This steam collier grounded off north Cornwall in 1916 and makes for an interesting dive if you don’t mind a little deco, says JOHN LIDDIARD. Illustration by MAX ELLIS
JUST A FEW MILES OFF THE PENDEEN LIGHTHOUSE, the Enrico Parodi is fairly typical of the wrecks from World War One and that era that lie along this stretch of Cornwall’s northern coastline. It’s a conventional 3818 ton, four-hold steamship, two holds forward and two aft, boilers and triple-expansion steam engine amidships.
Though a wartime casualty, the Enrico Parodi didn’t sink as a result of enemy action. In dense fog the vessel ran aground at Gurnard’s Head, was re-floated by a salvage team already working on the nearby wreck of the Neto, then sank again while under tow to St Ives.
The most prominent part of the wreck is the pair of boilers (1), so that is where our tour will begin at about 30m. Both boilers are in place, though the plating is beginning to show its age, with a few holes opening to the fire-tubes inside.
Behind the boilers, the triple-expansion engine has broken and twisted to port (2). The largest and aftmost cylinder (3) has cracked open to leave a curved lining resting on top of the donkey boiler (4).
At the bottom of the engine, the crankshaft (5) is still firmly in place along the centre-line of the ship.
Resting on the starboard side of the engine-room is an unusual structure made up of three interconnecting curved rods (6). I mentioned my inability to identify this structure in a general article about the area (October 2003) and since then have made no further progress in finding out just what it is.
Back to the machinery. The aft end of the crankshaft connects to the propeller-shaft through the thrust-bearing (7). This is a box structure firmly attached to the keel and broken open at the top.
Inside, the shaft is ringed with thick square sections that formed one part of the bearing surface. The other part would have been made of bronze and has been salvaged.
The propeller-shaft continues aft through the holds in an arched tunnel (8), broken open in places to reveal the intact shaft inside.
A deep Atlantic groundswell and salvage has broken the wreck down almost to the keel, leaving an outline of the hull poking out of a seabed of coarse granite sand, and various ship’s fittings almost floating on the sand.
The floor of the first hold aft is just clear of the sand. The join of the holds is marked by the remains of a bulkhead (9) and aft of this the outline of the final hold is barely discernible in the sand. The easiest mark showing the way aft is the still intact propeller-shaft tunnel.
The tunnel ends at the back of this hold where the stern narrows (10), the shaft being open through the keel to the stern.
The level to which the hull has broken down becomes apparent at the four-bladed iron propeller (11). This sticks up above the remains of the hull, and its highest reach would still have been below the ship’s waterline.
Behind the propeller, the rudder support still stands (12), complete with pins from the hinge mechanism. There is no sign of the rudder itself among the scattering of plates off the stern of the wreck. The only identifiable items I could find were some broken winch parts off the port side (13).
Having toured the stern, our description continues again from the boilers and forward. A steel plate has fallen across the front of the boilers (14). I had assumed this to be from the deck above, but on reflection it could easily have been the bulkhead separating the stoke-hold from the coal-bunkers.
Evidence of the coal-bunkers being forward of the boilers is provided by a pair of hatch-coamings (15), through which the fuel would have been loaded, resting on the sand.
The forward holds are just a sea of sand, marked in outline by the sides of the hull appearing in places just above the sand. With no propeller-shaft to follow on this half of the ship, navigation is by following the line of the hull between the various features.
Ridges in the sand in line with the keel (16) are the sides of the main hatch-coaming. Just forward of these and to the starboard side is a pair of bollards (17).
There is no corresponding hatch-coaming to mark the forward hold. The area it would have occupied is now marked by a second of the unusual structures of three interconnecting curved rods (18) and the broken remains of a winch (19).
The bow also exists only in outline, although the outline is still “upright” – if that is a term that can be applied to an outline.
A small hatch-coaming marks what would have been the main access to the forecastle (20). In the ship’s original condition I suspect that this would have been sheltered by a curved back box, made of light steel or possibly even wood.
The fittings from the bow deck are scattered mostly to starboard – first a pair of bollards and a spindle broken from a small winch (21), then, further out to starboard and forward of the bow, the much larger anchor-winch, resting upright on its mounting-plate (22).
With any time remaining, sweeping round the bow reveals no identifiable items to port except a single bollard (23).
In typical good Cornish visibility it shouldn’t be too hard to navigate back to a shotline amidships to end the dive, though if more than a few minutes of stops are required a delayed SMB will be a more comfortable means of ascent.
THE FOG OF WAR
First of all they called her the King Edgar. That was when they launched the new steamer from the yard of Osbourne Graham in Sunderland in 1903, writes Kendall McDonald.
The next British owners decided to change the name to Boscombe. Then, just before the start of WW1, she was bought by an Italian shipping firm, which, of course, meant another change of name and she finally went to war as Enrico Parodi.
The Parodi, a 114m collier, carried war cargoes of coal from Wales to the Mediterranean for the next two years. Her three-cylinder triple-expansion engines, also built in Sunderland, gave little trouble during any of these runs, nor was she bothered by U-boats.
On 20 July, 1916, she steamed into thick fog in the Bristol Channel while heading for Messina with a full cargo of coal taken on at Cardiff. The area covered by fog was huge, with ships reportedly in trouble all along the coast of north Cornwall.
One victim was the 3,000 ton Glasgow steamer Neto, which had grounded below Gurnard’s Head while trying to carry hay and fodder to Cherbourg for British cavalry horses in France. Salvage began that same day but, two afternoons later, out of the fog came the Enrico Parodi and grounded heavily just 300m from the Neto.
As the Parodi seemed to be well afloat aft of her engine-room, the salvage teams moved over from the Neto to help, using their salvage ship Lady of the Isles to tow her off on that evening’s high tide and head for St Ives.
The fog didn’t lift and progress was slow. At 11pm the sea broke her open and widened a minor leak in the bow. As her bow dipped, the Enrico Parodi was hastily abandoned, sinking swiftly into deep water off the Carracks Reef.
GETTING THERE: Follow the M5 to Exeter, then the A30 through Penzance. The diving pick-up point is at Sennen, right at the end of the A30.
TIDES: Slack water is essential and it occurs at the same time as high or low water Newquay.
HOW TO FIND IT: The Enrico Parodi is located off the Carracks, GPS co-ordinates 50 13.065 N, 005 33.300W (degrees, minutes and decimals). The wreck lies with its bow to the north.
DIVING : Ben Slater, 01736 787567.
AIR: Bill Bowen runs a compressor on the pier at Penzance, 01736 752135.
LAUNCHING : The closest slips are at Sennen, St Ives and Hale, and all are dry as the tide drops.
ACCOMMODATION: Ben Slater can arrange accommodation with local B&Bs. There are also many camping and static caravan sites in the area. Penzance tourist information has a list, 01736 362207.
QUALIFICATIONS: Suitable for fairly experienced sports divers who don’t mind getting into a spot of decompression.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Admiralty Chart 1149, Pendeen to Trevose Head. Ordnance Survey Map 203, Land’s End, The Lizard and The Isles of Scilly. Shipwreck Index of the British Isles, Volume 1, by Richard and Bridget Larn. Dive The Isles of Scilly and North Cornwall, by Richard Larn and David McBride.
PROS: A very obvious ship outline on the white sand, with good Cornwall visibility.
CONS: An inaccessible stretch of coastline with slips that dry.
Thanks to Ben & John Slater.
Appeared in Diver September 2004