searching through the archives of Menorca's daily newspaper, the
'Diario de Menorca', has only revealed a short report about her
sinking, a week or so after the occurrence.
Although nothing is known of her history or how the Ocean Diver,
a river barge, was brought to Menorca, the very little information
there is about her is that she arrived in Mahon painted blue and
was owned or operated by a group of young people who apparently
had the intention of using her for scuba diving excursions. In 1987,
being unable to pay for the outstanding port fees, her crew disappeared
and she lay abandoned in Mahon Harbour.
Later, in 1989 when major modernization work was initiated on the
quayside, she was towed across to the naval base where she would
stay a further two years. Whilst she slowly rusted away, the Consell
de Menorca (Island Council) together with the Port Authority became
worried about the consequences if she were to sink in the Port of
Mahon. Since she had no value for salvage, it was decided to ask
the department of Marine Biology of the University of the Balearic
Islands to study the possibility of sinking her to create an artificial
reef. They were in favor of this and together with the Ministry
of Agriculture and Fisheries, it was decided to sink her off Son
Bou beach. This position would also create an obstacle for trawlers,
who in Spain are not permitted to trawl in less than 50m of water
in order to conserve the Neptunegrass beds Posidonia oceanica, although
they regularly do so in times of bad weather.
The Neptunegrass, which is commonly seen as brown strands of weed
piled up on beaches is biologically very important to the health
of the Mediterranean. It is a green flowering plant that has adapted
to the sea and not only does it produce oxygen in great abundance
but provides a home and feeding ground for countless species of
Diver was finally towed out by the Naval Authorities and sunk off
Son Bou beach on the 26th of November 1991.
THE WRECK TODAY
The wreck of the Ocean Diver is located some 1.25 km off the centre
of Son Bou beach on the south coast of Menorca and lays at a depth
of 27 metres.
Once in the water, the wreck is often visible from the surface,
making the descent towards her quite easy and after a few moments
her vague outline in the dark blue below soon reveals a ship in
the form of a medium sized barge. Measuring 23 metres in length
and 5.8 metres in width she sits upright on a flat sandy bottom
that is completely covered in Neptunegrass.
Since we made the drawing of this wreck some 10 years ago (1997)
she has deteriorated quite significantly. Originally she only had
some damage to her starboard hull and the floor of the wheelhouse
missing, now however she is slowly beginning to break up and it
is possible that in the not too distant future the wheel house may
collapse into the hull.
Unlike other deeper wrecks around Menorca, this wreck does not seem
to attract the same large numbers of fish, although she is very
well colonized with benthic marine life; her hull and wheelhouse
being densely covered in algae together with many hydroids. The
beautiful translucent sea squirt Clavelina lepadiformis is
also well represented here, as are several species of small nudibranch.
Within their preferred shaded habitat of the wheelhouse and forward
store room, sponges and sea mosses remain very few and have yet
to colonize the wreck.
The Cardinal fish Apogon imberbis is commonly seen all around
Menorca in shaded areas under rocky outcrops and in caverns, it
is however more abundant on the Ocean Diver wreck than anywhere
else and at times several hundred may gather in the wheelhouse,
with many more in the engine room.
On a recent visit to the wreck, two medium sized Golden Grouper
Epinephelus alexandrinus were actively preying on these,
dispersing them into every available hiding place. Note that it
is not advisable to enter the wheelhouse as there are numerous suspended
cables, however these fish may be best observed from a broken window
in the rear of the wheelhouse.
By looking carefully, as these are well camouflaged,
beach on the south coast of Menorca
(Posidonia Oceanica) is very widespread in the shallower waters
of the Mediterranean sea and plays a vital role as a habitat
and feeding ground for countless species. Neptunegrass is to
the Mediterranean as coral reefs are to tropical waters. In
addition Neptunegrass is very important for the health of the
waters in that it produces up to 10 liters of oxygen per day,
which is not only diffused into the sea but eventually into
the atmosphere. Neptunegrass is not an algea but is a flowering
plant, the rarely observed flowers can be seen in this image
which was taken off the south coast of menorca in November.
Posidonia Oceanica is only found in the Mediterranean and on
the south coast of Australia.
veiw of the Ocean Diver from bow.