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The Venezuela

With the shot dropped on the boilers (1), orientation is easy because the starboard boiler is skewed slightly off-line, with its aft end further out than it should be. The outer casings of both boilers have a few holes rotted in them to leave tubes visible inside.
These often provide favoured accommodation for conger eels, although I didn’t find any on my dive.
Heading forwards along the starboard side, the side of the hull drops away and forward of the stoke-hold bulkhead the deck has dropped to be level with the seabed. A pair of bollards (2) rest in the corner.
Towards the centre, the hold hatch-coaming is partly intact, with a single winch-spindle resting across it (3).
The Venezuela probably had two holds forward, and the line between them is marked by some upright supports (4) that cross the wreck. The forward part of the wreck progressively disappears into the seabed, and the forward hold just has some scraps of hatch-coaming and small sections of hull rising above the sand.
Now in the area of the forecastle, the orientation of the bow can be imagined by the distribution of wreckage on the sand. The anchor-winch (5) rests a little to starboard, while a concreted pile of chain from the chain-locker (6) rests just to port, indicating that the bow had fallen to starboard before decaying and being subsumed by the sand.
In line with the anchor-winch is an iron chain-guide (7) and then a pair of anchor hawse-pipes (8) marking the forward extent of the wreckage.
To either side, scraps of hull just about follow the pointed outline of the bow.
Returning aft, towards the port side of the second hold are some lumps of coal (9). The Venezuela was carrying a cargo of coal from Swansea to Rouen when she was torpedoed.
By the port boiler, some of the deck forward of the boiler remains intact (10), with an open hatch to the bunker space towards the port side. What may be the helm lies below, though partly buried, so it’s hard to be sure. The bunker space extends alongside the port boiler (11).
Aft of the boilers is where this wreck becomes really interesting. Designed to navigate up rivers in South America, the Venezuela had a relatively flat hull and, more obviously, twin engines (12, 13) and shafts to keep its draft to a minimum.
The triple-expansion engines were each built as high- and medium-pressure cylinders sharing a casing, then a separate lower-pressure cylinder on the back.
In both cases the low-pressure cylinders have broken open, the starboard cylinder remaining just about standing, while that from the port engine has fallen over.
The ship had a single aft hold, served by what is now just the broken spindles of a cargo-winch (14) immediately aft of the engine-room. The hold itself is covered with sand.
At the stern, the deck has slipped to port (15). The mechanism from the steering (16) is resting at an angle just in from this side of the deck. This would have connected to a T (17) at the top of the rudder-post.
Round on the port side, a pair of bollards (18) look as if they were left behind when the deck slipped.
In the middle of this deck would have been a French 90mm gun, raised and preserved by Swindon BSAC soon after it discovered the wreck in 1984.
I looked over the stern for any sign of the twin-shafts and propellers, but that part of the hull is now well below the seabed. Nevertheless, it’s still worth checking because sands shift and scours form, so perhaps they will be uncovered one day.
If diving on a good nitrox mix, you can probably do all this and hardly get into decompression, so a return up the shotline may be possible. But check that this is OK with the skipper first.


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