H.P. Lovecraft, "The White Ship"
The wreck of the Maria Stathatos, a large cargo steamer of 6303 grt was visited during the fifth day of the MDP expedition. The reason why only one day was allocated to diving her was that - sadly - she has been for her most part salvaged for scrap, therefore there is not much to be gained by its exloration.
MDP - initials for the Milos Dive Project - was an eleven days long diving expedition to the island of Melos, with the goal of exploring and documenting a handful of WWII wrecks after permission was obtained from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Ministry of Culture. The project took place in September 2007. Various divers were called in to participate. The wrecks of the cargo steamers Artemis Pitta, Sifnos and Maria Stathatos were explored and documented. The project was the first of its kind in Greece and enjoyed the support of 'Tethys', an Athens based recreational diving association and of various local organisations and authorities of the island of Melos. We were posting on a blog daily as the project progressed and this information together with the project members and acknowledgments is still available online in Greek and English language here.
The Maria Stathatos has been built as the Welsh City at 'Ropner Shipbuilding & Repairing Co (Stockton) Ltd' at Stockton-on-Tees, England in 1922. The ship had a raised forecastle and stern deck with her accommodation and engine room in the middle and was of a shelter deck type (however that description was changed to 'two decks' in 1937-38 Register). Her triple expansion steam engine produced 402 NHP output and was made by 'Blair & Co Ltd' in Stockton. Her grt is recorded as 6303 tons and her registered length as 125.46 meters. First Owners appear 'St. Just SS Co Ltd' (Sir William Reardon Smith & Sons Ltd) subsequently passing in the ownership of 'Reardon Smith Line Ltd' in 1929. She was flying the British flag until October 1938 when she was sold, reportedly for GBP 37000, to 'G N Stathatos' who registered her in Ithaca under the Greek flag. At the time of her loss there are recorded five co-owners with members of the Stathatos family holding the majority of shares.
In January 1941 the ship was requisitioned as a transport. Only a few months later, on the 25 or 26 April 19411 she was anchored in Adamas bay, Melos when in the early morning hours she was bombed by the Luftwaffe and sunk later on the afternoon. Reportedly she had started her voyage on the 15th of March sailing from Bombay laden with coal and ambulances. She discharged the ambulances and about a third of the coal in Piraeus where she arrived on the 11th of April. Laden with coal and tents, she left Piraeus for Port Said amidst the chaos caused by the German invasion. Other sources mention that she was laden with around 250-300 civilians and soldiers bound for Crete. Most probably the information should be treated as complementary. The exact number of people that were onboard, crew or passengers is not known and neither is the number of casualties.2
The wreck lies in 45 meters of water at the east side of the bay of Adamas. Not much remains to be seen due to the most of the ship having been raised for scrap after the war, around 1958 as suggested by contemporary newspapers. Apart for her flat bottom and a few meters of hull and deck roughly amidships, only the sides of the bow and a few bulkheads remain. It is really a sad fact, since she was a quite large ship and the wreck rests in relatively shallow water. That means that she could be explored easily and documented in great detail.
wreckDiving team members that participated:
Bibliography and Sources: