I got an email from Dave saying that there was space on Dive 125 to do the War Monarch on 11th March. Load time was a thoroughly respectable 10:45, so I decided I was in. The name was unfamiliar to me, but I had dived it before. For a long time, the wreck had been thought to be the Rydal Hall, but in August 2011, Dave and Sylvia discovered the letters "WAR MON" on the bow, identifying it once and for all. The Rydal Hall is thought to be the unknown wreck a bit further out, but it's in the shipping lanes.
It was an unseasonably warm day and the surface visibility was great. The water didn't look a bad colour, but going down the line, it was obvious that there were quite a lot of fine bits in the water. At about 35m, it got really dark, though not entirely black. If you covered your torch, you could still make out the outline of the wreck. With the torch, it was about 2m viz. The water was warmer than is usual for March, but at 8°C, it was still pretty cold.
I had hoped to have a look for the bows and the lettering, but the shot was around midships towards the stern. It's a big wreck. It was a 110m long steam turbine powered ore carrier. The seabed is 40m, but there are parts of the wreck that come up to 32m. There was some fishing net on it, though not a huge amount and entanglement was never a possibility. The viz didn't help when trying to get orientated especially as it's not a wreck that I know. I made out 3 big boilers and general other wreckage. The was a big shoal of bib and there were a lot of nice, colourful jewelled anemones. A few years ago, you would never have seen so many this far east, but there were big patches of purple and yellow all over the wreck.
5 minutes deco seemed to be quite enough in that water temperature. Putting up my delayed SMB took longer than usual thanks to my numb hands. I was wearing 3 finger mitts, but they'd still got very cold. I think next winter, I'll invest in some dry gloves. At least the surface temperature was warm. It didn't take long to warm back up in the sun and the cup of soup onboard helped.
The price was £50 for the day. It was a good early season dive and my 5th in the UK already this year, so I'm well ahead of last year.