Since its discovery in 1969, over 3000 items from the Needles Wreck site have been surveyed, excavated and recorded. Many more artefacts lie scattered in the gullies around the site, most of which are from the wreck of HMS Pomone, a 5th rate ship that was wrecked in 1811, and is almost certain to be the wreck lying in Alum Bay. Other artefacts are from the wreck of Assurance, which also foundered on the Needles Rocks in 1753.
It is an area of sharp eroded chalk gullies and ridges, formed into east-west aligned channels along the remains of a former chalk ridge. It is a very interesting site to dive: complex and irregular gullies offer a broad range of environments for divers to examine. The presence of wreck material, much of which is concreted to the sea floor or lying in the gullies, enhances the scene.
To aid access to the wreck scatter, an underwater line was placed around part of the site. The line ran between sinkers positioned adjacent to noteworthy artefacts. A trial board was attached to the sinker to monitor how it fared over the winter. In addition, an underwater plan has been generated which shows the main topographical features. These can be used as markers to enable divers to navigate around more easily accessible parts of the site.
To find out more about HMS Pomone investigations:
In 2009, an inspection of the Needles Protected wreck site was completed in conjunction with the Solent Marine Heritage Assets project. Two noticeable changes were observed in this monitoring dive compared to the last HWTMA dive on site in 2004: the carronades below the west face of Needles Rock are now more exposed, with the end of the muzzles visible, and in the Needles Channel iron knees not previously surveyed were observed.
HWTMA divers have been locating some scattered wreckage to the north east of the main site over the previous few years. During the 2009 survey a side scan sonar image was also recorded showing further possible cannon remains in the channel to the north east of the main site.
It is currently unclear which wrecks this material is associated with, and further targeted survey work in this area would help clarify this issue. There are ongoing diver surveys in the Western Solent Channel to search for more pieces of wreckage believed to be scattered beneath the Needles and Alum Bay. This will be supported by more side scan sonar surveys.
The Solent Marine Heritage Assests Needles Site Report is available to download for more information.