Greek wreck-hunter solves 1959 mystery

Greek truck cab
Cab of one of the GMC army trucks (ROV Services)

A dive-team have discovered the wreck of a Greek cargo vessel that disappeared 63 years ago, lying at a depth of 87m north-west of the Aegean island of Makronisos.

The 43m Tresi Ierarchai (Three Hierarchs) was a former Hellenic Navy boat. It had sailed from Piraeus on the evening of 13 February, 1959 with a cargo of corn and three GMC 6X6 army trucks, heading to Thessaloniki and Xanthi. The boat sank the following day, after running into a Force 8 storm.

The nine crew died in what was presumed, because no distress signal had been sent, to have been a sudden and rapid sinking. Some flotsam was later found, but the wreck’s resting place had remained a mystery.

bow of the wreck
The bow of the 84m-deep Tres Ierarchai (ROV Services)
Hold of the wreck
The hold (ROV Services)

Greek diver and maritime historian Kostas Thoctarides and his team found the Tresi Ierarchai intact and listing 53° to starboard. Exploring the wreck for the first time using an ROV, they reported that the helm had been turned hard to port.

The three military trucks, which would have been supplied as aid to the Greek Army in the early 1950s under the US Truman Plan, were found in the debris field where they had fallen to starboard from the deck.

Since Thoctarides started working as a commercial diver in 1987 he says he has clocked up the equivalent of two full years under water. The former pilot and manager of the manned submersible Thetis, he started the company ROV Services and also the Planet Blue scuba centre, which he runs at Lavrio in Attica, south of Athens.

Makronisos, the biggest uninhabited Greek island and where the Tresi Ierarchai wreck is located, lies only 7km east of Lavrio.

sketch of the wreck
A sketch of the wreck (ROV Services)
Kostas Thoctarides
Wreck-hunter Kostas Thoctarides

Thoctarides, who has previously discovered four other 20th-century shipwrecks off the islands of Mykonos, Skiathos, Kefalonia and in the Saronic Gulf, reckons that some 75% of vessels wrecked in Greek waters have yet to be identified.

In November last year he and his team found the Italian WW2 submarine Jantina off Mykonos. Unusually she had been torpedoed by another submarine, HMS Torbay, in July 1941, with the loss of 42 of her 48 crew. The 61m sub lay at a depth of 103m.

Video footage of the Tresi Ierarchai can be seen on YouTube.

Also on Divernet: Greece Offers Scuba Divers 91 Wrecks

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