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 here in 1811, with part of its hull structure floating to lie within 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. Trials of stations aimed at establishing a dive trail on the site proved ineffective due to the highly dynamic environment. You can read about the experiences of trying to establish a dive trail in Needles and Alum Bay Dive Trail Project Report.
To find out more about HMS Pomone investigations at the Needles:
- D Tomalin, P Simpson & J Bingeman ‘Excavation versus sustainability in situ: a conclusion on 25 years of archaeological investigations at Goose Rock, a designated historic wreck-site at the Needles, Isle of Wight’ in International Journal for Nautical Archaeology Volume 29 No1
- G Momber & M Geen ‘The application of the Submetrix ISIS 100 Swath Bathymetry system to the management of underwater sites’ in International Journal for Nautical Archaeology Volume 29 No 1
Ongoing Work on the Needles Site
MAT are the licensees for this Protected Wreck site, we frequently monitor the site to check for changes and to investigate the nearby area for further wreck remains. Results of monitoring from 2009 are reported here. Two noticeable changes reported since the last detailed inspection were the carronades below the west face of Needles Rock having become more exposed, with the end of the muzzles visible, and in the Needles Channel iron knees not previously surveyed were observed.
MAT 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.