It was a full Maverick this Saturday 26th February with 10 divers attending the SS Maloja and SS Empress of Fort William anniversary dive weekend. Forecast was a bright and sunny day with half a metre swell and moderate breeze. A smorgasbord of fodder was brought on board by a number of divers for post dive sharing, including doughnuts and Greggs sausage rolls. Ropes off was a relaxing 09.15am for the short transit to the Maloja.
As Maverick left port, that half metre forecast was more like 2 metres this neap and ebbing clean tide. Maverick was pitching and rolling, which left a couple of divers a little green around the gills.
Having arrived at site and the shot laid, donning kit was challenging in the swell. Kitting up two by two and jumping in pairs, it took some time to get all divers in the water, but being a neap slack water, there was plenty of time.
The Maloja sits on a sandy bed with shifting sandbars, meaning the site is constantly changing. With the recent storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin the previous fortnight, divers were eager to explore the wreck.
Run time was a good 60 to 70 minutes for the majority of divers, all reporting a light average 1 to 2 metres visibility, but varying throughout the site. Water temperature was 9degC.
All divers safely on board and back to port for tea, hot sausage rolls and doughnuts!
Sunday’s forecast was in and with an increased sea state and winds, our Sunday dive to the SS Empress of Fort William was unfortunately cancelled.
So with no gas refills needed for Sunday, it was a quick snifter in Cullins Yard, shower and for all to meet at the Premier Inn to watch the rugby. Saturday evening dinner was at the Aspendos Turkish restaurant, two family style sharing platters easily catering for the 9 diners.
For the majority of divers, most had never dived the Maloja before. For sure therefore, she has to be on the itinerary for future dives as there is still more exploration and discoveries to be made. Being a close inshore wreck, visibility will be challenging for some divers, but with a flat layout, no overhead dangers and shallow 22m depth, an ideal recreational dive with long bottom times.
Sailing from Tilbury to Bombay with 122 passengers, 301 crew and general cargo, the SS Maloja was a P&O liner of 168 metres in length and 12,431 tonnes. She was sunk by mine on 27th February 1916, laid by U-Boat UC-6. There was loss of life of 155, the majority to hyperthermia. The SS Empress of Fort William having the same fate while attempting an assist of the Maloja.
Is is said that thirteen of the Maloja dead are buried in St Mary New Cemetery in Dover, alongside a P&O Memorial to 22 of the Lascar crew.