The Ministry of Culture and Sports has announced a decision that will give recreational scuba divers access to 11 historic shipwrecks in Greek territorial waters. Organized visits to the wreck sites by accredited dive schools and tour operators will only be permitted following the submission of the necessary paperwork to the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the department responsible for safeguarding the country’s submerged cultural sites.
Scuba diving has become an increasingly popular recreational activity in Greece in recent years, drawing thousands of tourists each year eager to explore the country’s spectacular variety of underwater sites. This is especially the case for wreck diving, which, until recently, was largely prohibited due to concerns over the looting of priceless antiquities.
Following the decision, scuba divers will now be able to visit 11 new wreck sites, although access will be strictly non-intrusive, and limited to the outside of the wreck. Entering the wreck remains forbidden. Only research teams with the necessary permission from the Ephorate will be able to access the inside of the wrecks.
The following wrecks have been made accessible:
HMHS Britannic, Kea (British ocean liner and sister ship of the famous Titanic, sank in 1916); SS Burdigala, Kea (German ocean liner, sank in 1916); SS Patris, Kea (paddle steamer, sank in 1868); SS Artemis Pita, Milos (Greek cargo steamer, sank in 1943); SS Sifnos, Milos (Greek cargo steamer, sank in 1941); SS Minnewaska, Marathi, Crete (British steamer, sank in 1916); SS Mytilene, Bay of Kypsa Kassandra, Halkidiki (German cargo ship, sank in 1961); the Turkish shipwreck at Kalamitsi, Chalkidiki (sank in the first two decades of the 20th century); SS Creteland, Aghios Georgios, Evia (Greek cargo steamer, sank in 1930); SS Pioneer I, Lichades, Evia (cement ship, sank in 1944); SS Volos, Lefteris reef, between Pelion and Skiathos (German steamer, sank in 1931).
According to the terms of the Joint Ministerial Decision of the Ministers of National Defence Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni, and Shipping and Island Policy Yannis Plakiotakis, interested parties must contact the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities at the following email address: [email protected].
Divers are prohibited from touching any part of the wreck or removing any objects from the surrounding seabed. Extreme care must also be taken not to disturb any of the sediments in the wider area, so as not to uncover artifacts that may be related to the wreck.
It is anticipated that the Ministry of Culture will include further shipwrecks on the above list in due course.