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HMS Audacious is a boat accessible salt water dive site, located at Malin Head, Ireland. The maximum depth is over 150ft/46m. The average visibility is 41-50ft/12-15m.

Shafts of sunlight reflect back at me as I follow a descent line that seems to stretch to infinity. My computer reads 130 feet, yet there’s still no sign of the large wreck we are dropping onto — among the most powerful warships the world had ever seen when it sank.

At last, as we pass 170 feet, the colossal HMS Audacious comes into view, every bit as spectacular as I had imagined.

Audacious was a “super dreadnought,” an evolution of a design first seen in 1906 that rendered all other battleships obsolete, and fueled the arms race between Great Britain and Germany. The design principles of these mighty ships could still be seen in the last of the great battleships, such as the USS Missouri and Iowa, in action until the early 1990s.

We slowly drop in formation toward a huge cylindrical shape beneath us. Measuring 45 feet across, this was the giant barbette that protected one of the five main gun turrets with 10 inches of armor. Despite those defenses, Audacious met its end in October 1914 at the hands of a German ocean liner.

Audacious struck a mine laid by the SS Berlin; despite attempts to tow the ship to safety, a massive explosion sent it to the seabed 215 feet below. The explosion blew of the bow with such force that it now lies some distance away; also in that debris field we find a solitary 4-inch secondary gun, one of 16 designed to engage fast, maneuverable attack boats.

A helium-rich trimix ensures clear heads; navigation proves easy with more than 100 feet of visibility. We head toward one of the main turrets, where two 13.5-inch guns are still attached. This 23,400-ton ship had 10 of these main guns — within two years of Audacious’ loss, the true horror of dreadnought-to-dreadnought combat was seen as its sister ships went toe-to-toe with the German fleet at the North Sea Battle of Jutland, of Denmark. Thousands died as the battleships rained down huge explosive shells from guns such as these.
With little bottom time remaining, we head toward the main hull, which lies upside down, a common way for battleships to settle due to the weight of guns and deck armor. More than an hour of decompression stops await us as Audacious fades into the distance, but the memories of diving on this warship of revolutionary design won’t be forgotten.



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