H.P. Lovecraft, "The White Ship"
The French Parana was an early 1900s built passenger liner requisitioned for the needs of the First World War and used in the Mediterranean as a transport. She was torpedoed in the Kafireas strait by the German UC 74 on the 24th of August 1917. Her wreck was first dived and identified by our team in 2008 during an expedition with the cooperation of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities of the Greek Ministry of Culture. By the autumn of 2013, both exploration of the wreck and documentary work were almost complete and we now are in a position to give a fairly comprehensive account of the research that has been done.
The second half of the 19th century saw the beginning of a massive immigration from Europe towards the new world. It was stimulated by various economical and social factors and made possible by enormous technological leaps in sea travel, like the advent of steam, screw propulsion, iron built ships and the unprecedented increase in their size, seaworthiness and comfort. Numerous companies, British, German, French, Italian and American came to operate ships in the transatlantic passenger trade. Parana's owners, the Marseilles based ‘Société Générale des Transports Maritimes à Vapeur’ (SGTM) entered the South America transatlantic passenger trade market in 1867, being the first French company to operate from the Mediterranean. The company was founded in 1865 to transport ores mined in the Bone area to the industrial centers of mainland France, but soon expanded her scope of business to other cargo, as well as, to passenger trade1.
Between 1904 and 1907 SGTM, by then firmly established and growing, ordered a series of four newbuilding ocean liners. Parana was the last in the series. Although by no means a competitor for top of the notch, luxury service, it does seem that she and her sisters were built with a view to modernize and upgrade the company’s ocean passenger fleet2. The ship was contracted with ‘Forges et Chantiers de la Méditeranée’ (FCM), La Seyne sur Mer, for a price of 2,500,000 francs. She had a steel hull of 132.50 meters length overall, 6248 gross tons and 3862 net, with three decks and seven transverse bulkheads3. Her registered4 breadth was 15.31 meters and her depth 9.62 meters. She had raised bridge, forecastle and poop decks, as well as two raised mast house decks. As a result, four wells were formed in way of her four holds, two forward and two aft. The aftermost well deck was a little longer and was partly covered by an extension of the poop deck. Her raised bridge deck run about four tenths of the ship’s length and formed one open passageway in each side of the ship. The bridge, lifeboats, funnel and engine room skylights were located on the next level, which was topped only by an open bridge. A straight stem, a counter stern, one funnel and two masts completed her general description. The four ships were the first SGTM units to have double screws. Parana’s propulsion plant consisted of two, triple expansion engines with diameters of 26 1/2”, 41”, 65” and a stroke of 43 1/3”5. Her 5600 HP gave her a design speed of 16 knots. Steam was generated by six cylindrical, fire tube, single-ended, three furnace boilers with Howden draught, rated at 12.65kg/cm2. Engines and boilers were manufactured by FCM. Electrical current was produced by two generators and she was also equipped with a refrigerating plant and a wireless installation6.Being a cargo passenger liner, she had a significant cargo capacity. She would exchange steerage space for cargo, utilizing more under deck space for passengers on her westward passage and more for cargo on the return leg. The ship could accommodate 52 passengers in first class, 76 in second and 1500 in steerage. She had a deadweight of 4810 tons, at which she would draw 6.49 meters of water. Cargo was loaded and discharged by eight steam winches and eight derricks. The holds total capacity was 6,756 cubic meters7.
Our knowledge about the commercial life of the ship (1908-1916) is not complete, however enough is known in terms of where she was traded and a few notable events. Her keel was laid on 18 January 1907, she was launched on 29 February 1908 and delivered on the 2nd of August. On the 20th of the same month she sailed for her maiden voyage to South America8. Evidence obtained for the years 1908-09 and 1914-159 indicates that ports of call included Marseilles, Genoa, Almeria, Dakar, Las Palmas, Buenos Aires, Santos, Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro. Few of the most notable incidents during this period10 include a rather minor hull structural damage and flooding on 18 September 1910; a both engines failure on 21 October 1912 which necessitated the ship to be taken under tow to Las Palmas port for repairs; a grounding at Buenos Aires (02 July 1913) due to low tide and subsequent damages to her engines during refloating attempts. The regular Mediterranean to South America round voyages were ended when on December 1916 she was requisitioned for the needs of the war.
Plans and laws relating to the use of merchant ships for the needs of war were established in France since the 1870s. From the start of hostilities, ships were requisitioned under various schemes, as auxiliary cruisers, transports, fleet and base auxiliaries, as minesweepers and for antisubmarine duties. Others were chartered by the State for the country’s general commerce needs which were augmented because of the war. Since the beginning of 1916, a menacingly deteriorating shipping shortage became apparent. This shortage was due to, first the already mentioned increase of war needs, second the German submarine campaigns and third the inefficient use of the available tonnage. As a consequence, the State exercised increasingly more control on the merchant fleet, a trend that resulted in the requisition of the latter’s totality in 15 February 191811.
Parana was requisitioned as a non militarized troop transport on 14 December 1916 under a time-charter type contract for ‘...the transportation of troops, animals and materials...’12. Our knowledge regarding her career as a troop transport (1916-1917) is incomplete as well. With regards to cargoes carried and ports of call, material available for the period January to August 1917 confirms that she had been operating in the Mediterranean sea, as a transport, with ports of call including Bizerte, Bone, Salonika, Corfu, Marseilles, Toulon, Taranto and Messina13. The ship seems to have been inadequately maintained; even at the start of her requisitioning she had started to develop serious boiler problems. These were aggravated by the heavy use of the ship. At that time the lack of both merchant tonnage and resourses had become severe enough to necessitate keeping idle or repair time to an absolute minimum. By March one boiler was out of use, whilst the rest five were in such a bad state that the ship had to remain six weeks - between May and June of 1917 - at Toulon, in order to undergo necessary repairs. Despite that, the problems persisted and further repairs and stoppages are documented later on14. Finally, it seems that several modifications were done on the ship for the needs of her military carreer: as was the case with most merchant ships ‘Parana’ had been armed with progressively heavier armament as the lessons learnt from the struggle against submarines dictated. On January 1917 the ship had onboard one 90mm and one 47 mm gun but on the time she was sunk she was carrying two 90mm guns, one forward and one aft15. Furthermore, some of the ship’s particulars appear different in the relevant records16 like a bigger deadweight (5,630 tons at 7.14 meters), a bigger grt (6817 tons) and a ninth derrick of 15tns in way of No2 hold.
Whilst on a passage to Salonika, transporting troops and material, Parana sunk on the 25th of August 1917, after being torpedoed twice in the Kafireas (Kavo Doro) strait by UC 74. A more detailed account of her loss is given under the relevant title.
The Germans were the first to actually use submarines for mine laying duties. As early as in October 1914, the Reichsmarineamt ordered two experimental small mine laying boats of 150 tons. Belgium was now under German occupation and the proximity of her coastline to the intended u-boat operational areas, such as the English Channel and Britain’s east coast1 meant that the Germans could invest in small U-boats which were easy and quick to build. The project led to the development of the Type UC (or UCI) boats of which fifteen were commissioned. However the realities of war soon made it obvious that this design needed improvement. Once the interest in mine laying boats increased again (following the restrictions placed on submarine warfare in the summer of 1915 as a result of the Lusitania incident), a new, larger and enhanced submarine was developed, the Type UCII. Sixty four boats of this type were commissioned2.
UC 74 was a UCII type, coastal mine laying submarine built at 'Vulcan AG' yard, Hamburg. She displaced 410 tons on the surface and 493 submerged. Her length over all was 52.11 meters and her breadth 5.22 meters. The boat could quick - dive in 30 seconds and safely reach a depth of 50 meters. Her propulsion plant consisted of two, 6 cylinder, 4 stroke Körting diesel engines of 600 hp total and two SSW combined motor/generators of 460 kW total giving her a speed of 11.8 knots on the surface and of 7.3 knots submerged. She had a minimum operational range of 8660 nautical miles at a speed of 7 knots on the surface and a mere 52 nautical miles at 5 knots submerged. The boat was armed with two bow and one stern torpedo tubes of 50 cm and she was carrying seven torpedoes. In addition to that, eighteen UC200 type mines were stored in six shafts located in her forward part and on her foredeck was mounted an 8.8 cm gun. Her complement consisted of three officers and twenty three ratings3.
The career of UC 74 is known with a fair amount of detail4. UC 74 was launched on 19 October 1916 and commissioned in Hamburg on 26 November 1916 with her first commander being Kapitänleutnant Wilhelm Marschall. With the view of strengthening the Mediterranean flottilla, Admiral Holtzendorff had been planning since the beginning of 1917 that – amongst other – nine UCII mine laying boats be sent to the Mediterranean5. It is within this context, that UC 74 departed on 23 February 1917 from Kiel and Helgoland, in order to join the Pola flottilla. A memorable event during this passage is the battle she gave with the British Q-ship ‘Wonganella’ on the 11th of March, off Oran. After an exchange of gunfire and an unsuccessful torpedo attack, both the submarine and the Q-ship went their ways unscathed. UC 74 arrived at Cattaro on the afternoon of the 17th March 1917. A brief overview of her Mediterranean patrols demonstrates the modus operandi of these submarines in the particular theatre: based in Pola they had to sneak past the Otrando barrage in order to operate mainly in the eastern basin, minelaying straits and approaches and then conducting ‘Handelskrieg’. Starting with her second patrol, (11 April to 4 May 1917) the boat proceeded to lay mines in the Aegean, then to operate off the Syrian coast to south of Crete and off the Egyptian coast. It was during this patrol, on 15 April, when UC 74 torpedoed and sunk the British troopship Arcadian (8939 gt) with 277 casualties. Her third patrol started on 24 May 1917 when she left Cattaro together with UC 24. Shortly afterwards and while UC 24 was less than a mile away from UC 74, she was hit by a torpedo fired from the French submarine Circe and lost. UC 74 proceeded to lay mines in the Aegean Sea then patrolled the Malta to Port Said route, SW of Crete. On her fourth patrol from 16 August to 08 September 1917 she remained in the Aegean Sea. Initially she laid minefields in the straits between mainland Greece and the islands of Skiathos and Skopelos. It is immediately after that she hit and sunk the ‘Parana’ in the Doro channel on 24 August, before proceeding with one of her most successful outings (eight ships sunk). Her fifth patrol (25 September to 18 October 1917) took her off the Egyptian coast for mine laying and commerce warfare. It is only at the end of this patrol that she moved north of Crete and there successfully attacked and sunk two British steamers. Her sixth patrol took place from 11 November to 6 December 1917 and UC 74 laid mines and operated north of Crete and in the Aegean Sea. After this sixth patrol the boat returned to Pola where she remained until 19 February 1918 for refit. On 17 December 1917 Oberleutnant zur See Hans Adalbert von der Lühe took over her command. After her refit, UC 74 left again for the Aegean. On the morning of the 20 February as she was under way, on the surface, crossing the Otranto strait, she was spotted and bombed by an airplane. UC 74 dived and managed a close escape, suffering some light damage to her electrical installation and minor leaks. She went on with her seventh mission from which she returned on the 15th of March 1918. Her eighth and ninth patrol lasted from 21 April to 21 May and from 23 June to the 6 August and the boat operated off the North African coast and at the Aegean Sea for mine laying and commerce warfare. On 18 October 1918, Oberleutnant zur See Hans Schüler took UC 74 out for her tenth and last patrol that was carried out in Eastern Mediterranean. Before the said patrol was over, by the end of October 1918, the Germans started withdrawing their submarines from the Mediterranean, convinced that their allies would not remain much longer in the war6. UC 74 being short on bunkers and not able to refuel, headed to Barcelona where she arrived on the 21st of November, early morning. There she was interned, subsequently being handed over to the French on 26 March 1919 and scrapped at Toulon in July 1921.
Overall, UC 74 had a quite successful career. She sunk thirty six ships for a total of 92506 gt and damaged another four for a total of 13108 gt in a time span of two years. There are a couple of observations worth making: first, of all the ships, only 13 were sunk or damaged in 1918, compared with 27 in 1917, a halving of successes. Second, although mines played their role and this role cannot be determined solely by tonnage sunk, we do have to point out that they claimed just two ships – one sunk and one damaged. Therefore, almost all of the sinking was done in the course of commerce warfare.
On the night of the 23rd to the 24th of August 1917, the Parana, whilst on a passage from Marseille to Salonika, was torpedoed twice by UC 74 in the Kafireas (Kavo Doro) strait. The ship remained afloat for more than a day but in the end sunk on the morning of the 25th. Six crew members and ninety of the embarked soldiers lost their lives1. This poor outcome seems to have been the result first, of uncontrollable factors, such as the adverse weather conditions, second of tactics followed during convoying and countering the attack and third of the way certain issues were handled during the salvage operations. Written material available, combined with that obtained from field research is of a considerable volume. We do not aspire to cover every aspect or to analyze in great depth the issues involved, not in an account of the size of this one. We do however hope to shed some light on the 'hows' and 'whys' of the event and highlight the main points of interest.
The ship's last voyage was a highly dangerous one. 1917 was a year of crisis for the Allies due to the Germans unrestricted submarine warfare. Although by August some sort of convoy system was running and the Allied countermeasures and resources were improving, ships were still being sunk at an alarming rate. German submarines targeted the shipping lines between the French western Mediterranean bases (such as Marseille) and Salonika, however the passage was unavoidable. The Salonika front placed a heavy burden on the Allies: about 3500 tons of stores per day needed to be transported by sea and to that one should add troops as well as the sick and the wounded transports. Since the end of 1916 the French have sought to establish communication through Italy and mainland Greece in order to limit exposure to submarine attacks and free tonnage at the same time. However, bottlenecks and delays did not permit but a part of their needs to be moved this way and the bulk continued to be transported by sea2. Parana left Marseilles on 15 August 1917 laden with 251 officers and troops for Salonika and 619 for Bizerte, 1862 tons of materiel and 43 horses and mules. After an intermediate call at Bone on the 17th she arrived at Bizerte on the 18th. She disembarked troops destined for that port and embarked 540 Serbs soldiers and 20 officers as well as one French medical officer for Salonika. She left on the 20th in convoy with ‘Pampa’ and ‘Medie’ escorted by the French destroyers Pistolet and Sagaie. The convoy reached Milo on the noon of the 23rd. The three ships departed again the same afternoon escorted by the destroyers Fanfare, Poignard and Sagaie and proceeded in column formation with Pampa leading, Parana in the middle and Medie being the last. The destroyers were positioned one in each side of the convoy, between the first and second ship and the third (Sagaie) followed behind the Medie. The convoy travelled at a speed of eleven and a half knots and was not zigzagging3. They reached the western entrance of the Doro strait at about midnight of the 23rd to the 24th.
The same night, UC 74 (Kptlt Willhelm Marschall) patrolled the Doro Strait, between the Greek islands of Andros and Evia. A fresh breeze was blowing from NE and the night was moonless but clear, overall favorable conditions for the boat. At 00:50 the watch spotted the convoy dead ahead. The boat remained surfaced in order to maintain an adequate enough speed to position itself for an attack4. Indeed, an attempt against the first ship was made at 01:05, however the submarine did not succeed in getting into a proper firing position and the attack was aborted. In danger of losing the convoy, Marschall with an admittedly bold move, managed to bring UC 74 between one of the destroyers and the second ship, the former reportedly crossing the boat’s stern just 300 meters away, yet failing to spot her. The submarine was now ideally positioned to torpedo the second ship and No1 tube was fired at 01:12. A ‘...strong detonation...’5 was heard ten seconds later. Immediately after taking the shot the submarine dived, going deep6 and remained undetected. The description of the attack, taken from the boat's KTB does raise two questions: First, would the attack have been deterred or made more difficult if ‘Sagaie’ had been scouting ahead of the convoy, i.e. was in a defensive position? Would the boat be able to approach so close, on the surface, unnoticed? And second, would Marschall have another chance if the convoy steamed in line abreast? Column formation did give him the opportunity to try a shot at the next ship – or ships once he failed the first time... Questions that cannot be answered. Although these alternatives are valid tactics and to our opinion more appropriate for the specific circumstances, there is really no way to know if they would have made a difference.
The torpedo hit Parana in way of her No2 hold, port side, shaking her violently. During our dives we had been able to define the torpedo damage, in the middle of the hold and near the ship's bottom, an area measuring about 30 square meters7. The hit was not lethal, since the bulkheads held, leaving the ship with enough reserve buoyancy. However what ensued onboard was the cause for the heavy loss of life and enabled Marschall to deliver a further hit. At first contingency measures were taken: escorts were alerted, the ship was maneuvered to avoid a second hit, distress signals were sent and crew and passengers were mustered on the embarkation deck. A couple of minutes after the hit, the Master, CLC Fabre, had already ordered the ship to stop so as to ascertain the damage taken and to decide whether it would be safe to make way. Once this was established and all the ship's compartments (except hold No2) were found dry, he started heading for the coast of Evia, to shelter the ship from the weather and facilitate the evacuation8. Unfortunately not all was going in a textbook manner. Since the torpedo struck, panic overwhelmed the Serbian troops onboard, despite the fact that regular abandon ship drills were held during the passage9. Soldiers jumped into the sea, lifesaving appliances were thrown overboard in a chaotic manner and the crew tried hard to contain the situation. In an attempt to facilitate an orderly evacuation of the underdeck spaces, Master ordered to turn on – for a short time - the electric lights10. In addition to that, very soon all the escorts’ efforts were concentrated in picking up soldiers from the sea11. That was a mistake. The destroyers should have coordinated their actions and some of them should have kept looking for the submarine; the effort of spotting her or deterring a second attack should have been more persistent.
The ultimate result of the above was that Marschall was presented with an easy target for a second shot. At about 01:30 hrs, UC 74 surfaced, unharassed, about 500 meters away from the attack position. Marschall observed the Parana, fully illuminated and making little headway. ‘...Er bietet ein vorzügliches ziel...’ – (it offers an excellent target) he mentioned in the KTB12, ‘...so leicht hat's uns noch keiner gemacht...’ - (nobody has ever made it so easy for us) he wrote in his book twenty years after13. A second torpedo was fired from the boat’s stern tube. The Germans were rewarded with a detonation that followed 40 seconds later. The boat quickly dived again and still remained undetected.
The second torpedo hit the ship’s rudder blade, completely destroying it and damaging the port propeller14. Although it was also not a lethal blow, it greatly impaired the ship's ability to maneuver and further deteriorated the outlook. Using only the engines to maneuver, CLC Fabre headed towards the coast of Evia where at about 03:00 hrs he dropped his port anchor at 30 meters of water, 300 meters from shore at what he judged to be ‘...a cove at the coast of Evia that seemed sheltered enough...’15. The question had been raised whether he showed good judgment as to the anchoring position or he should have instead brought his ship to the south, inside the bay of Karystos, or even Gavrio (Andros island) where it would have been more protected (and most probably saved). All opinions16 tend to agree that under the circumstances he showed good judgment and that deprived of her rudder blade and with one screw damaged the ship would have difficulties navigating with following (heavy) seas and reaching Karystos. During our dives we did not notice any significant damage to the port screw and most probably the ship would have been able to navigate for some time more. However the rudder blade is completely missing. All things taken into account, it seems that Master did the right thing.
At 03:10 UC 74 surfaced one more time, approximately 1500 meters away from the attack position. Marshall judged that going after the first steamer would be in vain because the weather had deteriorated to a force 6 and the boat could only make a maximum of 6.5 knots surfaced. Destroyers were sighted, still picking up survivors. Parana by then was nowhere to be seen so he assumed it had already sunk. His personal estimate was put in the KTB: ‘...the enemy’s losses must be high due to the hour and prevailing weather conditions...’
With the Parana anchored the evacuation of the ship and the salvage attempts begun, attempts which however did not succeed in saving the ship. All the remaining troops were taken onboard the Fanfare, and the destroyers Colne (British) and Sape (French) that had, in the meantime, rushed to the scene. Sape, Fanfare and Poignard were assigned to carry the troops to Trebukki, transfer them to Pampa and Medie and thereafter escort these two ships to Salonika17. The Parana had by now developed a port list of about 15 degrees and was severely damaged. The port bunker aft of No2 hold had flooded and water started penetrating the boilers room. Due to the list more water was coming into the underdeck spaces through various overboard discharges. Finally, it seems that the second torpedo damaged the shaft seals and water started penetrating in the aft hold through the flooded port shaft tunnel. The list could not be put right by shifting ballast therefore the decision was taken to stop any efforts to contain the leaks and to evacuate the ship. The crew, after orders of LDV Blanchot commanding the Sape, left Parana on about 08:00 hrs embarking on the Sape and later on Sagaie18. The salvage attempts were resumed, but unfortunately more than five hours later, meaning that valuable time had been lost. During our dives, the forward and aft bulkhead of No2 hold seemed to us pretty intact and we believe that all leaks coming from there could have been eventually contained. In addition, the overboard discharges were successfully plugged the same evening. When Sagaie returned near the Parana on about 13:30 her commander, LDV Perrette, decided that the list did not present any immediate danger and sent onboard men in order to continue trying to contain the leakages19. The crew also worked, shifting cargo from port to starboard in order to reduce the list20. At 18:40 hrs the Pistolet arrived on scene and her commander, LDV Millot, took over in charge of the salvage efforts. Initially his idea was to tow the ship and either ground her, or take her to a safe port. However, after consulting with LDV Perrette and CLC Fabre they decided to first pump all water out and then take the ship under tow. Unfortunately the salvage tug Tenedos which came alongside could not manage to pump the water out of the Parana’s boiler room21. All this time the list was increasing and the ship was taking in water and slowly sliding beneath the surface. Subsequent attempts to try and tow the ship failed because the towline from Tenedos could not be taken onboard the Parana. Why the attempts to take the towline failed were the subject of much debate and LDV Perrette directly blamed the crew of the Parana (as well as one his subordinates) for failing to execute orders given22. His reports were the reason for a second enquiry, however no blame was attributed to the Master or crew23. By reading the various, often contradicting, reports, one is left with the impression that, first the adverse weather, second the condition of the ship listing about 40 degrees and being in imminent danger of foundering and third the shock and exhaustion of everybody on the scene, were contributing factors either physically hampering the operation or weakening the will to try... It is to be noted though that when, a little later, at about 06:00 hrs on the morning of the 25th, it was decided to let loose the anchor, the Tenedos crew succeeded to board the Parana and accomplish this task24. The rationale behind this last effort was to let the ship drift towards the shore where she would ground and thus be saved. However she disappeared beneath the waves, bow first, at 10:20 on the morning of the 25th, before reaching shallow enough waters. A sad ending indeed...
It seems that Parana was ultimately lost because of the combined effect of a multitude of factors. It is difficult to ascertain the contribution of each of these factors to the end result or to say what would have happened if one or more were not in the equation. Would the ship have been saved if the second torpedo did not hit? what if the towline had been secured? or if the salvage attempts were not discontinued on the morning of the 24th? We cannot judge decisions taken under extremely harsh conditions, physical (the area is notorious for its heavy seas, currents and strong winds25) or psychological, without actually having been in the situation. On the other hand, the panic stricken soldiers, the inability of Tenedos to pump and the weather were the uncontrollable elements, but if some things were done in a different way, the probabilities of the ship surviving would have increased. The destroyers’ performance came under scrutiny26; study of the Master’s choice of the anchoring position resulted in the decision that ships should be aware of places of refuge along their route27; the watch procedure onboard the Parana was found inadequate;28. But again, in all fairness, we do have the benefit of hindsight. Antisubmarine tactics were developed through hard learnt lessons and what afterwards may seem the obvious thing to do, has not always been that obvious.
Unpublished material detailed in the relevant endnotes was drawn from:
This was our first expedition at an unidentified wreck off the coast of South Evia in the vicinity of Cape Kafireas (Cavo Doro). The trip’s objective was to identify the wreck and conduct a general site survey.
The expedition involved a certain amount of preparation. Documentary research was done to identify possibilities as to the wreck’s name and thereafter to acquire information, plans and photos. On the operational level, 16 J-tanks with helium and oxygen were sent to Karystos a week before the start. The first day was spent getting all the gear, cars and our RIB to the town of Karystos, in Evia and setting up all diving and base equipment at a local dive center who supported us during this expedition. Giannis and Nikos, the owners, kindly offered us full use of their facility 24/7 and helped with logistics by taking delivery of and storing the J-tanks.
Preparatory research paid off and we were able to positively identify the Parana on our very first dive by comparing the wreck with the ship’s photos. Thereafter, our bottom time was primarily spent documenting general aspects of the wreck, recording orientation and depths and trying to verify or add to the little information we had available on the ship and its loss. The wreck rests on a level sand bottom at a maximum depth of 82 meters with her bows pointing west. She is damaged in her fore part, in way of No2 hold, both sides. Aft, the rudder blade is completely missing. The rest of the wreck is relatively intact, standing upright and in fairly good condition with the exception of the funnel and the aft mast which have collapsed.
Diving went exceptionally smooth given the area’s bad reputation for strong winds and currents. The planned bottom time of the first dive was cut short due to a very strong current which made it impossible to continue, not even with the scooters... The rest of the five dives - apart from one which was done with force 5 winds - were done in flat seas, although a moderate to strong current was encountered down at the wreck. That was more than we could ask for. Having said that, we had to cancel the last two days diving as the weather severely deteriorated. The dives were done at depths down to 82 meters with a bottom time of 25 minutes, keeping the total run time to about 110 minutes. TMX 15/55 was used as bottom gas with EAN50 and Oxygen for deco. Profiles were generated using VPM-B software.
In summary, Parana is a well preserved wreck of an ocean liner sunk during the First World War. Diving it though is not that easy given the combination of depth and the conditions of the Cavo Doro area. A number of expeditions and dives will be needed to full explore and document the site.
This was not so much a full scale expedition but more like a series of dives. We decided to make the most out of the Greek National Holiday and head back to Karystos to visit the wreck of the Parana.
We managed to complete three dives. One of them involved penetrating the area of No2 hold where the ship had been hit. Damage due to the torpedo hit is located on the port side, near the bottom. We presume that the additional vertical side shell cracks and distorted decks plating are the result of structural failure caused during the sinking. We further examined the fore and aft bulkhead of No2 hold which do not show any sign of large scale damage and seems to have held. The other two dives were spent filming general aspects of the wreck.
Diving was challenging once more. The weather was fairly unstable with force 6 winds on the first day and flat calm seas the rest of the time. The strong currents were present as always. Something irrelevant to history or shipwrecks but equally as stunning nonetheless was the experience of being accompanied by schools of really large jacks during our dives. Depths, times and gases, all remained the same as per the previous trip, the only difference being that we did not rely on VPM this time, all deco was done on the fly.
The dives were part of the continuing effort to explore and document the wreck of the Parana. The area where the ship was hit is one of primary importance, therefore we chose to dedicate a dive there. Diving and field research is ongoing.
The May 2007 expedition was greatly assisted by BtS Europa, AG who we thank for doing their utmost to supply us with much needed gear in time!