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Carinthia V : A less known shipwreck with impressive history in the waters of Kefalonia

On January 5, 2016, a fire destroyed two luxury yachts at the Marmaris Marina in Turkey. The news were with no significance to all but those familiar with the world and history of the Superyachts. These knew it was a real disaster: One of the two yachts destroyed was “The One”, that is considered probably the most beautiful Superyacht of all time, and beyond argument the one with the greatest influence on the design of these vessels. But in reality it was a reproduction of the original, and history could have been different, had it not been for a severe storm many years ago in southwestern Kefalonia! But let’s start from the beginning ..

This story begins in 1961 when Austrian billionaire Helmut Horten, passionate about sea and the yachts (when other tycoons of this era such as Aristolelis Onassis prioritized luxury), after owning Carinthia I and II earlier, had delivered from the French shipyard Chantiers Navals de l’Esterel the 25m Carinthia III, a classic yacht (as if starring in a James Bond movie!) that still sails in Greek seas under another name and owner. The 42 meter Carinthia IV from the same shipyard would follow, a beautiful and fast boat that would perished due to a fire in 1981 in Greece! These two yachts enhanced Horten’s desire for a unique boat, well ahead of its time. He trusted for the overall design the person that would influence the modern superyacht design more than any man, the legendary Jon Bannenberg!

Thousands of texts have been written and not only from nautical magazines, about this charismatic designer, called by Vanity Fair in 2018  “The Godfather of Modern Yacht Design”. For decades he was considered the most important designer of superyachts, being responsible for over 200 designs (including the Carinthias and his masterpiece Limitless which also belongs to the 10 most beautiful superyachts of all time ..). Bannenberg changed the world of mega yachts forever with his designs and influence. Until its time, yacht design was essentially a refinement and improvement of older models and an attempt to fit into the designs of the yachts the luxuries demanded by the owners as well as their ideas and expectations for the appearance of the boats. Ever since Horten commissioned Bannemberg to design Carinthia V, things would never be the same again!

Until the moment Bannenberg lifted the pencil to draw the lines of Carinthia V,yacht design did not really exist as a distinct occupation. Naval architects designed what they hoped were efficient and good-looking hulls and left the shipyard to complete the interior. Bannenberg made art his starting point, and sought to design every feature of a yacht from the exterior down to the doorknobs to achieve a completely consistent result. “Jon was building palaces,” said Dick van Lent of the Feadship Yard in the Netherlands. “Others were building boats.” Bannenberg himself put it less regally: “If you cannot make love in comfort on a boat that cost millions, what the hell is the point?” he told Vogue in 1970.

Horten wanted a much bigger fast yacht this time and went to Lürssen of Bremen shipyards, which at the time built mainly warships such as the 42 meter Jaguar Class patrol boats, capable of 40 knots. These were not planing hulls but slim, semi-displacement ones with high-powered diesel engines. It was no surprise, therefore, that the yacht Lürssen proposed was long and slim and looked rather like a fast warship. With a narrow beam, a lot of length was needed to provide enough accommodation space, and the overall length came to an impressive 68 meters. Bannenberg’s contribution was to integrate the whole design so that the drama of the long, slim hull was emphasized to the maximum. The sheer line runs the full length of the hull without interruption, and bow and stern slope forward to give an impression of urgency. The front of the superstructure is drawn as a sweeping curve. All the design elements of Carinthia V are simple and strong, and distracting details are avoided. Satellite domes, for instance, are placed well aft on an arch rather than on top of the wheelhouse or on the mast. As soon as you look at Carinthia, it is obvious that one hand has been responsible for the whole vessel from overall concept down to the smallest detail. Bannenberg was not given full responsibility for the interior because the owner’s wife, Heidi, favored using blond timbers and strongly colored rugs to create the Norwegian wood’ look that was popular at the time.

Carinthia V was a boat really coming out of a futuristic fairy tale: The most modern, fashionable and impressive of a line of yachts, owned by a yacht-passionate billionaire, designed perhaps by the greatest superyacht designer of all time, with a concept and lines unseen by yacht world until it launched, seen a beautiful boat with an interior that would embarrass Manhattan’s most chic penthouse! In a manner, one could say that Carinthia V was the Titanic of superyachts. In fact, its fate was similar and strange, though fortunately less tragic: on her maiden cruise in the Mediterranean encountered a severe thunderstorm near the southwestern coast of Kefalonia. Modern navigation aids were not available at that time, and bad weather wasn’t making things easier to navigate the boat with the  available maps safely around the infamous Kakava Shoals. Like countless other boats over the centuries, Carinthia V hit an uncharted reef and sank just off the coast of Skala Kefalonia, on November 1, 1971, fortunately without casualties.

Perhaps the most beautiful superyacht of all time, and arguably the most influential in naval design, is resting since on the Kefalonian seabed. Carithia V had come so close to perfection that when Horten called Bannenberg next morning he asked him to build exactly an identical replacement that would become Carinthia VI. The only change Bannemberg made was to increase the overall length by two meters and put in extra watertight bulkheads to prevent a recurrence of the sinking. Even to this detail the siblings Carinthia V and VI have almost a similar story to RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic, that was slightly larger and with more watertight bulkheadsthan the tragically famous Titanic.So Carinthia VI was mend to steal the glory of V, but as it had a long career, immortalized the fame of its creators. The flames ended Carinthia’s VI career under the new name The One and one would say met the fate of Carinthia IV and V in the same corner of the Mediterranean. Since then, Carinthia V wreck, the last specimen of this naval era rests in the sea of Kefalonia.

Following down the shot line, eyes try to distinguish Carinthia’s silhouette in the endless blue. Astonishingly, the 70 m vessel blends very efficiency with the seabed! However,  soon the elegant, slim lines of the vessel make their appearance and the sense of awe and admiration cannot be easily described. Unfortunately the vessel is turned upside down. The elegant superstructure has been crushed under the weight of the hull but much of it can be seen on the right side, with the typical “grille” of the frond lounge visible. Same thing for the speedboat that was nested on the upper aft deck. The rudders of the boat as well as the propeller, although partially covered with nets, bare the signs of impact to the reefs of the area. The devastating impact to the reef along the hull that the blow that caused the sinking can be seen. Moving on to the bow it is amazing how “sharp” the bottom of the hull looks but also the excellent condition of the wreck considering it spent nearly 50 years at the bottom of the sea. A huge spiny starfish (Marthasterias glacialis) is next to one of the bow thrusters close to the stem that descents at a sharp angle to the bottom ten meters deeper.

Limited bottom time at this depth brings dive to an end. Reaching the shot line we take another look at this historic shipwreck before we start ascent and switching gasses. We did carry only a small action camera as the main objective was to investigate the wreck so photos are not that good. However the entire Blue Manta Diving Team is looking forward to the next visit to explore of this magnificent shipwreck with the impressive story that rests in the blue waters of Kefalonia.

Parrotfish: The pirates of the reef!

Mediterranean Parrotfish ((Sparisoma cretense) loves the shallow reefs and rocky shores with warm waters. Therefore is quite rare or absent in the northwestern Mediterranean and in the Adriatic Sea, but probably due to global warming there is an ongoing northward range expansion. In the Aegean Sea was even pictured in wall paintings since ancient years. And nowadays is joyful and abundant inhabitant oft the Ionian Sea. Their primary habitat is rocky reefs,  but they may visit adjacent Posidonia oceania  seagrass patches. Parrotfish feeding on epilithic and coralline algae and also on epiphytic algae, growing on seagrass. Constantly they chew the algae off  the rocks with their sharp teeth that look like a parrot’s beak and in a manner they shape the Mediterranean rocky reefs, like their tropical cousins do with the coral reefs. So  not just a nice face but also among the  most important species on the Mediterranean reef, as they are the “doctors” eating expanding and dead epilithic algae and dead and keeping the reef healthy, constantly creating new inhabitant for all species to play their role and complete their life circle in the bottom of our seas.

Because of the their mouth and teeth parrotfish is funny looking but also is a graceful, constantly moving swimmer  at the same time, one very challenging to capture on a photo, unless the perfect focus is not an issue.. And while the bright and colorful females are  red with a yellow-edged grey saddle shape on the back and a yellow spot at the base of the tail, males are overall grey with paler underparts and no distinctive markings. It is quite easy for the divers to distinguish them, especially as they form small or large groups, where one large male dominates the females. The same male was a female earlier in its life that, as in many fish species and as growing bigger changed into a male.

A huge school of male Parrotfish (Sparisoma cretense)

Probably not all females grow into males but there should be many. Otherwise how one can explain the u/w marvel experienced for few weeks roughly the same time every year, in the heart of the summer-usually in August- at the shallow reefs around Skala Kefalonia? Divers may experience schools of male parrotfish more than 300 strong, foraging the reef and making mad the local males that are trying to defend their territory in their pale-grey war colors! These schools are totally focused on plundering the reef and ignore the divers allowing them to come close to observe or take u/w photos.

Diver among parrotfish

This is a unique behavior that hasn’t been officially recorded and studied yet. But still there for lucky divers to experience the u/w wonder of the “buccaneer” parrotfish!

HMS Perseus (N36)

Perhaps the top WW II wreck dive in Mediterranean, British Overseas Patrol submarine HMS/M Perseus, (N36) lies virtually intact on the sandy bottom, at 52 meters depth, about a mile off the south coast of Kefalonia.

Perseus submarine is not only among the most impressive wreck dives a diver can experience, but has an amazing history as well. The vessel was on combat patrol in December 1941, and while cruising at the surface at night hit an Italian naval mine and sunk. From the crew of 59 only one, the Royal Navy leading stoker John Capes managed a daredevil escape from a depth no one has attempted before, swam his way to Katelios and with the aid of locals escaped capture from Italian and German occupation forces and finally transferred in Turkey. While legendary in Royal Navy, almost nobody believed his adventure until in 1997 a team of Greek divers located the submarine and verified details of his described escape.

The divers approaching the submarine encounter a magnificent vessel 88 meters long, with a large conning tower, the ship’s gun and the rear hutch still open indicating the escape route of John Capes, while a look in the interior is possible. Among other things, the torpedo tubes and the ship’s propellers and rudder are visible.

The submarine is practically an artificial reef and colorful sponges, small fish and aquatic creatures take shelter here, while predators like amberjacks and snappers are frequent visitors.

The average depth or the dive is 40 m, while the max is 50, reserving the submarine for experienced and technical divers. The visibility is usually greater than 25m while temperature ranges between 18-24 C in summer months, depending on depth. Occasionally there may be strong currents close to the surface. Boat ride duration 15′.

 

 

Kakava Amphorae Yard

“Kakava” is an extended ancient wrecks site, once believed to be a submerged village. There is an abundance of amphorae, primarily from Roman era wrecks with at least one from 2nd century BC. Around the reef more evidence of ancient to modern day wrecks are present, such as steel ship parts and huge coal pieces, marking the resting place of an unknown steamboat. Schools of damselfish hover against the current attracting predators such as snappers, Mediterranean barracudas and amberjacks. Parrotfish, brown meagres, groupers, scorpionfish and octopuses occupy every recess and crevice along the reef. The dive site is situated between the two main nesting beaches for Loggerhead sea turtles around Kefalonia “Kaminia” and “Skala”, so chances to catch sight of one looking for her next meal, are quite high.

The average depth or the dive is 8 m, while the max is 12 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 22-27 °C in summer months. Occasionally a weak surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 6′.

 

 

Tilemachos’ Cave

Out of the seagrass meadows (“Posidonia oceanica”) a lone reef rises, a death trap to ancient vessels passing through the area. At least 2 of those wooden merchant ships once roaming the Mediterranean, have found their final resting place here, scattering their ballast stones, lead and bronze parts of their hull and rigging and scores of amphorae – their primary cargo, proving the area a puzzle to seamen through the ages.

On the underside of a long shallow rocky ridge, a small yet impressive underwater cave awaits to be explored. The dark chamber in the rock features two side-openings and one on the top acting as a skylight shedding ample light into the interior, rewarding the daring diver with spectacular views. Also a variety of fish and quite often Loggerhead sea turtles are frequent visitors to the site.

The average depth or the dive is 7 m, while the max is 12 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 22-27 °C in summer months. Occasionally a weak surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 5′.

Sponge Walls

There is no better spot for macro photographers to capture all the amazing micro flora and fauna of the Mediterranean. On the under-the-surface portion of the cliff walls, in the crevices and caves and within the same small extent of rock face, pseudo corals and all species of Mediterranean sponges can be found in a distracting variety and abundance. All together they create an ideal habitat for nudibranchs, moray eels, scorpion fish, blennies, gobies, wrasses, starfish and many more. Divers return again and again to capture colorful images one can hardly believe that belong in the Mediterranean and often witness schools of amberjacks hunting small fish, whilst a Triton’s trumpet or a Slipper lobster are anything but a rare sight.

The average depth of the dive is 9 m, while the max is 19 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 24-26 °C in summer months. Usually no surface currents are present. Boat ride duration 5′.

Cape Kapros

Cape Kapros marks the northern tip of Skala’s coastline, and just around it one is at the doorstep of Kefalonia-Ithaca channel. The water movement and the occasional currents around the cape is as intriguing, and create a habitat for huge noble pen shells (fan mussels), nudibranch species on the bottom, whilst schools of bogues, picarels and damselfish feed against the current, just above the noticeable thermocline and attract predators like red snappers and amberjacks. The cape has probably a turbulent past, as ancient merchant vessel anchors and broken clay jars (“amphoras”) lie scattered around.

The average depth of the dive is 12 m, while the max is 26 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 19-25 °C in summer months. Occasionally a moderate surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 7′.

 

Snappers’ Alley

On the eastern boundaries of Kakava reefs, before water depth drops significantly, there is an area where Posidonia sea grass, rocks and sandy patches alternate. This is the place where colourful wrasses, brown meagres and all kinds of breams find shelter, whilst sea turtles and eagle rays are common visitors, but without a doubt the stars are the red snappers that are foraging around this alley, preying on schools of damselfish and parrotfish. This is probably the site more likely to spot a snapper especially from May to July, as they never fail divers in early morning dives.

The average depth of the dive is 16 m, while the max is 22 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 23-25 °C in summer months. Occasionally a weak surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 7′.

Twelve Anchors

 

Located at the northern extents of the Kakava reefs, this site is the most representative example of Mediterranean seafloor landscape and biodiversity in shallow coastal waters and provides excellent chances for u/w photographers. Collapsed caves and holes, along with meadows of Posidonia sea grass create the perfect environment for parrotfish, wrasses, gilt head breams, scorpion fish, young groupers and snappers. Around the reef fragments of ancient clay jars (“amphoras”) can be spotted, however the highlight of the site are the 12 enormous, probably Byzantine era anchors, presumably ditched by a ship struggling to escape crashing on the reef.

The average depth of the dive is 7 m, while the max is 12 m, suitable for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 22-27 °C in summer months. Occasionally a moderate surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 5′.

 

Lighthouse Reef

At the northern end of Skala beach, the rocky coastline provides an u/w landscape of walls and rockslides, which create an ideal habitat for most Mediterranean species. In this dive site, marked by the Cape Kapros lighthouse, boulders scattered among Posidonia seagrass provide a haven for all kinds of breams, wrasses, brown meagres and octopuses, especially when water temperature is below 23 °C, up to the end of June and again from early September. Huge schools of juvenile saddled sea breams and damselfish, along with often passing Loggerheard sea turtles, create scenery so rich that rarely can be matched by Mediterranean waters.

The average depth of the dive is 8 m, while the max is 17 m, appropriate for divers of all levels.

The usual visibility is 25 m and temperature ranges between 24-26 °C in summer months. Occasionally a weak surface current may be encountered. Boat ride duration 5′.