at the start of june 2016, I was in the Aegean Sea on my way from the Dardanelles to Babakale, the most westerly point of Turkey.
I planned to dive ss Melpomeni, a wreck I had discovered back in 1980.
I decided to take the westerly route around the island of Bozcaada (Turkish for Tenedos) with my scanning sonar on, and about six nautical miles south-west of the island I noticed a previously unknown wreck at a depth of 68m.
It was already late afternoon, so I decided to stay overnight on the island and dive the wreck next morning before proceeding to Babakale.
With my dive-buddy Kaya Yarar we made for the harbour at the north-east point of the island and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a local seafood restaurant.
Right after the breakfast at the port next morning, we headed back out to the wreck-site. It was a calm day and the surface was very smooth but, getting close to the co-ordinates, we noticed a thin layer of oil – and a strong smell of fuel.
Right on top of the wreck we could see oil-bubbles emerging from the depths.
I was quite sure that the wreck had to be that of a tanker.
Carefully examining the sonar image, I realised that the wreck was broken in two, with the sections angled at 45°, the bow pointing roughly south-west and the stern north-west.
We sent the shotline down and prepared to dive, using 18/45 as the bottom mix. We landed next to the stern, where the shotline was, and realised that the whole aft section was lying on its port side. This was obviously quite an old ship, but with oil-bubbles still emerging at various points.
Trying to avoid the oil, we moved over the hull to the side where the deck was. Swimming along the deck at the side of the wreck, we headed midships while taking video footage.
The break-point at the aft section.
After a while we encountered a debris field, and the wreck ended. This was the break-point, but as the front section wasn’t visible, we decided to return to the shotline to avoid having to make long decompression stops.
The bow section would require a second dive, but as the weather deteriorated we decided to leave it for another occasion. Next day we left the island and continued to Babakale.
On our way, I was considering the possible identity of this tanker wreck. There had been a lot of activity around the island during World War Two. Tankers had fallen victim to British submarines while carrying fuel from Romania to North Africa for Hitler’s army.
The Italian tanker Maya, built in Britain back in 1894, had been carrying some 7000 tons of diesel fuel when she was torpedoed by HMS Perseus in 1941, and the German tanker Wilhelmsburg was transporting even more diesel fuel, around 8000 tons, when she was sunk by HMS Rorqual.