Remote sensing survey of the Pelican copyright SOMAP 2005

Remote sensing survey of the Pelican, with Calve island towards the top of the image. Copyright SOMAP 2005

The wreck is in a sheltered position behind Calve Island, Tobermory. It can be dived at all states of the tide, but is very silty, so care is necessary to preserve any visibility on the site. The prow is largely intact, but the stern has collapsed.

Launched in Cork in 1850, the Pelican was eventually sold to the David MacBraynes shipping fleet and was used as a ferry on the west coast of Scotland routes. After many years of uneventful service, she ended her sailing days as a coal storage hulk in Tobermory Bay.

On 6 December 1875 during a particularly severe gale, the Pelican broke her mooring lines and was blown across the bay onto the rocky shore of Calve Island. With her hull holed below the waterline, the Pelican slipped into the water and disappeared into the depths.

Today, the wreck rests on the sea bed in 20m of water close to the shoreline of Calve Island. This site has a reputation for poor visibility and is therefore often ignored by divers in warmer conditions. Over the winter months, however – with fewer visiting divers and cooler plankton-free waters combined with the wreck’s relatively sheltered location – divers can experience exceptional water clarity, revealing the graceful lines of this former elegant vessel in all its glory. Few will forget the imposing sight of the fine ‘clipper’ bow, complete with short bowsprit rising dramatically out of the depths. She was one of the first steel ships and has a cutter-style bow similar to that on wooden vessels.

The wall next to the Pelican is quite nice and it’s quite impressive to drop off the cliff and see the wreck looming out. She’s now just a structure but quite an interesting dive-for a short time. To find her, face the house on Calve island. The wreck is to the right by about 10-15m.

Swimming further back along the hull, it is possible to enter the interior of the forward part of the vessel. Careful finning technique is required, however, as the soft, silty bottom is all too easily stirred up. Moving further back along the remains of the hull, the wreckage becomes more broken up and dispersed into the surrounding sea bed.

SOMAP 1994-2005, Robertson et al.
Moir and Crawford 1997, 185-6
BSAC Wreck Register May 87 No 43