With Malta and Gozo on the government’s Green list for travel and a new wreck (the P33) being scuttled, we thought we would celebrate some of the most iconic wrecks dives in the Mediterranean. Just over 3 hours direct flight from the UK, the archipelago of Malta, Gozo and Comino is world famous for its underwater topography. There are caverns, interesting rock formations and both historical and purposefully sunk wrecks. Many of these wrecks can be dived from the shore and some are a haven for technical divers.
As a naval base and central trading location, the Maltese Islands has ended up with a ghost fleet of more than 100 wrecks. There are battleships, paddle-wheeled steamer tugs, aircraft, submarines, a ferry and many scuttled wrecks.
Um El Faroud
The Um El Faroud is in a Marine Protected Area called Wied-iz-Zurrieq which translates from Arabic as “Blue Grotto”. A wide staircase to the sea leads to a 200-metre swim to Malta’s Thistlegorm. Scuttled in 1998 this 3147-ton single screw tanker lies on the seabed in two sections. 110 metres long, the wreck sits on the seabed at 35 metres with the bridge at a shallow 16 metres. It is both an advanced recreational dive and an interesting deco dive also. She is easily penetrated as her doors and windows have all been removed. You can swim through the side gangways, stairwells and enjoy many features including the funnel and large winch at the bow. A brass plaque commemorates the workers who died in an explosion in 1995 while repairing the Um El Faroud in Valetta’s Grand Harbour.
MV Imperial Eagle
The 45 metre long Imperial Eagle began life in 1938 as a Royal Navy transport ship. She went on to carry out port-defence duties, cruises in the Thames and finally became a ferry in Malta and Gozo. She was scuttled off Qawra Point in Malta’s first marine park in July 1999 and landed upright. You can spend plenty of time on the upper deck, bridge and at the bridgehouse wheel. There are many areas with easy swim-throughs, as well as a more complicated engine-room that tech and sidemount divers will enjoy. A statue called Christ of the Sailors sits just off the bow, relocated here in 2000.
HMS Maori was a victim of a German air raid attack in the second world war. Originally a 115-metre-long British destroyer, only 42 metres is all that is left of her above the sand. This includes the main deck and part of the upper structure. Although she sunk in Valetta’s Grand Harbour in 1942, she was raised 3 years later. The forepart was then scuttled in St. Elmo Bay near the entrance to Marsamxett Harbour. HMS Maori lies upright on a sandy bottom with a slight tilt to her port side. In just 16 metres of water, she is a popular scuba diving site for beginners and freedivers.
The 40 metre Tugboat Rozi began life in the UK in 1958 as the Rossmore. From 1981 she operated for Tug Malta in the Grand Harbour of Valletta. Scuttled in 1992, She now lies upright on a sandy bottom in Cirkewwa. Her mast is at 20 metres, with most of the wreck between 30 and 34 metres depth. She is easily accessed from the shore and can be penetrated in areas such as the bridge and engine room. The wreck is teeming with marine life, including dusky grouper and barracuda.
Built in former East Germany in the 1960’s, the 52 metre long P29 was originally called Boltenhagen. She was a Kondor Class boat designed as a minesweeper but ended her life patrolling the Maltese coast as a border control vessel. The P29 was scuttled in 2007 as artificial reef and sits upright with the deepest part at 36 metres and the crow’s nest at 12. She is not too far from the Tugboat Rozi in Cirkewwa and is a perfect nitrox dive. Her stern is the closest point to the coast and her bow points out to sea, featuring an impressive deck gun.
HMS Stubborn was an ASDIC target that came to rest off Qawra Point in northern Malta in 1946. In 1943 she supported craft attacking the battleship Tirpitz and in 1944 she escaped multiple attacks by ships in the Norwegian Sea (including a whopping 36 depth charges!) She held the record for deepest dive ever by a submarine to 165m. The underwater cigar (as she is known to local divers) sits upright on the sandy seabed at 57m, listing to starboard. She is in great condition with 3 open escape hatches, conning-tower, torpedo-tubes and has an impressive 70-metre-long silhouette. This is a dive site for experienced trimix divers.
The pilot of the Bristol Beaufighter was forced to ditch at a speed of 100mph as he lost altitude following engine failure in 1943. The plane wreckage is easily accessible by speedboat from St Julian’s Bay and only covers an area of 13m by 8m. The twin-engine strike and torpedo aircraft lies upside-down at 38 metres on a sandy seabed. The port engine has one propellor and you can still see both engines, wings, some of the tail-section, the undercarriage, fuselage and landing gear. It is a great entry level technical training dive.
MV Karwela, Xlendi and Cominoland
At Xatt l-Ahmar three wrecks sit 50 metres apart on the southeastern coast of Gozo. They were all scuttled close to the shore to form an artificial reef.
The 80 metre long MV Xlendi was a roll on, roll off ferry. Sadly she sank upside down when it was scuttled in 1999. She is too unstable for going inside as the weight of the hull crushed the section above the deck during sinking. There are two large propellers sitting in the shallowest part however which are interesting. Recommended for divers with a deep specialty or higher as the seabed is at 43 metres.
The 50 metre long MV Karwela was a passenger ferry working between Malta and Gozo from 1986, with the capacity for 863 passengers. She was sunk in 2006 perfectly upright between 33-45 metres. Before she was scuttled, large holes were cut along her sides, making her 3 decks safe to penetrate with the correct training. The engine room, opulent stairwell and bridge are all fascinating areas for exploration. The wreck is popular with photographers.
The 35 metre long Cominoland was scuttled upright on the same date in August 2006. Originally a Second World War Royal Navy minelayer, she became a tourist vessel for daytrippers. You can explore 2 decks including the bridge and winch areas. The wreck is safely penetrated as the hatches, doors and windows were all removed prior to sinking. She is home to many nudibranchs and damselfish. Adjacent Xatt l-Aħmar reef is an ideal spot for a safety or deco stop.