Although usually sheltered, in stormy weather and poor visibility the Sound of Mull can be treacherous. Just a few degrees off course from a safe route along the sound and a ship can strike the rocks, which is exactly what happened to the Swedish steamship Hispania on the night of 18 December 1954.
Today the Hispania lies pointing towards the shore on the Mull side of the sound, on a slope with the stern in 32 metres and the bows in 24 metres, lying upright with a slight list to starboard.
At just over 70 metres long and a lowly 1340 tons gross, the Hispania is not a particularly large wreck, but the Hispania has plenty to occupy several dives. In the early 1980s I spent a whole week diving the nothing but the Hispania, yet I still come back for more whenever I am in the area. I think my reasons are that the Hispania is an amazingly intact wreck and that strong currents feed some of the densest anemones, tunicates and hydroids I have ever seen. The Hispania is just covered in marine life.
At the stern, it is worth having a look at the auxiliary steering gear before dropping below to check out the rudder and prop shaft. Ascending back to deck level it is easy to explore the stern accommodation as the roofs have all rotted away.
Moving forwards, attached to the front of the accommodation is a large steel spare propeller. The holds are empty of anything particularly interesting, but it can be fun to have a quick rummage; you never know what you will find in the silt.
It is possible to swim below decks between the aft holds, or alternatively to stay above the deck and check out the masts, spars and winches festooned with yet more marine life. From the aft holds there are tunnels running either side of the mid-ships superstructure to the forward holds. Both are a bit silty and the port tunnel is partly blocked towards the forward end. Whilst amusing holes for the sake of it, I personally find the superstructure is much more interesting.
Here, as at the stern, the ceilings have rotted away to provide clear access to cabins and corridors. Access to the upper levels of the engine room is easy, but getting further down can be a bit of a squeeze. Catwalks and ladders may have provided room for the crew to get down there, but they were never designed for the bulk of a fully kitted diver.
Below the bridge is possibly the galley as various bottles and scraps of plate have been found in the silt here. There is also a hatch through to the port side tunnel connecting the holds. Another attraction of this part of the ship is the large enamel bath that some divers like to sit in.
In front of the bridge are three more holds with another array of masts, winches and spars. At the bows I like to drop over the side and swim out to look back at the ship spread out before me and at the starboard anchor lying on the seabed below.