The S.S. Kelvinside lies in around 28 metres of water on a gravel and broken shell sea bed near to the Scares Rocks at the mouth of Luce Bay. The water in this area tends to be clearer than in Wigtown bay and so there is often good visibility on this dive.
The most intact part of the wreck is the stern (1) and it is here that we will begin our tour. Because of its location and shallow depth the wreck is vulnerable to winter storms and as a consequence it is generally collapsed. However the rounded stern has maintained its integrity and the reversed rudder and 4 bladed propeller are easily visible through the shoals of bib that congregate in this area. It would seem that one of the blades has actually snapped off, probably as a result of the vessel hitting the sea bed at the time of the sinking.
The hull plates (2) on the port side stern are still attached with the ship’s ribs protruding up to where the actual gunwale once lay. Also two of the stanchions which supported the lifeboat platform are to be found leaning inwards. On the starboard side however the hull plates have fallen away (3), apart from one small isolated section, leaving the ribs exposed. The interior of the wreck to the rear of the engine is filled with the remains of the collapsed super structure which makes this an interesting place to explore.
Moving forward on the starboard side you come to the three cylinder triple expansion engine block and boiler (4). The fallen hull plates on this side make this an easy area to explore and many of the engine fittings are still in place. Heavy gauge brass steam piping can be seen along with still intact glass steam gauges. It is interesting to note the large size of the boiler given that this was a relatively small coastal freighter. On top of the boiler (5) the funnel faring can still clearly be seen. The rapid deterioration of the wreck is evident since in 1998 the engine and boiler were not accessible and were still hidden by the bridge super structure. This has completely fallen away in the last 12 years so giving easy access.
Just forward of the boiler are a pair of mooring bollards and the steel box structure (6) observable in the photograph. This is now home to a particularly large conger eel. Forward from here on both sides the hull plates have peeled away and fallen to the sea bed leaving just a half metre high line of rotted plates indicating the shape of the vessel. The vessel has partially settled into the sea bed and the bilge area has filled with broken shell leaving only the cross girders which were the base of the cargo holds visible. Pieces of furnace coal which formed part of the cargo can be found in this area (7) However most noticeable, standing proud in the middle of the wreck is the stump of the mast (8) along with the cargo winches which have dropped down and settled behind it. In this area there is little to observe apart from a number of collapsed deck beams, but just forward of the mast and easily identifiable is the intact faring for the small forward hold.
Finally you now come to the bow of the vessel (9) of which the foremost section is also still intact standing about three metres proud of the sea bed. On the port side the admiralty pattern anchor lies against the hull side. The plates containing the vessels name now lie fallen on the sea bed nearby.
The Kelvinside is an interesting and little visited wreck, because of its exposed location. The fish and crustacean life on the wreck is prolific with shoals of pollock and bib and large conger eels in every available hole. Where there are not congers you will find an equally large number of lobster and crab. However the winter storms which batter it and the strong tidal streams which flow over it mean that apart from hornwrack there is little growth on the wreck itself. These strong tidal streams also mean that this is a slack water dive. For us this usually means low water slack which comes around an hour before the time given in the tide tables. It also makes the journey out to the wreck easier since you are going with the tide on the outward and return legs.
To find out more about this wreck, have a look at it’s wreck history page.