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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings, Part 11: The Burnside

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Mark Milburn’s Cornish Wreck Ramblings are back! This week: The mystery of the Burnside…

Locally the name “Burnside”, has caused arguments in families and cost some people 1000’s of hours and pound notes. So what is “Burnside”?

The Burnside was a wooden steamship, designed by Theodore E. Ferris – USSB design #1001, a 82m long, coal-fired, triple expansion engined ship of 3,500 tons. At some time just after the great war, the Burnside was heading to the UK.

The story from there is a little muddled. It was possibly carrying coal or empty brass shell cases, no one knows for sure. It caught fire, somewhere near Falmouth and was abandoned, turning over and expelling its cargo. As the ship turned over, it also extinguished the fire. A day or so later, it was seen still floating upside down, stuck somewhere in Gerrans Bay.

That location is unknown but most likely on the shallow Inner Bizzies pinnacles, which are only a few metres below the water at low tide, although a little way offshore. It was being held fast by either its masts or funnel. The Navy were called in to get rid of it and it took them two weeks! Why did it take so long? What exactly happened?

The ship is well known locally amongst salvagers and wreck hunters. Many have looked in vain, hoping to get a ‘hit’ from the engines and boilers with a magnetometer. No one has found it, or any remains. Several stories have come to light… Some say it is on the Manacles; there is a lone triple expansion engine there, the wood rotted away whilst the boilers disappeared. There is a lone boiler off Porthoustock, are they related? Near Nare Point there is another lone boiler, thought to have ended up there after some violent explosion, some believe it is from the Burnside. If it is, where is the other boiler and the engine if the boiler was from the Burnside?

A local newspaper of the time reported that the bow of the Burnside washed up on a local beach during the time the Navy were there. This was probably after an attempt to blow the ship to pieces to sink it. Another newspaper report stated that it was then towed further out to sea and shot at by the Airforce as well as the Navy, to help break it up and sink it. This would reduce the ships’ timbers into smaller fragments until the weight of the boilers and engine caused it to sink. This may well explain why no one has ever found the Burnside; it may now rest in deep waters, the wood rotted or eaten away, leaving very little left for anyone to find.

For now, the whereabouts of the Burnside shall remain a mystery. Just another mystery from around the Cornish coast.


Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba at www.atlanticscuba.co.uk

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 3

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somabay

Today we are diving one of the outer reefs from an inflatable. As we reach the bottom, a reef octopus eases its way into the cover of a small crack in the coral while displaying it’s incredible ability to change colour. They are arguably one of the most charismatic of reef dwellers and it is always exciting for me to simply hover and watch. I would have spent longer and waited for it to come and investigate me, but as dive time is limited we wanted to move on and find a turtle.

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The waters around Somabay are well protected and hold a rich variety of marine life. The reef edges are thriving colonies of coral and shoaling fish, while nearer the sea bed plenty of wildlife is still to be found.

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Then we located the turtles. They are very used to divers and so show little concern when slowly approached. In fact occasionally one will come over to see what you are doing. There is always huge excitement when diving with a turtle. The shear thrill of sharing a moment with another species.

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What a fantastic way to finish a wonderful few days diving and I would like to thank SOMABAY, ORCA DIVING and THE BREAKERS for making my stay such a good one.

I had a great time, with diving everyday either on the house reef or on one of the offshore reefs by inflatable or larger day boat. Orca diving provided high quality equipment and facilities while the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. The Breakers was right on the coast with nice rooms, good food and once again friendly staff making the whole trip a real pleasure.

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Soma Bay covers an entire peninsula and is home to several resorts as well as residential  compounds.

As well as scuba diving, Somabay caters for many other sports and activities, and so is perfect for families as well as individuals and/or groups. And of course there is always time to lay peacefully on the beach under the Egyptian sun.

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Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 2

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Day three of my trip to Somabay and we were spending the day on the Lady Christina and diving on the wreck of the Salem Express.

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Diving wrecks for me is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of diving a wreck is more than often tempered by the thought of loss of life when she sank. The Salem Express was a passenger ship and a roll-on/roll-off ferry travelling from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Safaga, Egypt. Most passengers were of poor class travelling home from their holidays while around 150 people were returning home from their pilgrimage to Mecca.

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The ship struck a reef and sank within 20 minutes. Passengers were trapped below deck and the ship was filled with fear and panic.

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The wreck area is strewn with personal belongings from the crew and passengers such as a transistor radio and a flat iron for clothes. A diver at sometime has put them in a prominent place to be seen.

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Tragically only one life boat was launched while the others went down with the ship. More than 600 men, women and children lost their lives here.

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It’s a stark reminder that the sea can be unforgiving and so when we dive on such wrecks we should do so with humble regard.

Returning to the surface, shoals of fish are gathered under our boat and seem to be welcoming us back into the light.

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Back at the Breakers I sat in the dining area with a beer and a very good meal while my thoughts still remained with the day’s dive on the Salem Express.

Check in for part 3 tomorrow for Jeff’s last day of diving with Somabay on the off-shore reefs looking for turtles.

Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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