Two shipwrecks found 2 nautical miles off the coast of the island of Kea in the Aegean Sea are the focus of “100 Years of Kea Shipwrecks” – a series of events from September 30 until October 2, marking the centenary since their sinking during World War I.
Kea mayor Yiannis Evangelou and the Friends of Kea Society have planned these celebrations (including an international conference) to cast light on the wrecks of the S/S Burdigala and the HMHS Britannic, the sister-ship of the RMS Titanic. Recently, a conference was also held at the Acropolis Museum in Athens, during which Evangelou expressed his hopes to promote the island as an international diving destination, since the wrecks are now the focus of an ambitious plan to create a state-of-the-art diving and exhibition center on the island.
The Friends of Kea Society President Byron Riginos said that the goal of the upcoming celebrations is to showcase the importance of the historical events that took place in 1916, when the two ships sank. The S/S Burdigala (also known as S/S Kaiser Friedrich) sank on November 14, 1916, northwest of the island, after hitting a mine laid by German submarine U73, though another version of the story wants the ship to have been torpedoed, and this is according to French sources. On November 21 of that same year, the HMHS Britannic sank after hitting a mine laid by the same German submarine that purportedly sank the S/S Burdigala.
The idea of holding centennial celebrations for these two wrecks came following an event held on the island titled “The Shipwrecks of Kea” in August 2015. The success of the event laid the groundwork for a proper “Centennial Celebration” to commemorate these two important disasters.
The other main ambition is to eventually create an underwater museum and diving center so that the wrecks and the mysteries still surrounding them can be solved and further studied. Angeliki Simosi, head of the Ephorate for Underwater Antiquities, supports the plan for the creation of an Aegean underwater museum on Kea. The Municipality of Kea has already submitted an application for funding through the cooperation program Interreg V-A Greece-Cyprus 2014-2020.
The centenary, under the aegis of South Aegean Prefect George Hatzimarkos, includes a pilot program to promote diving tourism with Kea as its focal point in the Cyclades, and the island of Leros in the Dodecanese.
CENTENNIAL PROGRAMM HIGHLIGHTS
Friday, September 30 | A team of technical divers place commemorative plaques at S/S Burdigala and HMHS Britannic shipwrecks. A flotilla of big and small vessels will visit the site and lay wreaths to honor lives lost in the wrecks.
Saturday, October 1
9:00 | Historians and notable speakers discuss the history surrounding the wrecks, the role of German U-Boats, the discovery of the S/S Burdigala and how it was studied from 2008 onwards.
14:30 | Guided tours to the Folk Museum of Kea, the Prehistoric Settlement of Aghja Irini and the picturesque Vourkari inner harbor.
21:00 | Gala dinner for delegates of the conference, VIPs, sponsors and guests with local cuisine and a music performance by the Kea Youths Ensemble.
Friday, October 2
9:00 | Conference on HMHS Britannic with an account of various underwater missions undertaken so far since the 1975 discovery of the ship by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Round-table discussion will include the participation of a number of experts.
15:30 | Tour of the Archeological Museum of Kea.
Other notable highlights include a video gallery, a painting and photography exhibition, and a display of memorabilia.