The last shipping of “Giannoula K”
The last shipping of “Giannoula K”. Shipwrecks always have something mysterious about them. As unique witnesses to what passed by and was lost forever, they open astonishing windows into the past and challenge you to look within them to discover an unknown world. They often allude to historical events or tragic human errors. Diving into a shipwreck is never simple; the waters are murky and dark, and cold ocean currents push you towards unknown directions. The ship itself doesn’t allow you to approach, as exposed sharp metal and the risk of parts collapsing pose a permanent threat to divers. In the deep, opaque waters, you learn to see things that others overlook, to recognize unique details: where the destruction began, how the ship sank, which parts are corroded more, and how the wreck slowly but steadily becomes one with the seabed and the underwater world.
We find ourselves in the area of Plimmiri on the southeast side of the Vlycha Peninsula, 85 km from the city of Rhodes. A quiet sandy beach stretches for 3-4 km, almost uninhabited, with only a small harbor used as a fishing shelter and a tavern with excellent fish, standing in this solitude for the past 30 years. The owner remembers and recounted to us the story of the shipwreck about a mile off Plimmiri Beach.
The “Giannoula K,” a cargo ship built in the Netherlands that set sail in 1953, after a tumultuous life changing owners and names multiple times, was destined to sink in Plimmiri 28 years later. It was a 110-meter-long motorship carrying iron ore. It ran aground off the island of Rhodes when it hit a reef known as Examil (due to its distance from the shore). In an attempt to save the cargo, the captain brought the ship as close to the shore as possible. When it reached a mile, the crew abandoned the ship, which remained tied and unmanned for a few days until the owning company came to salvage the cargo. However, due to rough seas and water ingress, the ship couldn’t withstand the pressure, tilted to the right, and sank into the sandy bottom.
Today, the stern lies at a depth of 15 meters, and the bow reaches a depth of 23 meters. Until 1995, the ship’s masts protruded above the surface, and one could see the wreck from the shore! Later, they broke (some say due to rust, others due to extensive use of dynamite by fishermen), and now they barely rise to the sea surface.
The wreck, in very good condition, has become a shelter for various small fish (parrotfish, small groupers, octopuses, damselfish) and a small variety of marine crustaceans. Recently, it has started to become a colony of sponges. As it is quite far from the coast, larger fish (barracudas, sharks, tunas, and other open-sea species) sometimes visit. Ironically, illegal fishing in the area remains uncontrolled, with reports of fishermen using dynamite causing visible damage to both the wreck and the seabed.
Divers from various diving centers and professional divers, as well as tourists, occasionally visit the wreck to photograph it primarily, and the more adventurous ones explore it. Because it is relatively recent, there is no danger of parts or objects of the ship collapsing, making the access of divers not particularly dangerous. Summer is usually suitable for dives because there are no strong currents, and visibility and water transparency are better. The depth of the wreck is relatively shallow, allowing for more extended diving time.
Access is only possible by inflatable or smaller boats, anchored to the ship’s masts. The dive starts from the stern, the most accessible point due to the shallower depth. There, the ship’s compartments are in very good condition, and the ship’s propeller is visible. Swimming towards the edges of the rudder, the visit begins from the first large mast. Sliding through the openings of the mast, you progress to the next masts and gradually explore other parts of the ship. This leads to the bow of the vessel, which is in integral condition, where one can see the chain of one anchor unwound, while the other anchor, which did not have time to unwind, remains in its position!
In the sand around the ship, there are many crustaceans (shells, conches, etc.), various types of algae, and sponges. Scattered on the seabed are many remnants of the ship (sheets, iron, the ship’s funnel) that have become nests for small fish. The dive concludes with a gradual ascent (preventive decompression) using the ship’s masts as a guide. This unforgettable experience is completed with a good meal at the local tavern. Our diving companions share that despite their numerous diving experiences, diving into a shipwreck is always something special. It’s a unique personal experience that fills you with awe: a ghost ship that once buzzed with life, navigating the world’s seas and now lies on the ocean floor. Human constructions and personal items decay, and human arrogance lies among the shells and humble seaweed. The mind retains images from various points of the ship, as if penetrating the depths of a world you never knew but gradually becoming one with it.
The Divesite “Giannoula K”