The “Pamir’ (Wreck on Vauxhall Reef)

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…There are two other wrecks that are in fact sister ships; the Pamir, located on the west coast, and the Friar’s Craig on the south coast. They were both deliberately sunk for divers in 1985 but the Pamir has fared better, remaining completely intact, while the Friar’s Craig has broken into three large mangled pieces. Nevertheless, they both provide excellent man-made reefs, hosting a multitude of marine creatures.

The Pamir is a 170 foot freighter that was modified for diving and then purposely sunk. She dutifully came to rest upright in a shallow sandy area, perfect for beginner divers and second-tank dives. The bow, which lies at 40 feet, faces the beach while the curved stern is firmly buried in sand in about 50 feet of water. The entire wreck is covered with encrusting sponges of various colours. Black coral and sea fans have attached themselves to the hull on the port side of the stern. In the central area there is a large open cargo hold where it is possible to see grunts, blackbar soldierfish, trumpet fish, squid and sergeant major fish.

The sergeant major fish are a particularly renowned attraction of the wreck and they provide excellent photographic subjects. The flat surface walls of the wreck are perfect for them to lay their purple egg clusters, which they seem to do throughout the year. As soon as the eggs are laid, the mating pair then spends every waking moment protecting their potential offspring from hungry fish, even their own species. If a diver swims too close to a cluster they are liable to receive an aggressive darting attack, so look out! They are, however, only 3 inches in length and therefore do not present any real danger.

The hull of the Pamir has many large holes so divers can enter and exit with ease. The internal fittings have been removed so there is very little for diving equipment to snag on.

This is a perfect wreck to ‘cut your teeth on’ if you have never dived a wreck before, but equally, there is a lot to see and explore for the experienced diver. The bridge is quite large and open with one surviving window at the front, which is surrounded by pink coloured black coral….

…Because of the large holes in the hull there is plenty of light inside the wreck, which means there is no need to carry a torch. However a torch light does come in handy if you want to see the true brilliance of the coloured sponges and invertebrates which have taken over the ship.

There is a large winch in the centre of the cargo hold which is home to spiny lobster, banded coral shrimps, feather dusters, tube worms and an elusive small, white frogfish.

A small school of yellow goatfish hover under the curvature of the bow amongst a scattering of coral heads and barrel sponges. Standing at attention, a huge old-fashioned anchor lies upright in the sand at the bow. It is covered by a large multi-angled barrel sponge which, in turn, plays host to shrimp, gobbies and other small reef creatures.

Pelagic fish such as spanish mackerel, barracuda and bar jack can often be seen cruising the wreck and reef area. You may also see another strange fish called a flying gurnard. They are not often found swimming around but they frequent the seabed in search of food. These fish are about 12 inches long; they have large eyes and mottled brown backs and are relatively unattractive. However, when they extend their six-inch wings, they are totally transformed into a mesmerizing technicolour of luminescent blue and green.

Popping their heads up from the sand along the port side of the wreck is a colony of garden eels. If approached carefully, crouching on the sand, it is possible to get within a few feet of them.

The surrounding reef is in good condition and supports a multitude of marine life. There are 4 species of sea anemones, on and around the wreck, and inhabiting them at least 2 species of shrimp – all perfect for macro photography. If you look closely you can find beautiful lettuce leaf slugs and brightly coloured fire worms, crawling across the reef.