The southern reaches of the Firth of Clyde, now over twenty miles wide, extend from Ardrossan to beyond the granite mound of Ailsa Craig. The wrecks here can basically be divided into two categories. Firstly, strandings ashore as a result of storms and poor visibility, and secondly, losses in deep water as a result of war action, collision or foundering in adverse weather.
The mainland coast, south from Ardrossan to Finnarts Point in Wigtownshire, is generally shallow with sandy bays and rocky headlands. This coastline has seen many strandings as vessels were driven ashore only a few miles from the shelter and safety of the Upper Firth. Indeed, many of the wrecks included in this chapter happened in sight of their destinations or ports of departure at Ardrossan, Troon, Irvine and Ayr. Many of these ships were refloated, removed or heavily salvaged and, where wreckage remains, are well broken and difficult to identify.
Offshore the towering, granite cliffs of Ailsa Craig provide home for huge colonies of seabirds. They have seen the tragic end of many vessels over the years. This small island rises from the sea in the middle of the Firth and did not have a lighthouse until 1886. Its position in the middle of the approaches to the Clyde and the lack of a warning light resulted in a sizeable number of ships, both sail and steam powered, running aground on its rocky shores with the loss of many lives. Even after the construction of the lighthouse, ships continued to meet with disaster on and around ‘The Craig.’
Many of the wrecks that lie offshore in deep water, between Turnery, Pladda and west to the North Channel have to greater degree remained undived. However in recent years most, if not all, have been located and dived. The introduction of the Global Positioning System (GPS), has made this exploration more worthwhile and increasing the chances of success. The wrecks, many in the 40 to 60 metres depth range, are pushing or are beyond the limits of safety for sports diving on compressed air and therefore only for the very experienced technical diver using closed circuit breathing apparatus. Wrecks discovered in recent years include the Lairdscastle, Empire Adventure and Walrus.