused by a fracture where the torpedo hit. The centre section is badly collapsed and the three boilers and cargo of coal have now fallen out onto the seabed on the starboard side. Most of the prominent items such as the bell, telegraphs and the name from bows etc. have long since been recovered and most of the chamber pots which formed part of the cargo also seem to have disappeared. However in the rear holds there are numerous small items such as crockery and bottles still to be discovered. There are also cases of ammunition for the rear gun deep in the stern section. This dive tour will obviously be expanded as and when we have explored more of the wreck.
To find out more about this wreck, have a look at it’s wreck history page.