The Intriguing Depths of the Adriatic Sea
We can safely say that the traffic all across the Adriatic Sea was dense since the oldest times. This meant that there were also some ships which unfortunately haven't reached their destination or other safe port. Instead of happily reaching their destinations they have hit the bottom. For some, the shipwreck happened because of bad weather, not being familiar with the area (shallow waters, rocks or similar) and some were the victims of war events.
Today, they intrigue divers, photographers, archaeologists, recorders, history lovers etc. There is something magical in their silence, in knowing that the time stopped there, unexpectedly.
And while some were rich with historically important items and are protected - like cargo chips near the island of Gnalić, the others were not so interesting at the time, but they are all nowadays giving a home to different fish species, seaweed and corals. And the scenery is amazing!
Of course, diving into shipwrecks requires skill and experience in the underwater surrounding, which is why we recommend hiring a professional scuba escort. And you can find one in every larger settlement along the Croatian coast.
Let's see what the best diving spots are to explore some of the shipwrecks of the Adriatic.
Shipwrecks in Istria
Near the city of Pula, an 85-meter long passenger ship Baron Gautsch is greeting divers ever since it took a wrong turn and ended up in the minefield in 1914. This passenger ship operated a regular line between Trieste and Kotor and it is known locally as the ‘Little Titanic of the Adriatic’. A few miles away lays Giuseppe Dezza, a 65-meter Italian military vessel, which got bombed by a British aeroplane in 1944. According to some reports, this ship was sunk by a British aerial torpedo, which penetrated the ammunition locker and caused a massive explosion. Today the wreck lies at a depth of 30 – 60 m.
When it was clear that World War II is coming to an end, the Germans decided to destroy their submarines in order to prevent them from falling into Allied hands. One of them, Submarine 82 lies near Pula.
There are several other shipwrecks near the coast of Istria: Remorker (a good site for diving beginners) Hans Schmidt, (100-meter Dutch steamer), John Gilmore (a 50-meter long casualty of the Great War), Flamingo (an Italian warship which actually managed to stumble upon its own mine in 1914), Coriolanus (British intelligence vessel destroyed in 1945) and Varese (another Italian ship which, escaping a storm, ended up hitting a mine).
Shipwrecks in Kvarner
A Greek cargo ship called Peltastis was another victim of Adriatic storms. It sunk near Silo on the island of Krk. Its mast is only 8 meters beneath the water’s surface, which is accessible for diving beginners. A Scottish ship Lena, hit the island of Cres, probably because of the fog. This shipwreck is actually one of the first most divers explored in Croatia because its surroundings are impressive and it is easily accessible.
Shipwrecks in Dalmatia
If you visit north Dalmatia, which is a part around the town of Zadar make sure to visit Dugi otok and its shipwrecks. On the northern part of the island, near the popular Veli Rat lighthouse, you can find a wreck of the ship Michelle, which went ashore in 1983. and today serves as a home to many fishes, and even some coral formations. Parts of the boat can even be seen from the coast since the waters are shallow in this area. It is a great experience even with basic snorkelling gear.
In Lučica Bay, there are two shipwrecks: one cargo ship from World War II which was hit by an Italian bomber and one Croatian passenger ship.
In central Dalmatia, near the islands of Čiovo and Šolta, you will find two fishing boats which ended up on the bottom of the sea. Close to the island of Vis lies a ship called Brijuni which sunk during a strong storm in 1930.
A bit to the north, near Kaprije (Šibenik region), lies the German warship Francesca da Rimini. Transporting ammunition for the German troops in North Africa, this ship was at anchor in front of the Island of Kaprije with an engine failure. Two British spitfires spotted the ship and sank her with aerial torpedoes.
There is also one wreck to explore near Dubrovnik – an Italian warship which also sunk after hitting a mine, in World War II.
Other wrecks in the Adriatic Sea
Don’t think this is it, many more shipwrecks await curious divers in the Adriatic Sea! To find them the best is to contact the local diving club.
In the end, we must also mention aeroplane wrecks! Yes, the Adriatic is full of those also. For example, so far, more than 30 sunken aircraft have been found in the waters of Vis! Three of them are the most “popular”: B-24 Liberator "Tulsamerican" which lies at a depth of 40 – 55m (1944), Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at a depth of 65m- 72m (1944) and B-24H Liberator "Lady Luck" also crashed in 1944, which lies on 86 – 92 m of depth.
Preserving the Shipwrecks of the Adriatic
The shipwrecks of the Adriatic are invaluable historical and cultural resources. They are protected by various national and international laws to prevent looting and damage. Divers are encouraged to respect these underwater heritage sites and to follow a "look but don't touch" policy.
The Adriatic Sea, with its wealth of shipwrecks, offers a unique window into the past. Each shipwreck has a story to tell, from tales of ancient trade and warfare to poignant reminders of the World Wars. As we explore these underwater time capsules, we gain a deeper understanding of our shared maritime heritage. So, join us as we continue to unveil the mysteries of the Adriatic, one shipwreck at a time.
Do I need a special permit to dive at shipwreck sites in Croatia?
Yes, diving at certain shipwreck sites in Croatia requires a permit. It's best to check with local diving centers or the Croatian Ministry of Culture for specific information.
What are some of the most famous shipwrecks in Croatia?
Some of the most famous shipwrecks in Croatia include the Baron Gautsch, a passenger ship that sank in 1914, and the Coriolanus, a British intelligence vessel destroyed in 1945.
What kind of marine life can I expect to see at Croatian shipwreck sites?
Divers can expect to see a variety of marine life at Croatian shipwreck sites, including various species of fish, octopuses, and occasionally, dolphins. The wrecks also host a variety of coral and sponge species.
Where can I find shipwrecks in Croatia?
Shipwrecks can be found all along the Croatian coastline, with a high concentration in the Adriatic Sea. Popular locations include the Istrian Peninsula, Kvarner Bay, and the Dalmatian Coast.