Local Dive Site Guide: James Eagan Layne

May 10, 2024 4 min read

diver diving the james eagan layne wreck

Plymouth and the surrounding areas are home to some of the most spectacular dive sites in the whole country, from the historic Scylla wreck to the fascinating Eddystone reef. There are a huge number of epic dives to try near Britain’s Ocean City and to celebrate dive season getting into full swing, we thought it was only time to introduce and celebrate another fantastic dive site in the local area: James Eagan Layne.

Key Details

Dive site name: James Eagan Layne

Location: Whitsand Bay, South Cornwall

Description: Wreck dive

Length: 130 metres

Depth: 10-24 metres

Site Guide

Arguably the most well-known wreck in the whole of the Plymouth Sound, James Eagan Layne was a World War II Liberty Ship which sank in 1945 in the Cornish waters of Whitstand Bay. It met its fate, however, further out by the Eddystone reef where it was hit by a German U-boat torpedo. The damaged ship was towed back towards Plymouth to save the cargo, but on reaching Whitsand Bay the stern collapsed and the ship sank landing upright on the sandy seabed 24 metres below.

History aside you are probably wondering about the dive site itself. Sitting at a max depth of 24 metres the James Eagan Layne is the perfect wreck for divers certified in Advanced Open Water and above, with parts of the wreck in just 10-11 metres.

As you descend the buoy line, it’s not long before you see the bones of the wreck still holding some of its WWII cargo including the well-known and visible railway wheels. The entire wreck is bursting with marine life, so expect to see soft corals such as deadman fingers and sea fans which have colonised most of the bow and the deck.

Over in the shallower areas, kelp and other seaweeds grow and bathe in the light from above. You might also catch a glimpse of large shoals of fish such as pollack and wrasse, scallops, and an array of crabs, and if you are lucky you may spot a conger eel.

Tips For Diving James Eagan Layne

With a maximum depth of 24 metres but some areas at just 10 metres, James Eagan Layne is a perfect dive site for divers certified in PADI Advanced Open Water and above. It’s also worth making sure that you have completed your PADI Wreck Diver Speciality to make sure you’re fully clued up on the risks of wreck diving and equipped with techniques for planning and preparing your trip.

Because the wreck sits on sand and attracts lots of marine life, it has a reef-life feel. This makes it a great visit for any budding underwater photographers who will find plenty to look at and photograph. For macro photography fans, there is plenty to look at including sightings of nudibranchs and cup corals at the shallower depths. Sitting on the sand it attracts all sorts of marine life giving this wreck a reef-like feel.

With so much to see, we highly recommend visiting James Eagan Lane with a dive guide. Why not join us for one of our boat trips?

Essential Kit

When visiting a new dive site, it’s always worth taking stock of what you already own before you go and thinking about whether there’s anything else you need to maximise your enjoyment of the unique features of the site in question. Aside from your standard gear, the following items are well worth upgrading or investing in before you head off to see James Eagan Lane:

Underwater Photography Equipment

If you want to make the most of the reef-life feel of James Eagan Lane, make sure you’ve got the right underwater photography equipment. It should go without saying that you’ll need a specialist camera to snap safely. You could go with something like the Sealife Micro 3.0 which is permanently sealed for stress-free and high-quality photography. Alternatively, the Sealife Sportdiver Underwater Housing is a great option if you want to make the most of the devices already at your disposal. This clever gadget securely houses your smartphone, with easy buttons allowing you full access to all of the advanced camera settings you may need.

Dive Torch

The right dive torch is essential for this local dive site. Visibility will naturally be worse the deeper you get so having a good torch will ensure that you can see the wreck in its full glory. The right lighting will also enhance any images you take on your visit. If you are carrying a camera as well, go for a torch that is as light as possible like the Apeks Luna Mini Torch.

Dive Slate

The need to communicate effectively is really amplified when diving at a wreck like James Eagan Lane so make sure you’ve got an easy-to-use flat dive slate. Not only does a dive slate help you communicate with your dive buddies but it also helps you plan and execute your dive more effectively. You can map out the wreck and points of interest on the slate for easy navigation.

If you have any questions about diving James Eagan Layne or wreck diving or wish to join us on our next guided boat trip, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the friendly Aquanauts team.

Image Copyright: The Ships Project

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas



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