HMS ELK (50º18.432 N, 4º10.306 W)
When diving on the Elk you should be aware that the wreck lies less than 200 metres outside the limits of the Dockyard port of Plymouth. It is also at the end or beginning (170/250 degrees leg) of the Western Deep Water Channel with the result that large warships, auxiliaries and ferries pass almost directly over the dive site. Though not a legal requirement, it is strongly recommended that those wishing to dive on the Elk inform Longroom Port Control on VHF Ch 14 or 01752 663225 to receive a movements sitrep. Be aware that programmes can change at short notice and so supervisors should keep a good visual lookout and listening watch on VHF Ch 14/16. If you should have concerns regarding a vessel’s movements call the ship on VHF Ch 14 or Longroom PortControl.
Be aware that from the perspective of a large ship, with concerns for navigational safety, a RIB with a Flag “Alfa” may not be seen until at short range and marker buoys even closer.
Looking back over five years of diving with Plymouth Sound Dive Club, the fact that stands out is when ever I have dived HMS Elk it has always been when the conditions have been adverse. Either it has been too rough to venture very far or the wind chill factor has meant that it would be suicidal to go too far from the heated changing rooms back at the Mount Batten Centre. This does not do the Elk justice. HMS Elk started life as a Grimsby trawler built in Hull in 1902. During the First World War she served as a minesweeper and was sent to the Dardenelles to help evacuate British troops in1918. After the war she went back to fishing. With the outbreak of World War Two she was once again requisitioned by the Royal Navy and based at Plymouth as a Dan layer. HMS Elk’s life with the Royal Navy was cut short when, on November 27th 1940, she hit a mine and sank at in 30 meters of water. (All the crew were saved.)
That’s the boring bit over. Diving the Elk is a pleasure as she is a small wreck which allows you to swim around her twice before the surface calls. I would suggest starting on the outside of the Elk.
Schools of poor cod can be seen around the wreck not moving even in the strongest currents. The odd scallop can also be found on the bottom. Plumose anemones can be found beneath the stern. When you have circumnavigated the hull you can then rise up to the deck and explore the winches, boilers and anchor winch, keeping a good lookout for the congers and lobstersliving within the broken wreckage.
Unfortunately for anyone that likes the shiny bits, these have all been removed over the years. If the visibility is poor care should be taken when swimming around the deck as there are still sharp bits of metal to catch the unwary diver. At the end of the dive, if your navigation has been good, it should be possible to ascend by the shot.
An alternative is to swim south west to the Elk reef which has a wide variety of marine life on it. This is a great way to dive the Elk. A 3 min fin SW from the stern of the Elk takes the diver to an excellent reef that goes up to about 12m. A very good way of decompressing but also combining a wreck and reef dive. But needs good boat cover.