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Plan your next dive on the James Eagan Layne with our 3D photo-map

The James Eagan Layne is possibly the most dived wreck in the UK, its shallow depth combined with a surprising amount of intact wreckage to explore, makes this an interesting dive for all abilities.

To help you plan your next dive on the wreck, we've created an interactive 3D model of the James Eagan Layne wreck mapped with photos and labels.

Wreck History

The James Egan Layne lies shotted in Whitsand Bay, Plymouth, and is an extremely popular British wreck because of its depth. It sank in March 1945 after ferrying men and materials across the world for the war effort. At the height of World War II, it was clear that cargo vessels were being sunk at a rate faster than which they could be built. In an effort to maintain the supply of food, vehicles and other equipment to the troops, the Americans found a way of welding aptly called 'Liberty' ships together that were 400 feet long weighing in at around 7000 tons in just 24 hours by an almost entirely female workforce. After being hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat near the Eddystone reef, the James Egan Layne was towed towards Plymouth in order to save as much of her cargo as possible. However on the way back, her stern collapsed causing her to sink in Whitsand bay, where she still sits upright, pointing north towards the shore.

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Diving the Wreck

After sinking her masts and funnel still stood proud out of the water and making it an easy dive location to find. However, in the late 1960's it was deemed a hazard to the local shipping traffic and so the bridge and the masts were razed to the seabed where they can still be seen to the port side. Most of the cargo was removed before she sank, but there are plenty of pick axe heads, pulleys and locomotive parts in her five holds.

If you only have the chance for one dive with a 12l cylinder, I would recommend you get the skipper to put you down on the bow (there is sometimes a buoy here if you are lucky). Descend down the bow to the seabed at a maximum of 23m and look back up. The silhouette of her intact bow is one on my favourite underwater views. Swimming up the port side then allows you to see the vast wall of her hull, covered in deadman's fingers and anemones, as well as the bridge and forward masts that now lie on the sea bed, home to a large variety of fish.

As you swim up the port side, you will eventually see an obvious opening in the hull, about 3m off the seabed, leading into hold number two. This opening is plenty big enough for easy penetration, and leads to an area which is uncovered overhead, making it safe for inexperienced divers to go in under supervision. You could have instead swam up the starboard side, however there is less to see on the seabed and the opening in the hull on this side goes into hold number three (where the torpedo originally struck), meaning you use more air to get inside the wreck!

Once in the wreck there are loads of bits of old cargo and ship paraphernalia to see, as well as plenty of fish and sometimes the odd conger eel. Penetration into hold number one forces you shallower still (about 11m), making a good overall dive profile. Storms have made access to this area easier for divers, also bringing a lot of the deck above down, meaning that a quick escape is possible if necessary. Ascending out of this hold brings you back to the bow at 6m, where you can carry out a safety stop, whilst looking along the length of the ship in awe of its shear size.

If you have more dives available, then the stern section and hold number four is also worth looking at. Penetration is also very safe here, but more areas are covered overhead. The back end of the main wreck is very dismantled, with the actual stern lying to the southwest of the rest of the ship, marked by the large red permanent buoy with 'James Egan Layne' written on it. Again, this section of the 'Layne' has more than its fair share of marine life, making it visually spectacular and one of my favourite dive sites for many years now!

Wreck description: Luke Cooper-Berry, BSAC Open Water Instructor

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Thistlegorm 3D Wreck Tour

The 2D and 3D visualisations are intended as a guide only and does not pretent to be entirely accurate. Always research/plan your dive with care and always dive within your limits. You are not authorised to reproduce/publish any content from this website online or in print without permission. Copyright - Mike Postons/3DeepMedia.

2d shipwreck

2D Map

James Eagan Layne Wreck Specs

Max Depth: 24m (79 feet)

Location: 50°19.54N; 4°14.65W

Length: 130 metres (427 feet)

Description: 7,000 ton US Liberty Ship, hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat near the Eddystone reef. The James Egan Layne was towed towards Whitsand Bay near Plymouth in order to save the cargo. However, on the way back, her stern collapsed causing her to sink.

Image Gallery

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A big thank you to photographers: Keith Lyall, Kevin Hunkin, Peter Glanvill and Daniel Wisniowski for contributing their photos to this project.

James Eagan Layne Wreck Video

Video courtesy of Aquanauts

James Eagan Layne Project Credits

3deep - 3D Shipwreck Mapping, Keith Lyall -, Kevin Hunkin -, Peter Glanvill -, Daniel Wisniowski -, Aquanauts -

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