Wave Shape
Wave Shape

The Great Ouse

Wave Shape

The dredger Great Ouse lies near to the S.S. Kelvinside in around 28 metres of water on a gravel and broken shell sea bed. This often means clear water with good visibility, but the exposed position means that the wreck is now well broken up and swept clear of marine growth.

It would seem that when the vessel sank the weight of the dredger buckets caused it to turn turtle first, breaking free as it hit the bottom and now lying to the port of the vessel.

Probably the best place to start the dive is at the stern of the vessel (1). Here the very large boiler is the most obvious thing to see. At the aft end of it are various intact gauges and brass steam pipes, whilst among the collapsed and scattered hull plates surrounding it, the curved and strengthened section of what would have been the port gunwale is easily identifiable. Moving forward to the other end of the boiler you can see the firebox hole at the top (2). This normally would be at the bottom of the boiler and is good evidence to show that the vessel now lies upside down.

Ahead of you now sitting on the sea bed you can see an exposed row of what would have been steel deck beams (3), the hull plates here having disappeared. Soon you come to what is the largest intact section of the vessel. This is what seems to be a section of the flat bottom of the dredger (4) with what would have been the port side still attached to it showing a similar section of the reinforced gunwale to that of the stern. This section of hull stands about one metre proud of the sea bed with the bilge beams still attached to it. Beneath these the deck beams sit on the sea bed with the knees clearly visible on what would have been the starboard side.

Beneath this section are numerous conger eels, lobster and crab which, because the wreck is rarely dived, are curious and unafraid of divers. This is also the case with the shoals of large pollock and bib which are found on the wreck site

Leaving this hull section behind the wreckage seems to divide into two parts with a gap in between. This presumably was the bow well of the vessel (5) through which the bucket chain could be lowered. Sitting on the left hand hull plate section is a length of coiled belt, part of the drive system which operated the buckets. Also on both of these two hull plate sections are sloping pipe structures which require further investigation.

Moving to your left you can see at the edge of the hull plate section the spoked remains of a wheel which may have formed part of the controls for the dredger. The main thing that you see however is the bulk of the bucket chain structure (6) and its supporting girders. Following this to the right in the direction of the bow you can see the chain of buckets with their open ends facing forward, the correct direction for dredging.

At the end of this structure are a pair of drive wheels and a heavy fly wheel (7) with an axle attached sitting a little apart. Returning up the other side of the bucket chain you finally come to what must have been the main fly wheel (8) standing vertically three metres high with a smaller drive wheel behind it. The fly wheel has interesting ‘S’ shaped spokes, which would help to absorb stresses when in use. Around this area on the sea bed are large lengths of drive belts which would have operated the dredge buckets.

From here it is a short diagonal fin over scattered hull plates and girders back to the boiler where the dive began. As this is a relatively undived wreck there is still much more to be discovered and added to this account.

Similar to the Kelvinside, because of the strong tidal streams in this area this is very much a low slack water dive, preferably on a neap tide. Slack seems to be about one hour before the time indicated in the tables.

To find out more about this wreck, have a look at it’s wreck history page.

Video of The Great Ouse

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