Scylla Reef is the wreck of F71 HMS Scylla, a Leander-class frigate that served in the Royal Navy between 1970 and December 2003. During her commission she performed a variety of roles, from patrols in Icelandic waters during the second and third 'Cod Wars' to royal escort duties for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. She also provided humanitarian relief in the Cayman Islands during 1980 when hurricanes threatened the lives of many of the inhabitants, before being modified to have Exocet and SeaWolf missile launchers fitted. After being decommissioned, she was bought by the National Marine Aquarium and sunk on the 27th of March 2004 in Whitsand bay near Plymouth, where she now lies creating an artificial reef for divers, the first of its kind in Europe.
A frigate makes a very large wreck; 113 metres long with a 13 metre beam, meaning that you will need more than just one dive to truly see everything she has to offer. Due to the local shipping activities, she has had her main mast, funnels and sonar dome removed to ensure that there is 4m between her highest point and the lowest astronomical tide (LAT). However she is still easy to find as she has a large yellow BSAC buoy permanently attached to a lazy shot on her bow. There is also a smaller orange buoy that leads just aft of her bridge and another to the flight deck at the stern.
Descending down the main buoy takes you down to the deck of the bow at 11m. This area is pretty flat, allowing plenty of room to run some skills with some trainees if needs be, and also has what's left of the Exocet and SeaWolf missile launchers giving plenty to see. Three mooring chains come from out of the bow and into the gloom, leading down to the sandy seabed at around 24 metres. The owners of the wreck have created many large openings into her hull for experienced divers to penetrate deep inside her, the first of which can be found on the deck. All of the holes are clearly marked with warning signs, reminding you that this wreck has been sunk with divers interest and safety in mind. This also means that there are plenty of things to see inside, like the radar control consoles still with loads of buttons to play with!
Before diving the Scylla, I was told that there was not much life to be seen as she was still a very young wreck. I can tell you first hand that this is a myth. For a start the outside walls of the hull are teaming with anemones and sea squirts of a variety of colours (predominantly orange). Also many of the fish that can be seen on the neighbouring wreck, the James Egan Layne, have taken up residence both in and around the Scylla, including wrasse, pouting, bibs and pollack. If this is what is described as 'not much life', this reef will look absolutely breathtaking as time goes by.
Going back to the deck level, there is the superstructure holding the bridge in pride of place. The bridge can easily be entered from the sides, above or even below! Behind this lies the area where the main mast and funnel used to be, followed by the aircraft hangar. Again this has all been made very accessible to divers from both outside and within the wreck. The only area that is not accessible underwater is the engine rooms, which have been filled with concrete in the interest of safety of divers. However, this wreck offers so much else to see, that not seeing the engines will not spoil your dive. I definitely look forward to diving this wreck again and am interested to see how she will change over the next few years.
Depths: 24 metres to sea floor (79 feet)
Length: 113 metres (370 feet) Position: 50°19.655'N; 04°15.162'W (Whitsand Bay, Plymouth)
Visibility: 2 - 14 metres (6 - 45 feet)
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Smudger - June 2010