An event held by Hellenic Navy for wartime wrecks concludes in amazing diving news! – correspondence by Gerasimos Beriatos, Instructor Trainer, MSc Media & Communication
Earlier this week, Naval History Department of Hellenic Navy (http://www.yin.mil.gr/en/home/) hosted a presentation about warship wrecks in the Greek seas. Hellenic Navy is intensifying its effort to locate, preserve and present the ships that found their last resting place in Greek waters and to make known their stories.
The most well known Greek u/w explorer, Kostas Thoctarides, who has been credited with some amazing discoveries, including N36 HMS “Perseus” submarine, presented the incredible wealth of war time wrecks in Greece.
As Ionian and Aegean seas were a theater of war from the 1st Balkan Wars of 1912, all the way to WW I and WW II, there have been 200 wrecks of Hellenic Navy ships alone, whilst 45 of them are WW II wrecks, among the 1500 shipwrecks already registered in Greek seas!
But, not only the Greeks suffered losses in those wars. Many more nations have some warships lost to war actions, with HMHS “Britannic” among the most noticeable examples.
The Axis attack on Crete has also contributed for many Luftwaffe warplanes ending up at sea and afterwards the battle between Germans and Allies for Dodecanese islands caused many casualties to both sides. Some of the wrecks still in the sea are beyond any belief; Hellenic Navy destroyer “Adrias” lost completely its bow, when hit a naval mine, but managed to sail to Alexandria where has been repaired and returned to action. Kostas Thoctarides found almost intact the missing bow of this legendary ship resting at the bottom of the Aegean!
Nowadays the research is focused on locating lost subs of the Hellinic Navy in WW II, Y-1 “Katsonis”, Y- 3 “Proteus” and Y-5 “Triton”, and yet some results are also produced for British submarines HMS “Trooper” and HMS “Triumph” as well as for German vessels “U-407” and “U-133”. Many of these wartime wrecks are in diver accessible depths and it is among Hellenic Navy’s best intensions to preserve this heritage and present it to the public and dive community.
Next presentation was held by Aris Bilalis, a maritime heritage researcher, who has contributed in many books and story telling for some of the most intriguing wrecks and incidents of Greek war history. He is credited with an extended research about the sinking in harbor of Hellenic Navy warship “Elli” by an Italian submarine, one of the incidents that soon later in1940 sparkled the war between Italy and Greece. But following the war, the need of releasing harbors and shipping lanes and the urge of scrap, ended up in the salvage of the vessel, among many others. This may have resulted for the loss of some wrecks, but surprisingly even in salvage sites and due to poor means of the time, sometimes only a small part of the vessel is missing. A special reference and a side-scan and photo presentation has been done to the least known story of German cement-made transport carriers that are made with a unique building method as the Axis forces were facing a lack of steel. These extraordinary boats are very well preserved due to their material and around 40 of them are scattered in Greek coastal waters.
The event concluded with the presentations of Captain Leonidas Tsiantoulas and Commander Panagiotis Tripontikas, regarding the contribution of Hellenic Navy into the exploration and preservation of wartime wrecks and the effort for making this heritage known and accessible to the public. The best news have been kept for the end, as aligned with the national effort of creating diving attractions in u/w archeological sites and marine parks in Greece, Hellenic Navy has donated and preparing the former F-463 “Bouboulina” S-Class frigate to be sank as an artificial reef, one of some to follow!
Apparently the Greeks seas, with the contribution of passionate u/w explorers and Hellenic Navy’s effort to preserve the wartime heritage and make it accessible to the public, will soon become a hot wreck-diving destination in more ways than one can imagine!
Kostas Thoctarides is the author of “H.M. Submarine Perseus- Whispers from the deep” published by Hellenic Maritime Museum: http://hmmuseum.gr/Δραστηριότητες/Εκδόσεις/Έντυπες-Εκδόσεις/ArticleID/281/Υποβρύχιο-Περσεύς-Ψίθυροι-από-το-βυθό
& “Shipwrecks of the Greek Seas-Dive into their history”, published by E.Laskaridou Foundation http://www.laskaridou.gr/ekdosis-idrimatos/ )
Aris Bilalis is co-editor of “Shipwrecks around Andros Coastline” http://enandro.gr/koinonia/2474-τα-«ναυάγια-στις-ακτογραμμές-της-άνδρου».html and now co-publishing the “Salvaging History- The epic story of salvaging wrecks in post war Greece”, along with K.Thoctarides.
Gerasimos Beriatos, Instructor Trainer, MSc Media & Communication