Thorness Bay

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About the site

The Thorness Bay wreck is a wreck site protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 that lies in Thorness Bay off the coast of the Isle of Wight. The wreck is the remains of a mid to late 19th century sailing ship located in 21 metres of water.

The archaeological evidence previously gathered by divers indicates that the site is the remains of a wooden merchant sailing vessel. Judging from the extent of the visible remains, the vessel was c. 27m long and had a breadth of 7-8m. The presence of a large iron windlass, and other iron deck equipment indicates that the vessel was at least in use during the mid-late 19th century. At present the site has not been identified although one of the current licence holders for the site has found either a letter ‘G’ or a number ‘6’ in the vicinity of the bow which may be part of the name.

The Thorness Bay wreck was first brought to the attention of archaeologists in 2011 by skipper Dave Wendes of Wight Spirit Dive Charters as part of the New Forest Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment. The results of the 2011 fieldwork led to the site being protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act in 2013. Historic England identified it as a suitable site for increased diver visits due to interesting visible features as well as being a great site for virtual access.  The site is largely robust and easy to navigate and its depth means it is well within the depths of recreational sports diving. You can find out more about the Historic England dive trail scheme here:

Wight Dolphins BSAC club have worked with the archaeologists to develop a diver trail and to ensure it is something that the diving community will enjoy. Divers from the Nautical Archaeology Society have also visited and helped to provide feedback. The dive trail provides a simple interpretation slate to guide divers around the remains on the seabed. Visiting divers are encouraged to share photos and notes from their dives with Historic England to help them monitor the condition of the site.

The trail was created by MSDS Marine and Pascoe Archaeology with funding from Historic England and opened in October 2018.

Visiting the Trail

The dive trail is located in 21m of water but it can be fairly dark so it may be more suitable for divers with more experience. The position of the wreck in the Solent means that vessels can mobilise to the site from a range of locations including the Isle of Wight, Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth. Charter vessels are available within the area and there are a number of public and private slipways that can be used for launching the vessel.

Wight Dolphins and a number of local charter boats hold copies of the dive slates that can be used on your dive. If you are planning on diving independently then get in touch with us by emailing Alison who will arrange to send out slates to you. Alternatively, you can download a copy of the trail site plan here.

Applying for a licence

The site is a protected wreck site and as such you must have a licence to visit the site or you will be breaking the law. If you are visiting with Wight Dolphins or with a Charter boat you may be able to dive on the site with them on their licence but you will need to check this with them when arranging your diving. Alternatively, licences are available directly from Historic England. Licenses are free but you should allow at least two weeks to obtain your licence before your planned dive. Find out more online here:

Providing Feedback on the Site and Your Visit

Feedback on the trail is incredibly important to us as it allows us to ensure future dive trails are as good as they possibly can be for visiting divers. Please email any feedback to us at

We would also encourage all divers to take photos and/or observations at each of the points identified on the slate to help Historic England monitor the site. Photos can be shared on Twitter with @HE_Maritime or submitted to them via the National Heritage List for England:

If you need any help at all with submitting images and observations, then please get in touch and we are happy to help!

Accessing the Virtual Trail

Working with ArtasMedia and CyanSub, the trail was created using a combination of archival evidence, geophysical surveys and underwater photos and footage. This evidence has been pieced together to bring the site to life and give the public a glimpse of what it is like to dive the wreck. It allows non-divers the opportunity to explore the wreck themselves and acts as a fantastic resource for divers enabling them to view the site and plan their visit in advance of a dive.

You can explore the site for yourself here: