MS Zenobia – Wreck Diving

The Zenobia is a “Challenger-class, Roll-on/roll-off ferry” that sank during her maiden voyage, while exiting the port of Larnaca, Cyprus. The ship had originated from Sweden and was heading to Syria, but stopped in Cyprus after experiencing ballast problem. The ship sank after leaving the harbor but before the proper repairs could be made. She sank on the morning on the 7th of June 1980.

Who we dove with: Alpha Divers
Season: the best time of year is summer
Type of dive: wreck

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More Wreck History

The wreck is only a 7 minute ride from the harbor of Larnaca. Since the 178 m (584 ft)  boat, weighing and approximate 10,000 GRT, sank on its port side, the lifeboats were unable to be dispatched and sank along with the boat. Yet, there were no human causalities, though a few cattle on board did die. The ship has been carrying approximately 200 million euros worth of cargo, including large trucks, that can still be viewed by divers. The dive begins at 16m and ends at the boats final resting point on the ocean floor at an approximate 42 m.

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Diving The Wreck

The vast size of the ship is hard for a diver to compute. When we entered the water above the lifeboats, even at the surface with clear water, we could not see the whole ship. The bow and stern lost somewhere in the distance.

The ship is also sunk on its port size, which makes it hard for your brain to understand when you are swimming perpendicular to the decks. What should be a four stepped desk turns into a wall on your left hand-side. In order to allow your brain to understand the dimensions and space, it is easiest if the divers turn on their side, either for a few seconds of while swimming. This allows the brain to see the boat as it should be, if it was upright, allowing the brain to create a visual recognition of where you are and where pieces would properly belong.

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Dive Plan

Our morning session consisted of two dives, both of which were accessed via a boat entry into the water (aka, a giant step off the platform, followed by a giant splash into the sea). We then swam the few meters to the buoy and started our descent via a chain that ran directly from the lifeboats on board the sunken Zenobia. Both dives were a little over 30 minutes, with a maximum depth of around 36 meters.

After descending, during the first dive we made our way towards the giant propellers located on the starboard side, before entering a space between the doors of the ship that allowed us access to the cargo area, where the trucks had once been stacked one on top of the other. After swimming above the trucks, we made our way towards the stern, swimming past the captains bridge and room, and around the stern itself. From the stern we swam back to the chain located at the sunken lifeboats, via the desks. The deck of the boat is broken into four levels. In order for our minds to compute the “walk” up the decks we often turned sideways, making the deck appear as if it was bellow us, instead of to the side.

During the second dive, we entered the captains room through a small porthole and exiting via busted window. And then swam through the kitchen, which offered a flash back to the fashionable decor of the ‘70s.  The left-hand side wall had once been the floor of the mess hall and still had piece of the rugs handing from jarred metal, while the right hand size (prior ceiling) offers a mess of electrical wiring (keep left). After exiting the mess hall, also via a window, we swam back up the decks to the lifeboats, where we started our assent to the surface.

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Diving Company

We dove with Alpha Divers, which offered a wonderful experience. Chris had been in constant contact before our arrival to Cyprus and was most helpful with any questions we sent his way. We had been told that the group would not be larger than 6 divers, but as it turned out, we got a privately guided dive.  The other paying diver on our boat was finishing his PADI Advance course. They had us dive early, before the bus loads of other divers arrived. Our second dive was timed for the rest period of the other divers after their arrival. All three Alpha Diver guides, including, Chris, the captain, were British. Only later did we really come to understand how populated Cyprus was with Brits.

Alpha Divers cost a little more than some of the other companies on the island, but their personalities, small groups, and excellent rental equipment made it well worth the cost for such an amazing wreck dive. For the two of us the cost was around 220 euros, including 2 dive safari with guide (90 euros each), full equipment rental (15 euros each), nitrox filled tanks (28%), and boat travel to the wreck (onboard the Alpha Diver’s personal boat).

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