Volunteer divers have finally succeeded in clearing ghost-fishing gear from what had long been referred to as the “dirty wreck” of the Epsilon in Cornwall’s Falmouth Bay.
The large-scale clearance required some 10 dedicated trips over two years in a collaboration between local dive operator Atlantic Scuba and representatives of marine-conservation and ghost-gear recovery charities Fathoms Free, Ghost Fishing UK and Neptune’s Army of Rubbish Cleaners (NARC).
WW1 casualty the Epsilon sank in 1917 after hitting a mine laid by the German U-boat UC-17. The steamer had been travelling from South America to the Netherlands carrying a cargo of maize.
More than 2 tonnes of net, pots and ropes have been recovered from the 24m-deep wreck to be recycled or safely disposed of, according to Mark Milburn of Atlantic Scuba. The most recent in the series of project dives, on Saturday 10 July, was said to have removed the last medium-to-large pieces, leaving only remnants that were inextricably embedded.
“As a regular diver of the Epsilon with Atlantic Scuba, it’s great to see the wreck is finally clear of ghost-gear,” said Luke Bullus of Fathoms Free. “Clearing the wreck has been a great collective effort from all involved and it will be interesting to see if more lost and abandoned nets etc appear on the wreck in the future.
“Really looking forward to being able to spend more time taking photos of the abundance of marine life found on the wreck, rather than filling a mesh-bag of ghost-gear on every dive!”