Logbook III – S/S Burdigala – Third mission (May 31st – June 5th 2010)
September 16th, 2009
On September 16th, 2009, a new application was filed with the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities (Greek Agency for Marine Archaeology) requesting for a new dive permit. We plan to undertake a new expedition between May 31st and June 5th, 2010.
September 24th, 2009
Our new dive permit application for a 2010 expedition has been registered under the case number 5147/24.09.2009, in the registry of correspondence of the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, an Agency of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture (MoC).
December 2nd, 2009
On December 2nd, 2009, our dive application together with a positive recommendation of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, was sent -under the case number Φ4/14/5147/2.12.09-, to the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage – Ministry of Culture.
December 15th, 2009
On December 15th, 2009, our new dive application reached the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage – Hellenic Ministry of Culture, and has been registered under the case number 112327/2173/15.12.09. Noting that the formation of the Central Council of Modern Cultural Monuments is delayed, -as a result of the parliamentary elections of Oct. ’09 and the formation of the new Socialist Government-, we have to wait patiently, regarding the review of our application, until the beginning of 2010.
February 18th, 2010
Today, after a telephone call to the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage – Hellenic Ministry of Culture, we have been informed that the Central Council of Modern Cultural Monuments has not been formed yet.
March 1st, 2010
Today the Directorate of Modern Cultural Heritage – Hellenic Ministry of Culture, informed us that that the Central Council of Modern Cultural Monuments has been formatted on the 26th of February 2010. We now expect the Council’s opinion, assessment and decision regarding our request.
May 2nd, 2010
We have the pleasure to inform the friends of our collaborative effort and readers of this site, that the dive permit application which our team had filed on September 16, 2009 with the Department of Underwater Antiquities (EEA), under protocol number 5147/24.09.2009 – was approved unanimously by the Central Council for Modern Monuments (KSNM) of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism (YPPOT), during meeting # 5/29.04.10.
Hence, in view of the said approval, our research team will conduct dives to the wreck of the ship, allegedly S S BURDIGALA, ex S S KAISER FRIEDRICH, which is sunk in the northwest of the island of Kea, Cyclades, Greece, from 31st May to June 5th, 2010. The team of divers will be accompanied by a representative of the Department of Underwater Antiquities whose travel expenses and subsistence allowance will be covered by the diving team.
As in all previous missions, there will be an activity log which will be updated on a daily basis informing our readers of progress made, with text and photographs.
We hope to have you with us.
The SS Burdigala Project team.
First day, May 31st, 2010
After a full year of patience and perseverance, after many efforts, phone calls, letters and personal contacts, the team has finally managed to be again on the island of Kea, in order to dive the shipwreck of S S Burdigala, which we initially dived for the first time in September 0f 2008.
This year team members include: Yiannis Protopappas, George Vandoros, George Karelas, Damianos Veropoulos, Byron Riginos, Dimitris Galon and Stavros Aposporis. The dive mission has been granted with a permit, unanimously approved by the Central Council of Modern Monuments of the Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a signed authorization from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities-EUA, and a permit by the Lavrion Port Authority; we will conduct dives to the wreck, accompanied throughout the duration of the mission by staff supervisor of the EUA Mr. Iordanis Organtzoglou.
The first day of the mission, Monday May 31st, was focused on creating all those conditions that would facilitate our stay on the island, and would form the basis for safe and enjoyable dives. Apart from our contacts with the authorities, we set up the station for mixing gases and filling bottles, which is located in Otzia area, was generously granted by a resident of the island Mr. Stamatis Paouris. The 24 industrial cylinders of oxygen and helium, which are essential ingredients for our diving gases, were transported to the island over the weekend and were installed today, along with the air compressor granted by Paramina Co. Meetings took place among members of the mission, during which the targets for the next days and priorities regarding the areas of photography and video during the dives were set. The first day which was packed with important tasks, was finished by an excellent meal prepared by our teammate Damianos Veropoulos.
Unfortunately due to a strike of ferry ships on Monday, the representative from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Mr Iordanis Organtzoglou, was unable to reach the island and was forced wait for next day catching the first ship of the line. So hopefully, after contact with officers of the Harbour Station in Kea, we will start together for our first dive of the year 2010 continuing our research of the S S Burdigala, ex S S Kaiser Friedrich, which we have longed to do all winter.
The S S Burdigala Project 2010 began with good omens, with the support of the authorities, the weather and our friends and supporters. We hope that the mission will finish as well as it has began.
Second day, June 1st, 2010
Today is the second day of the S S Burdigala Project and the first day of diving.
After the arrival of the supervisor of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and settling some last details with the Kea Port Authority, we loaded our diving equipment and sailed for the nearby dive spot. Our main purpose was to lay a permanent anchor line for the entire duration of the mission, affixed at the center of the ship, so that for the next few days even under adverse weather conditions, to have the opportunity to secure the vessel and proceed with our planned visits to selected parts of the shipwreck. The secondary goal was to scooter along the starboard side of the wreck, just above the bottom line, so as to see if there are still remnants scattered of the great ship’s smokestacks. Our dive plan was set with a bottom time of 30 minutes at -70 meters depth.
We started from the port of Korissia under very good weather conditions with barely few ripples on the sea surface. After locating the shipwreck’s position with the sonar, the dive line was set and soon the first diving team was ready and fell into the water. All along the diving platform M/S BENITOS, was circling above the buoys, always ready to assist the divers in case of emergency.
After completing the fastening of the anchoring line, executed with great care so as not to cause any damage to the shipwreck, the team began the planned scooting towards to bow section. Reaching the point where we had previously identified the bell of the ship, we stopped to check it and to photograph it. From this point on, making a turn, went deeper at the bottom and inspected the entire starboard (west) side of the hull spanning from bow to stern. During our search we found the huge chimneys of the ship, two of which are in good condition, while the third at the stern is almost entirely disintegrated. Although we carefully looked to spot the embossed metal “cock” on the funnels, the trademark of the French company which owned S S Burdigala, i.e. Compagnie de Navigation Sud-Atlantique, we were unable to notice them. Then headed toward the point of the hull rupture (amidships), to find that while the upper part of the rupture with approx. length of 15 m, the hull at the very bottom remains united, although tilted.
For the last part of the dive we elevated toward the upper section of the ship and headed, passing over the deck, to the bow at the point where as the dive line was fastened. It was wonderful. A huge variety of fish, consisting of blackfish, bream, sea bream and big sheepshead made their presence felt everywhere, finding refuge among the bare frames, under the decks and accommodation spaces of the huge ocean liner. Upon reaching the dive line we began to ascend; at the surface the weather had deteriorated dramatically. The wind direction had changed and a strong southerly of force six Beaufort was creating great swells to the point that the planned second dive was aborted. Hopefully tomorrow we will have better weather in the Kea Channel, the “Neighborhood of Shipwrecks.”
Having logged 115 minutes of total dive time, after having carried out successfully the main objectives of our first dive day, we set out for the Port of Korissia. We were once again fortunate to be visiting this beautiful shipwreck, the ‘Kaiser’ of the Strait of Kea, which we love so much.
Third day, June 2nd, 2010
The day started with bad weather. The strong Mistral (Northerlies) which kept blowing during the night with force 5-6 on the Beaufort scale, had developed large waves on the Kea Channel, conditions that forced us to abort our morning dive attempt, returning back to Korissia Port. Early in the afternoon the wind eased off, allowing us to set out again for our planned dive. Our goals for today were to inspect the stern area, explore the area around the aft cannons, examine the propellers and the starboard aft section of the hull, near the alleged bottom rift which according to Captain Roland, was the cause for the sinking of S S Burdigala.
From the surface up to forty meters deep the current was quite strong, but thereafter conditions were tranquil. The water was pristine clear with the characteristic crystal blue color of the Aegean Sea. Upon reaching the anchorage point we checked fittings and ropes and then commenced to scooter toward the stern. In the passage we saw blackfish, bream, groupers and other fish in the most unlikely corners of the deck. Upon reaching the stern, we observed many spent cartridge shells fallen next to the two stern cannons plus an ammunition box with unused shells, all richly covered by benthic organisms. We then slowly reached the bottom to photograph the twin, huge three-bladed propellers at a depth of -74 meters.
The port side propeller, despite missing a blade, is the one which remains unburied in the sand and dominates the vicinity. The starboard side propeller is submerged in the sand with only one blade partially exposed. The two huge prop shafts made a great impression to us. While photographing, suddenly appeared from nowhere a large school of amberacks (Seriola dumerili) which started attacking in frenzy large schools of fish which were just under the stern of the wreck. It was a wonderful spectacle similar of which we had never seen before. The amberjacks lingered on staying within arms touch, and accompanied us with curiosity throughout the duration of our dive.
Heading towards the starboard side stern area of the ship, we thoroughly inspected the entire side hoping to locate the rupture which was caused by the impact with a sea mine laid by the German submarine U-73, and the ensuing explosion which is attributed as the cause for the sinking of the ocean liner. Nevertheless, we observed nothing in this specific area. No evidence of rupture, no opening, rivets and sheathing were untouched. Reaching the sandy bottom we investigated the area where the ship touches the bottom, hoping to find the rupture there but failed to do so. Perhaps this explosion could have occurred closer to the keel which is buried deep in the sand. Calculating our remaining bottom time, in accordance with our dive plan, we decided to coast along the entire starboard side of the hull, up to the bow, investigating along the way the fallen chimneys that we’ve identified on the bottom the previous day.
Arriving at the bow, and accompanied by the amberjacks, which showed great curiosity about us, we ascended to the fore deck near the two cannons from where we continued ascending to the first decompression point fitted with a dive bar. Tomorrow we plan to wake up early so as to commence as early as possible on our first dive, taking advantage of the forecasted good weather conditions anticipated to hold up until the afternoon.
Forth and fifth day, 3rd & 4th, June, 2010
Due to the frequent dives, pressing schedules and accumulated fatigue, which became very apparent to our team, we were forced to deviate from the hitherto daily updates of our log, so today we post reports from our diving activities pertaining to the fourth and fifth days of the mission, namely the 3rd and 4th June 2010.
The last two days were very busy as the relatively good weather allowed us to achieve a total of four dives, with a duration of eight hours. Although after 15:00 hours we had to deal with a consistent Southwesterly sometimes gusting or exceeding 6 Beauforts; nevertheless, with the help of our stable anchorages installed during our first dive and with proper planning, we were able to realize the goals we had set. The main objectives of the first day were the research of the bow area, the superstructure amidships and near the bottom, focusing around the main rupture of the shipwreck. The main objectives of the second day involved the research of the stern area, plus photographing and videotaping the vicinity of the engine room.
Diving and researching the area of the bow and superstructure, beyond the satisfaction we felt when we saw objects known to us from previous dives to be still in their positions, a fact indicating that from Sept. 2008 until now there has been no pilfering and looting of the wreck, as for example the small portable lantern located at the port side (red signal course light) attests. In addition, other factors which lead to the strengthening of the history of the ship as a military transport during the First World War become evident. Along the deck on both sides of the ship’s deck are external toilets which were designed and fitted so as to serve the great number of troops transported to support the Gallipoli war theater. Under the forecastle are multi-level accommodation rooms, equipped with several beds of which just the metal skeletons remain visible. Besides the baths and wash basins in the region of the first class passengers, combined with the existence of their own beds, these cabin rooms can be considered as an indication that these places were equipped to accommodate senior ranking officers.
Near the main hull rupture spanning about 10 meters, the outwardly bent metal parts of the wreck and some of the frames, support our initial opinion that there was an explosion inside the vessel. Perhaps this big explosion was due to the influx of sea water into one of the boiler rooms after the impact of the hull with the sea mine, as has been postulated, not only by historians and researchers but from eye witnesses like Jean Lolio, a ship’s stoker, who recounted in great detail the sinking of S S Burdigala to his grandson Andre Duran. The seabed around the rupture is filled with heaps of various known and unknown to us objects which are in turn covered with benthic organisms. Among them are elegant metal artifacts such as bench parts, which adorned the main promenade deck in the first class passengers quarters, whose style and aesthetics reveals their origins as being of the Imperial Germany in the late 19th century When the ship was still named “Schnellpostdampfer Kaiser Friedrich” and sailled under the ownership of one of the most famous transatlantic shipping companies of the times, the Norddeutscher Lloyd also known as NDL.
Researching the stern, aside from the known existence of two cannons, we encountered numerous ammunitions for firearms of large and small caliber, some of which had been used and some not. Some still don the projectile and are in a generally good condition. It was impressive to note that although many of the metal walls of the superstructure have collapsed, a lot of the wooden deck planking has remained almost intact.
Poking around the engine room was very important not only for the “photogenic” interesting space, the encounter of massive growth of dark light loving marine organisms, but for the historicity of the space, expressed through the particular technology of the rare twin, five cylindered, reciprocating engine of quad expansion, which powered the twin three-bladed propellers which we saw and photographed the previous day. Although the engine and boiler room areas are partially covered by a lot of debris, the area is relatively “clean” so that the cylinders, relief valves, steam pressure valves and the metal stairways leading to different levels of the machinery are visible and accessible.
Tomorrow marks the last day of this year’s mission. Though the weather forecast for early morning predicts no wind, the southerlies whose intensity we have tasted in recent days, may cause us some problems. Therefore, we have decided to start early in the morning in order to tackle the demanding program of the finishing day, which in addition to further research of the shipwreck includes the release and recovery of the anchorage of our diving platform, M/S Benitos, plus the dive line.
Sixth day, June 5th, 2010
We have reached the last day of the SS Burdigala Project. We sailed from the port of Korissia under a heavily clouded gray sky full of rain promises. The sea was calm and stable over the “current”, which seem not to ever stop in the Kea Channel. For finishing the mission we had two objectives; the first was to visit to the aft region and photograph again the the starboard side propeller and at the same time video the wider aft area. The second objective was to undo the mooring and dive lines which were carefully fastened (so as not to cause any damage) onto the hull of the shipwreck. For the completion of these objectives the dives were split in two groups; the first to dive at the stern and then allocate the remaining dive time at will, while the second group would undertake the long and difficult task of releasing the lines.
By the time the first group was ready and jumped into the water, the rain started. In the Kea Channel, from Makronisos (Long-Island) to the Straits of Cavo Doro in southern Evia, a blur spread covering the land masses like a winter fairytale. At times only the large commercial ships crossing the channel became visible, only to vanish soon after a within the heavy haze. The dive started with serious doubts regarding ambient light conditions below the water, suitable for photography and video; in essence conditions could be described as a “night dive”, accentuated by reduced daylight conditions at a depth of -74 meters, where the propellers are located. Nevertheless, we did photograph and filmed successfully after adjusting cameras and strobe lights accordingly, while the team was eagerly awaiting the visit of the friendly amberjack fish, which regretfully did not appear this time. During our stay in the area around the propellers, it was noticed that the sea bottom is “fraught” with ammunition and unidentified debris. A large square structure, which by an initial assessment seemed to be a mine anchor, proved to be a component of the superstructure of the ship’s stern, which probably hit the seabed after detachment during the sinking.
Concluding the visit to this area and after an “apocalyptic scooting” over the decks of S S Burdigala, our sets of underwater lighting revealed many fish species, among them golden bream and sea bream, the team arrived near the bow. The aim was to explore a forecastle locker into which during the first mission of 2008, we had noted the storage of a number of large sized portable ship lanterns. The items were quickly identified while the prevailing better ambient light conditions allowed us to take some photos. The highlight of this small survey was the fact that by this point our list of all the known to us objects from previous dives was completed. Nothing was missing; all items we photographed and identified, during the first mission of KDE in 2008, seemed to be in position, at the points where fate, time, and history mandated. The rest of the dive time was used for offering our last farewell to the shipwreck, which we so admired and adored and so earnestly have investigated, via continuous passages with our underwater scooters, Chris-crossing over the bridge and the forecastle, wide off the bow and stern to get distant shots of the impressive S S Burdigala, emerging full of mystery and awe through the magic of the sea bottom lighting.
Back on the surface the summer rain continued relentlessly. After the ascent of the first group, the second group prepared and dived in water. The team was equipped with the necessary tools to unlock the keys of the anchor and dive lines from the hull of the shipwreck, which had kept us and the diving platform M/S BENITOS well secured all along the mission. Shortly after letting go of the anchor line and while BENITOS was circling around the dive line buoy, we saw the anchor marker drifting slowly away by the current. It was the signal for recovering the mooring line. After the dive of the second group ended successfully, without any problems for raising the dive line, the shipwreck was left untouched, exactly as we had found her. Preparing for our departure, we did few salutation circles, bidding our last farewell over the wreck; during these we watched the huge mass of the sunken ocean liner on our sonar screen which indeed marked the end of the S S Burdigala Project 2010 and completed this great research in history and the seabed, having started about three years ago by the first KDE 2008 mission.
We are confident that the strong interest, emotions, alertness, moments of sheer historical and diving adventure, these feelings will continue to accompany those who participated either as members of the missions or as readers, for a long time, defining the scope of the potential that can be achieved by an amateur but determined and close knit team of divers and researchers, able to meet all the targets that were set.
Lastly we wish to finish this summary of the last day of diving, by thanking first and foremost, all the state institutions which considered, approved and supported, the historical and diving aspects of our research efforts. We also wish thank the supervisor of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, Mr. Iordanis Organtzoglou, who was not only an important adviser during the mission, but also an important assistant, not merely in the role of observer offering a helping hand wherever needed, as for example transporting gas cylinders and equipment on land and during operations for the provision of necessary equipment to divers.
We hereby declare that all dives were made in accordance with the instructions of the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, namely:
– The research focused exclusively in the coordinates of the shipwreck.
– No objects were retrieved.
– No penetrations inside the ship were made; all places visited by divers of our mission were open and not considered as closed roof environment.
We thank you for escorting us as friends and as readers in history and in our diving voyage.