The Betsy Anna was an 880 tonne steel steamer, built on the banks of the river Tyne in 1892. She struck Prawle Point in Devon in October 1926 but was re-floated and taken under tow towards Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, for major repairs. She sank, in her current position, after beginning to take on water and breaking her tow. She is lying upright in 24m of water, approximately 5 miles East of Swanage. The top of the bow section, in around 18 metres as the bow collapsed backwards, so now stands 4m high pointing upwards. The Betsy Anna was fitted with one main and one donkey boiler. It is well worth spending some time in the space between the two. Inside the boilers you will find a number of conger eels, the larger ones can be found in the main boiler.
Now head on from the boilers along the port side to the engine room area. The engine block itself is at first confusing, until the distinctive shape of the three cylinder heads tells you that it is on its side. This allows you to view the piston rods and crankshaft, which are usually hidden away. From here, you can now follow the propeller shaft all the way to the stern of the ship.
This wreck is covered in schools of large Bib and Pollock, particularly between the boilers and stern so, even on a day with good visibility, you may not be able to see the large section of stern until you are right next to it. This mid-section is a good place to spot the different types of wrasse that make this ship their home and the odd Tompot Blenny and Lobster can be seen peeking out between the plate work.
The stern section is lying on its starboard side. What is left of the iron propeller can be seen as you swim around the rudderpost. The blades were smashed off when the Betsy Anna hit the rock that eventually proved her downfall.
Rounding the stern, spend some time inspecting this intact section. There is even some of the deck railing left. Now swim up the starboard side of the ship. It can be easy to become disorientated in this broken area of the wreck, as some wreckage will lead you away from the main body of the ship. There are a number of abandoned lobster pots in this area too. Not surprising as a number of good-sized edible and Spider crab can be found amongst the ribs of the ironwork. As you swim past the boilers again, have a look for more Congers. Sometimes there are even more in the wreckage around the boilers.
Heading forwards now will take you, through more wreckage and schools of fish, to the bow section. If you are lucky, you will also find the Cuttle fish that lives in the bow. Also, if you go around to the front of the bow you may find a territorial John Dory patrolling its patch.
Wreck Tour: 109 The Betsy Anna