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The Ben Veg
The steam ship Ben Veg lies on a stony sea bed at a depth of around 41 metres (LW). The vessel is intact and sits upright with the bow pointing to 070 and the stern 250. The wreck has been wire swept at some stage and none of the above deck superstructure remains. The Ben Veg lies 18 km south of Burrow Head, well out of the Solway outfall and underwater visibility can be particularly good. However strong tides sweep over the wreck as can be seen from the profusion of plumose anemones on it, so it is best dived over neap tides when slack water begins (about 40 minutes before LW, Isle of Whithorn )
On descending to the wreck it soon becomes visible as a white skeletal structure, the white being the dense plumose anemones which cover the deck beams and hull plates. Beginning the tour at the stern (1), the propeller and rudder are again covered in this marine life. The rudder has been pushed right round to starboard and one of the three propeller blades has been snapped off, lying nearby on the seabed. This suggests that the vessel sank stern first, snapping a blade off the propeller as she hit the bottom.
At the deck level there is little left of the gunwhales, possibly the result of the wire sweeping, but the wooden decking has now rotted away leaving the stern compartment and engine room (2) open and accessible. The large twin cylinder compound engine can easily be seen as can the boiler. To the rear of the boiler the rectangular flue which led up to the funnel is still in place and pieces of the funnel itself actually lie on top. To either side of the boiler are the open hatchways which led down into the engine room.
On the starboard side here the damage inflicted by the Brittany is clearly visible. There is a vertical gash (3) in the side of the hull just to the rear of the central bulkhead. The size of the gash shows that the Brittany was slowing before she collided since a vessel of 4500 tons would have split the Ben Veg in two had she not reduced speed.
Forward of the collision damage is the empty main hold divided into four openings by the pyramidal deck beams (4). The hold is a cavernous space which well shows the structure of the vessel with the strengthening knees on the side ribs clearly visible. The hull plates on the port side have a number of holes rotted in them but the starboard side is far more intact. This may be due to the wear inflicted by the prevailing tidal streams. From the hold it is possible to swim through an opening in the forward bulkhead into the two deck forecastle which again is an open space with only the deck beams dividing it.
There is easier access to the forecastle from the main deck itself. The large cargo winch (5) sits on the deck forward of the hold and to either side are two small compartments one of which may have been the head. Between them is an opening giving easy access to the bows. On the bow deck is a displaced anchor winch and still in place on either side of the straight bow are the two anchors. This is a good place to swim forward of the wreck (6) and look back at it with the plumose anemone covered plates stretching 5 metres down to the seabed below.
As has already been mentioned this is a very attractive wreck with abundant fish life. Because it sits upright and is intact it is an easy wreck to navigate and explore. Although the wreck is new to us it has been dived by divers from the Isle of Man who actually found it in 1999. The bell was recovered by them in 2003 so confirming the identity of the vessel.
To find out more about this wreck, have a look at it’s wreck history page.