Posted 21 March 2016
MALTA'S GHOST FLEET
To enjoy the wreck-diving possibilities of Malta to the full, it helps if you’re a technical diver. CATH BATES went to see how many good dives mixed gas would enable her to fit into a week. Pictures: Peter G. Lemon
Posted 21 March 2016
To enjoy the wreck-diving possibilities of Malta to the full, it helps if you’re a technical diver. CATH BATES went to see how many good dives mixed gas would enable her to fit into a week. Pictures: Peter G. Lemon
MALTA'S GHOST FLEET
MALTA HAS AN ENTIRE GHOST FLEET of ships from all corners of history, and not only from the two world wars. There are paddle-steamers, destroyers, aircraft, ferries, submarines and battleships. Some are deep, some shallow, some hard and some easy. So where on Earth should I start?

There are more monuments in Malta per square metre than in any other country, and the same must go for the sheer volume of wreck-sites.

Having recently finished working for a dive-centre myself, I figured that the best way to decide on the wrecks to feature in this article would be to ask the opinion of the local experts. 
Where would they choose to go if they had a week off diving for fun in Malta?

The country I am sent to visit after spending 11 years working in Egypt has one of the lowest Muslim populations in the world, but the Arabs did conquer the islands in 870AD, and their influence is evident in the otherwise heavily Christian architecture, and also in the language. 
Malta hosts 100,000 divers each year, a massive achievement for such a small location. Flight prices from the UK are more than reasonable and additional dive-bag charges low.

Three and 4* accommodation is affordable and there are plenty of cheap eateries and apris-dive bars.

I took my equipment to Dive/Techwise and met my guide Steve Scerri and the owners of the centre, Alan and Viv Whitehead. Alan is a Platinum Course Director for PADI and an Instructor Trainer for TDI, DSAT and IANTD.

Techwise is “GUE-friendly” but does not alienate non-GUE divers in any way. Alan has a great sense of humour (“they Go Up Eventually…”) while maintaining an emphasis on safety. 
He is clearly a highly skilled technical instructor and is in the water most days, while Viv, a bubbly redhead, is in charge of logistics and runs a well-organised office.

Steve gave up his “proper” job recently to become a full-time instructor, and is very much in love with his JJ rebreather. He discussed dive-planning at length, always gave an interesting dive-briefing and even blended our gas for us.

The staff were up-front – they didn’t once promise to deliver something they couldn’t, or gloss over what was out of their hands, such as weather conditions. 

LIGHTER X127
According to Alan, the Lighter X127 is “the most historically interesting wreck in all of Malta”. It was involved in helping the injured in WW1’s Gallipoli Landings.

David Mallard, who finally determined in 2003 that the wreck was that of the X127, has dived with Alan a lot.

The wreck is accessible via Manoel Island, and after descending just a few steps into the green harbour water, you come across it within a few minutes.

The bow is at 5m, but we followed the port side to begin our dive at the deepest part, the stern, at just 22m.

The simple multi-level profile along the wreck’s furry 35m length is easy even for an Open Water Diver.

We weaved our way up, looking into the engine-room with its 5.5-tonne twin-cylinder Campbell engine. X127 was initially a water-carrier, and from the deck you can see six hatches, with both water-tanks and Tangye pumps inside.

During WW1 she became a rescue vessel, helping to remove troops and horses from battle. The footholds for the horses are on the foredeck.

Nicknamed Black Beetles, these ships were designed like Thames river barges to handle steep beaches.

It was in Malta tha


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