Diving in Greece can satisfy even the most experienced of divers.
Most diving destinations around the world offer an opportunity to explore marine nature. In Greece, diving also offers a look into modern history.
From the Gulf of Evia to the Saronic Gulf, both close to Athens, and the Ionian Sea in western Greece, to the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, Greece’s seabed is a vast museum of modern wrecks. Offering more than just rusted metal sheets, each wreck carries its own unique history.
Fighter planes that once tore through the skies, World War II naval submarines and destroyers that engaged in major battles, cargo and passenger ships that sailed the seas, lie sunken and preserved in good condition following their inglorious ends. Plunging into the waters and counting the meters is like counting the decades backwards until you reach these sunken ships and planes.
Kostas Thoktaridis, a diver and explorer of naval history, estimates that the number of contemporary-era wrecks in Greece amount to roughly 1,500. Of these, some 500 may be explored and attract divers, from beginners to advanced, from all over the world. If this is your sport, get your wet suit, mask, and flippers ready and fill your tanks with oxygen, or visit one of the many certified diving centers operating in Greece for an introduction, with the help of experienced instructors, into the magic of wreck diving. Even during the winter months, the weather is usually appropriate, the waters are clear, and the water temperature is pleasant.
1. QUEEN OLGA | LEROS
The “pride of the Greek fleet” lies sunken at Lakki port on the island of Leros.
The legendary World War II destroyer, Queen Olga, was built in Glasgow and played an active role in hundreds of military campaigns, from the Adriatic Sea to the Indian Ocean. When the Greek-Italian war was declared during World War II, Queen Olga was considered the Greek fleet’s most sophisticated warship. Its bombardment by Nazi German fighter planes on September 26, 1943 took the lives of the ship’s captain and 72 crew members on board. Divers may see the holes in the funnels caused by the attack. The degree of visibility is medium (5-10 meters) as the shipwreck is located at the port.
• A monument has been erected at Lakki in honor of the crew.
• Before or after diving, visit the Belenis Tower Museum. It hosts important finds from the shipwreck, numbering over 100 items.
2. PANORMITIS | KALYMNOS, DODECANESE
It was renowned as the toughest passenger ship that was able to cope under demanding conditions. A difficult dive. For experienced divers only.
Panormitis lies sunken at a depth of 32 meters, northwest of the peripheral island of Telendos, close to Kalymnos, 100 meters away from the uninhabited rocky islet of Epano. Despite its small size (33.5 meters long and 6.7 meters wide), this passenger ship, constructed in Oslo, Norway, was equipped with 322 cabins and could board 374 passengers.
In 1958, it was sold by a Norwegian shipping company to Greek ship owners and, two years later, began servicing a challenging route connecting the remote Dodecanese islands. A legendary voyage made in 1962 amid gale winds measuring 11 Beaufort, from Rhodes to Kastelorizo, in order to transport a sick woman for medical treatment, is still remembered by some.
The ship’s entire crew had received an honorary award from the Athens Academy in recognition of the bravery displayed during this effort. However, the vessel was to experience an inglorious finale.
In 1966, while sailing from Leros to Kalymnos, it struck a rock islet. All on board were rescued thanks to the lifeboats and emergency help provided by locals from both islands. The vessel now rests slanted to its right side over the sandy seabed and has drawn a multitude of marine organisms, transforming it into an artificial reef. Monitoring the shipwreck’s area raises suspicions that efforts have been made to remove parts of the sunken vessel.
• It is rumored that the ship’s anchor still bears a swastika placed on it by the Nazi Germans. Its superstructure was wooden.
3. FREIGHTER KYRA ELENI | PATROKLOS ISLAND
Sank on 06-1-1978 due to bad weather
The wider Athens area’s best known shipwreck rests on the sandy seabed of the Saronic Gulf, directly opposite Sounio, off the southern side of the island of Patroklos. The freighter, Kyra Leni, draws divers of all levels, including beginners, as a result of its location in relatively shallow waters and the sandy seabed. The visibility is good and great pictures can be taken while exploring the bow (at a depth of 17meters) or stern (at a depth of 32meters). Small and big fish find refuge within the interior, but divers are most likely to be content with a look around the exterior. Penetration into the boat is limited, especially at the stern.
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