The Portland Underwater Curiosity Park in Castletown, Portland, U.K. is a unique diving experience as it combines interesting manmade artifacts with the opportunity to dive the Dredger wreck — and perhaps even the chance to see a few dolphins.
Most of the artifacts were sunk in June 2018 and the park is aiming to add even more. The sunken objects are mostly related to, or symbolic of, Portland and the ocean. Some examples include reconstructed Roman temple ruins with statues, columns, and ancient masonry. There is also a 10-foot long (3 m) shark, numerous pipe tunnel swim-throughs (about 4 feet/1.2 m wide), an 8-foot (2.5 m) tall deep-sea diver, and two 6-ton Admiralty mooring anchors.
Where is the park?
The Portland Underwater Curiosity Park is located in Balaclava Bay, next to Portland Harbor. Between April and October, four yellow marker buoys denote the corners of the 53,819 square foot (5000 m²) park. The buoys are removed during the winter.
The park is an excellent dive location even — and especially — when dive conditions around the area are less favorable. The bay is protected from southerly, southwesterly and westerly winds by Portland Isle, while the harbor breakwater protects the bay to the north. Additionally, the bay has minimal tidal currents and a maximum depth of between 33 and 46 feet (10 to 14 m), with gritty sand at the bottom, perfect for some leisurely exploration dives.
A visit to the park requires a boat as the shoreline falls within a restricted area of the Portland Harbor Authority’s boundary. For this, divers must obtain both diving and boat permits beforehand.
The park asks divers to observe three principles:
- Be safe.
- Enjoy the experience.
- Leave everything (natural and artificial) as it was.
Diving the Dredger wreck
The Dredger wreck lies within 164 feet (50 m) of the park, slightly toward the edge of Balaclava Bay. Divers can navigate from the park to the wreck, and between the artifacts, by following a thick rope on the seabed. The wreck lays in two parts between 26 to 39 feet (8 to 12 m) and is said to have been used to dredge the sea bed. The part of the wreck closest to the shore and breakwater is also the smallest part, with the larger part resting about 49 feet (15 m) away. There are a few swim throughs for divers with the correct qualifications and required experience.
Divers who visit the Dredger are cautioned not to swim from the dive site as they could end up in the tidal flow from Balaclava Bay or near the entrance of the harbor.
What started out as an initiative to regenerate Castletown, Portland, has ended up giving divers this unique underwater curiosity park filled with interesting artifacts. And a wreck sitting nearby makes the site all the better.