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Penzance is the centre of operations for those divers looking to dive the spectacular far south-west of Cornwall. Strangely, many divers coming to Cornwall either do not make it as far as Penzance or simply pass through on their way to the Scilly Isles.

Penzance will offer access to the coastal and offshore sites between Mounts Bay in the north- east to Lands End and the Longships in the south- west. For the adventurous and well equipped, the Wolf Rock and infamous Seven Stones reef are within reach when weather conditions allow. The variety of wreck and reef sites is almost endless and the combination of the Atlantic, Gulf Stream and few river outfalls, often results in impressive visibility and some unusual marine life.

Currently there is only one day boat for charter from Penzance (Son Calou), so if this is full then groups must opt for their own boat or a liveaboard. The best launch site is Penzance harbour which offers easy access to a wide slipway, but it does dry at low water. Adjacent to the slipway is Mounts Bay Divings compressor (also operates Son Calou) and the Penzance BSAC clubhouse and bar. It is advisable to talk to the local club and dive centre as knowledge of the tides, especially towards Lands End, is essential here.

Prussia Cove:
Prussia Cove and Bessys Cove are found on the eastern side of Mounts Bay behind Cudden Point. They are locally infamous for their smuggling history, but for the diver offer a delightful selection of gullies, tunnels and marine life in depths of 5-15m of water. In the centre of Prussia Cove can be found an area of wreckage which marks the site of the stranding of HMS Warspite in 1947 while under tow to the breakers yard.

She was heavily damaged by a severe south-west gale and eventually partially salvaged here before being moved to St. Michael's Mount in Mounts Bay, where the ongoing salvage of the hulk was a landmark for several years. There is quite a selection of wreckage left on the seabed and interesting finds are still discovered by the patient diver.

The SS Hellopes:
On the western side of Mounts Bay lies the wreck of the 2,774 ton steamer Hellopes which sank on December 29, 1911 off Penzance. She too was on her way to the breakers yard carrying a cargo of coal which shifted in a fierce NNW gale. The wreck now lies in 32-34m of water on her side with the hull relatively intact and steel screw and rudder still in place. Tides are not much of a problem except on springs and the wreck is easily found on land marks (talk to the locals) and echo sounder as she stands up well from a sand and shale seabed at approximately Lat 50.02.5N Long 05.30.6W.

Bucks Reef:
West of Penzance and close to Lamorna Cove lie the Inner and Outer Bucks Reef which show perhaps a quarter mile offshore as two pinnacles at low water. The best diving is found on the Outer Bucks, which provides drop off diving to 27-35m. The walls and huge boulders harbour a wide range of colourful marine life and there is evidence of wreckage and steam coal in 20m or so. This is believed to originate from the steamship Garronne which came to grief between the two reefs on May 22,1868. Her well broken remains can be found in 3-8m of water between the pinnacles, but is best left for a day without swell. This site is best dived on slack water especially during spring tide. There is a slipway at Lamorna Cove but access is tight and the car park is often packed to capacity during summer. There is some notoriously soft sand at the bottom of the slipway which can swallow a heavy RIB and trailer ­ so aim for mid tide or high water. See the harbour warden at the cove cafŽ before launching.

The SS Lincoln:
This is a wreck of an early steam sailer located approximately a mile and a half off St. Loys Bay to the west of Lamorna Cove. She sank in May 1886 after striking the Runnel Stone in thick fog and the majority of her remains can now be found in 28-35m of water on an attractive area of reef. The latter makes her hard to locate on just an echo sounder, so GPS/Decca are more reliable (50.02.56N / 05.35.42W approx.). Some salvage work is apparent and the major goodies are long gone, but interesting finds are still possible as the wreck is not often dived. Divers spotting the spare propeller on the bow should contain their excitement as it is iron!

The Wolf Rock is a pinnacle seven miles from the nearest land and in common with the Longships also supports a lighthouse. Sheer drop-offs around the rock plummet to 60m plus and its isolation ensure stunning marine life. The rock earned its name from the sound caused by gale force winds blowing over it, howling like a wolf, and gives some indication of the normal weather conditions here. However, if the conditions permit and you have a skipper with local knowledge, this for some will represent the ultimate dive site in an area which can offer so much choice.

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