The Portland Harbour Wrecks Project is situated on the south coast of England between Weymouth and Portland. The wrecks within the harbour are only shallow, but are home to a wide variety of sea life and have an interesting history. This area was chosen for Project Baseline as the wrecks are easily accessible in most weather conditions; are frequently dived; and with the harbour now home to a commercial port, we want to monitor any changes to the wrecks and marine life so that we can later determine if the port or other activities, are having an adverse effect on the area.
Portland Harbour started life as a natural shelter for passing shipping, protected by the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach only. These features provided shipping with protection from the prevailing weather conditions, with the exception of those blowing in from an Easterly direction. In 1845 the Royal Navy established a base at Portland and it was decided that the ships stationed there would require additional protection from the elements. As a result the southerly portion of the manmade breakwater was constructed using Portland Stone from the local quarries, and was completed in 1872.
The rest of the breakwater sections were not built with the weather in mind, but to protect naval vessels from torpedo attack and this resulted in the remaining two sections of the harbour being constructed in 1906. To complete the torpedo defence structure, a decommissioned naval ship (HMS HOOD) was scuttled across the most southerly entrance to the harbour in 1914. Unfortunately whilst the wreck is still in place, it is no longer accessible to divers on safety grounds.
The Portland Harbour Wrecks Project aims to document and monitor the popular wrecks within the large man-made harbour. The team intends to establish a baseline understanding of the wrecks, through detailed documentation, as well as continued monitoring of their condition into the future.