The steam ship Jasper lies in 16 metres of water about half a mile off shore in Port Yerrock Bay, north of the Isle of Whithorn. It is best dived half an hour either side of high or low water slack since the tidal stream across it can build to 4 knots on Springs and 2 knots on Neaps. The sea bed here is sand and fine silt, a result of the river outfalls in Wigtown Bay, so this can be a murky dive early in the season and great care needs to be taken when finning around the wreck. In the past our club has tried to keep a permanent buoy on the wreck, but even without this it is easily found and shotted.
On descending to the wreck you will notice that the vessel is largely intact. The fact that it has settled into the silt has protected and supported the sides of the hull and whilst only the hull plates above the side rubbing strake protrude above the sea bed (about 1.5 metres high) inside the vessel the holds go down 2 metres below the surrounding sea bed level.
If we start the tour at the stern of the vessel (1) you will see that the actual rounded stern section which once stood 3 metres proud of the sea bed, supported only by the curved ship’s keel, has now collapsed forward into the rearmost compartment. This section has the steering quadrant attached and, as it was swept by currents, was once covered in plumose anemones and dead men’s fingers.
During the winter months the wreck has been damaged by a fishing vessel. Judging from the damage inflicted it seems that the stern was caught by a trawl net (2) which, as the crew tried to release it, pulled the stern forward, scraped the rear port hull plates clean, caused the deck beams to the port of the engine to collapse and bent all protruding girders forward and to starboard. The remains of the net and bottom rollers remain draped around the rear hull and an admiralty pattern anchor which lies to the port side.
Proceeding forward along the starboard side there is little of interest outside the vessel with only the occasional crab or small lobster peeping out from its lair beneath the rubbing strake. However inside the vessel one immediately sees the three cylinder triple expansion engine block (3) with the large boiler in front of it. The area between the engine / boiler and the side of the vessel is filled with collapsed girders, pipes and hawsers and the occasional snagged lobster pot. The various holes and crevices here are good places to look for lobsters, crabs and conger eels.
Moving forward you now come to the rear hold (4). The hold faring and cross girders are in place but the deck on the starboard side of the hold has rotted away. Down in the hold you can see the remains of various steel rails, possibly part of the cargo. Just forward of this hold you come to an intact area of decking (5), the transverse beams are still in place although on the starboard side the areas between them have corroded away. Here in the centre of the vessel you can see the footings of the wooden bridge super structure (long since rotted away) along with the hole for the middle mast.
The deck structure around the front hold faring (6) is more intact and at the sides of the faring you can see the holes where the hold covers were wedged tight. In these square holes you can usually find crabs in residence. Forward of this hold there is a short section of decking connecting both sides of the vessel and here can be found the hole for the forward mast.
You are now approaching the bow of the vessel (7), but this is completely broken up with hull plates scattered all around on the sea bed. The remains of the base of a forward structural bulkhead are clearly visible as is a small pyramidal structure (8) which is part of the actual bow itself. As usual this area is the home to lobsters, crabs and congers. It was also here on the port side that the washbasin and toilet from the crew’s quarters were recently found.
To return to the stern it is possible to swim through the inside of the vessel. You enter where the bow was broken up and to your left light comes through holes in the rotted hull plates. Soon you enter the area of the forward hold where there are often large pollock hanging in the still water. Heading towards the stern you go under the bridge decking which is supported by a central row of columns. This leads out into the rear hold where in front of you can see a single pillar which would have supported the now collapsed bulkhead separating the hold from the engine room. Behind this rears up the front end of the large boiler. You could once swim down the port side of the boiler and engine block up over the rear bulkhead to the stern compartment where you started your dive but as the wreck has settled more this is now not advised.
To find out more about this wreck, have a look at it’s wreck history page.