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Hoist the Jolly Roger: Diving the wreck of the Holland 5



In 1901 Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, Controller of the Royal Navy, stated ‘Submarines are underhand, unfair and damned un-English. The crews of all Submarines should be treated as Pirates and hanged’. Soon afterwards it became a tradition that British Submarines would hoist the Jolly Roger when returning from successful missions.

Stu 12I rang Mark Beattie-Edwards, the Programme Director of the Nautical Archaeology Society, just after 7:00pm as prompted on the instruction sheet he had sent me. I had packed my car and primed my alarm clock in readiness for a 4:00am departure the very next morning. I had even made myself a Corned Beef and Tomato sandwich for the journey. 3 days worth of unsettled weather meant I was still frustratingly waiting to find out was happening. Mark had already checked the weather forecast and the decision had finally been made – we were good to go!

I had been invited along on a NAS outing to dive the ‘mother of all Subs’ aka the Holland 5 Submarine wreck located 6 miles off the Sussex coast near Eastbourne. When I first received the e-mail I had no idea what the Holland 5 really was. After a quick internet search I discovered that the Holland Class Submarines were the first ever Submarines to be commissioned by the Royal Navy back in 1901. From the initial order of 5 Submarines only 2 still remained. Holland 5 is the only surviving example left on the seabed. Holland 1 was salvaged in 1982 and after some extensive restoration now resides at the Submarine Museum in Gosport.

When I arrived at the Sovereign Harbour the sun was shining and the sea conditions looked quite favourable for a change. I had no idea what to expect and with the wreck being more than a 100 years old I didn’t really expect to find much of it left. Mark had chartered DIVE125 jointly skippered by Dave Ronnan and Sylvia Pryer. Dave and Sylvia’s 42 foot custom built boat was roomy enough for 12 divers including all sorts of kit configurations including a new prototype Belgian made Rebreather. All NAS outings are covered by current HSE guidelines so divers have to wear an alternative/redundant air supply in the form of a Pony Cylinder or a Twinset. The plan was to do the first dive on the Holland 5 and then a second shallower dive on the Norman’s Bay wreck. DIVE125 had an onboard compressor for anyone requiring a refill.

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The Holland Class was designed by John Philip Holland of Irish-American decent. The first Submarine came off the production line on October 2nd 1901. Each Submarine took around 8 months to build and cost £35,000. There was no launching ceremony as the Submarines were deemed experimental and the Navy were trying to keep their new weapon a secret.

The 19.5 metre long Submarines had a maximum range of 20 miles underwater and a top speed of 7 knots. They could even dive to 30 metres. Capt Bacon, who was in charge of operations, is reported to have said ‘these Submarines would be a terror to any ship’. Initial trials showed that the Submarines could get within 1000 yards of their target without any alarm being raised. A pay load of up to 3 x 18 inch Torpedoes would cause some serious damage to enemy shipping.

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The Submarines were never used in ‘active’ service. The Dogger Bank incident in October 1905 was the closest that they ever got to firing a Torpedo at a live target. This involved the Russian Fleet mistakenly attacking a number of British fishing trawlers. But the Holland Submarines were recalled back to harbour when the dispute was resolved by diplomatic means. On the 8th August 1912 the now obsolete Holland 5 was being towed to Sheerness in Kent (probably to be scrapped) when she foundered and sank. There was no loss of life.

Mark said that they found Holland 5 in 2000 but its true identity was not confirmed until April 2001. Once the initial survey work had been completed the Submarine was designated under the protection of wrecks act. This basically states that divers are not allowed to explore the wreck site without first obtaining permission from the NAS. Divers don’t have to be underwater Archaeologists or have special qualifications. Any individual diver or club can make a booking. Contact Mark for a list of available dates.

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I was impressed how quickly DIVE125 found the little Submarine. Just to make sure the shotline was sitting right next door to the wreck Dave went down the line first to check its position. Mark offered to show me around the mini Submarine and act as ‘model’ for any pictures I might take. We waited until all the other divers had gone into the water before kitting up. With so many divers kicking around on such a small site I didn’t hold out much hope for pictures but I was pleasantly surprised when we reached the seabed at 31 metres. The bottom composition looked more like gravel than fine silt so the underwater visibility topped out at an impressive 8 metres. Maybe the other divers had heeded my request (demand) to be careful with their fin kicks?

Stu 7The Submarine was lying upright and looked in remarkably good condition considering its age. Apparently the hull was made from a special high grade metal which has helped to keep it well preserved. Mark finned along the cigar shaped hull to the Conning Tower. I was expecting to see a massive tube like structure sticking out but instead there was a short stubby 1-2 metre ‘tower’ with a hinged hatch on top. A small glass window had been fitted into the centre of the hatch and it was still possible to take a look inside. The Holland Submarines were fitted with one of the first ever periscopes but I couldn’t find anything that resembled one.

After 5 minutes worth of photo taking we moved towards the stern passing over the square shaped exhaust box. The Submarines were fitted with a 160hp petrol engine and a 70hp electric motor which powered the single 3 bladed Propeller. A cage of white Mice used to be kept by the engine to warn the crew of any escaping Petrol fumes or exhaust gases. This had been a ‘design upgrade’ owing to the fact that on earlier trial runs there had been an explosion on Holland 1 seriously injuring 2 of the crew.

Some of the flimsier metal work had either corroded away all simply fallen off. The ‘Mickey Mouse’ eared propeller was originally surrounded by metalwork connected to 4 big paddle sized rudders but they had now parted from the main structure and were lying on the seabed.

We had saved enough time to visit the bow which seemed to be a bone of contention just lately. All I could see was a huge gaping hole. This was the Torpedo tube minus its protective hatch. Mark said that due to bad weather they hadn’t dived on the wreck for more than a year. When they returned the Torpedo tube hatch was missing. English Heritage had reported the incident to the Sussex Police but so far no one had come forward. I couldn’t understand why someone would want to remove the hatchway – it must have weighed a ton. It wasn’t exactly mantle piece sized! There was supposed to be a big Conger living inside the tube but I didn’t see anything. To be honest I didn’t get time to stick my head inside and check it out thoroughly. Divers can easily circumnavigate the Submarine 2 or 3 times over in one dive. There was plenty of Pouting and Pollack on the wreck and even a row of Lobsters nestled together on the seabed.

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For our shallower second dive Mark guided me around the Norman’s Bay wreck site. Mark said that they are still not certain about the wreck’s true identity. They had not yet found anything of significance that proved beyond doubt that it was either HMS Resolution, which sank during a storm in 1703, or a Dutch warship lost during the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690. Lack of funds had hindered a full site examination as of yet.

The NAS have set up a ‘trail’ for divers to follow. This includes a waterproof information sheet showing points of interest. I followed Mark down the main yellow marker buoy to the seabed. Luckily there was a guideline to follow as underwater visibility was only 2-3 metres. On the day this was a really silty site with absolutely no chance of getting any pictures. So far they have found 42 cannons, a huge anchor, musket balls and various timbers. Some of the Cannons were ‘welded’ together forming archways.

All in all it had been well worth the early start. I had enjoyed a nice relaxed day on the boat, had 2 good dives and met most of the NAS staff. The Holland 5 Submarine is an important piece of naval history and seeing Holland 1 on display in the Royal Naval Museum at Gosport had made the experience even more complete. It gave me a much better perspective of the Submarines size and shape and what it should look like with all the bits in place (including the Torpedo tube hatch). The Submarine has been fully restored including the inside. Conditions looked really cramped and claustrophobic, especially for a crew of 9. There were no dividing walls so everything was in the same compartment including the noisy engine. Early Submariners must have cursed John Philip Holland. At least they had the sense to fit a toilet. I guess there was no chance of constipation with 3 big Torpedoes sitting right next door!

Contact Information

DIVE 125

Dave and Sylvia



Tel no: 07764 585353

Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)

Mark Beattie-Edwards – Programme Director

Fort Cumberland
Fort Cumberland Road

Tel No: 023 9281 8419



The Royal Navy Submarine Museum

Haslar Road,


PO12 2AS



Tel No: 023 9251 0354

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.


Frontline workers honoured with free dive trip to Yap



The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.

Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.

Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers by A. Tareg

That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.

Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”

Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.

“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.

The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.

Manta ray, Manta birostris, gliding over a cleaning station in M’il Channel, Yap, Micronesia by David Fleetham

Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”

“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi.  The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”

“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”

Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!

For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.

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Dream Dive Locker Build Out. Part I: Demolition (Watch Video)



It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker

This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!

The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!

But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress! 

Thanks for watching, Team!


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This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email to book your spot!

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