Harbour Wreck

COUNTESS OF ERNE

One of the most popular wrecks on the South Coast within Portland Harbour and well within the 18m depth range. Great for diving and training, sheltered from easterly winds by the harbour wall. Can be dived any state of the tide.

Inside Portland Harbour

The Countess of Erne is one of the most highly dived wreck sites on the South Coast. This iron hull wreck lies upright in 15m of water close to the inner breakwater and to the north of the east entrance of Portland Harbour. While subject to continuous yet gentle tidal flow, the wreck acts as an artificial ledge between the silt-covered sea bed of the harbour and the stones that make up the breakwater itself. The wreck and its surroundings attract a variety of sea life, some of which are rare and alien to Portland.

The Countess of Erne sank next to the north-east breakwater on 16 September 1935 after breaking her moorings. Built in Dublin in 1868 as an iron hulled paddle steamer, she had a short career working as a passenger ferry before being converted into a coal hulk.

The Countess sits upright, parallel to the inner breakwater, on a silty sea bed at about 15m, with its shallowest point being about 8m. She is intact with all her superstructure removed, her open stern and connected three cargo holds exposed to view (the holds connected together via silty ‘swim-throughs’). The structure of the upper deck towards the bow shows signs of recent deterioration/damage. The stern and rudder are more intact but deteriorating.

Underwater Explorers divers have been diving and monitoring the Countess of Erne since 1998 – documenting a significant deterioration of the wreck after 2000 which may in part be due to the increased traffic of heavier “hard” boats directly tying onto the superstructure. There is now  significant damage on the deck structure towards her bow and parts of the stern (where the rudder is still intact)

Direct influences on the wreck and its marine life include (dive boats as above), tidal flow running through the harbour entrances and, to an extent, recreational diving activities (including sport and technical diver training due to her shallow depth and ‘accessibility’).

The Countess of Erne sank next to the north-east breakwater on 16 September 1935 after breaking her moorings. Built in Dublin in 1868 as an iron hulled paddle steamer, she had a short career working as a passenger ferry before being converted into a coal hulk. The Countess sits upright, parallel to the inner breakwater, on a silty sea bed at about 15m, with its shallowest point being about 8m. She is intact with all her superstructure removed, her open stern and connected three cargo holds exposed to view (the holds connected together via silty ‘swim-throughs’). The structure of the upper deck towards the bow shows signs of recent deterioration/damage. The stern and rudder are more intact but deteriorating.

Risks: Due to its shallow depth and easy accessibility by licensed and authorised dive boats like her sister dive site the Dredger, the Countess of Erne can be regarded as a low risk dive. Despite the influence of water circulating in and out of the harbour, the wreck can be dived at all times of tide.

Notable diving risks include loss of direction due to low visibility, loss of visibility due to “silt out”, discarded monafilament fishing lines and hooks, loss of direction or entanglement during any attempted “swim throughs” between holds or overhead parts of the wreck and loss of contact with wreck (which exposes divers to the tidal flow of the harbour’s East entry which is closeby). All divers are strongly advised to carry SMBs on their Countess dive in case they are separated from the wreck and carried through the harbour entrance. Divers are also advised that due to deterioration, the Countess boasts sharp and “spiky” parts often facing up (hazardous for uncontrolled fast descent in low visibility conditions).

We have a short Countess of Erne photo gallery for you below. Click on any photo so see it in larger format. Don’t forget the Countess is a boat dive and if you want to go out with any of the local dive boats check out our BOAT DIRECTORY.