We were lucky to be staying on the island for the whole month of August and had some great diving with the guys at Eco Dive School at various sites around Sal, including the Blue Hole. Having already done research into the Danfjord, I asked Sandra and Neil if we could dive the Danfjord wreck. Luckily the weather was on our side and finding the co-ordinates from the archive, the school divemasters of Elton, Fanny and Zenildo excitedly went off on a recce as they had not dived the Danfjord either. I think everyone was a little excited as this is a rarely dived site due to the weather conditions more suited to wind surfers than scuba divers!
Dive day came along and it was a bunch of excited divers that set off from the pier for the RHIB trip around the southern side of the island and onwards to the dive site. The weather was a sunny 24degC with a cool sea breeze and long rolling waves around half metre in height.
She was built in 1925 and previously known as the MV Sørvard and spent her time within the Norwegian Merchant Fleet in WWII. I think she was renamed MV Danfjord in April 1947, some 11 months before her loss here on Sal. During the war, she was one of twenty six Norwegian ships detained in North and West Africa. She was interned in Dakar between 22nd June 1940 and 21st March 1943. Her captain was at the time was T. Terjesen and arrived Dakar from Bathurst. She was freed due to the Allied invasion of North and West Africa under Operation Torch, where she left for Freetown the following day.
Read more about the MV Danfjord and her previous life as the MV Sørvard.
This rarely dived wreck is most famous on the island of Sal with a bench made from one of the staircases which is on display at the (incorrectly named) Damfjord bar at the Odjo D’Agua hotel. Most dive centres will not visit this dive site as it is a longer journey to Fragata Beach, with the weather playing an absolute decision maker in planning a dive. Being the most famous, you will not see the wreck on any dive map of the island. The best time for a potential dive window will be around August, when winds mellow to a static and humid breeze.
Compared to the similar aged wrecks in Chuuk Lagoon (sunk February 1944) which are very much intact from the protective lagoon, it is clear that the Danfjord has experienced significant decay over the last 70 years. Ferocious easterly winds during the winter months which are ideal for the kite and windsurfers on the nearby ‘Kite Beach’ but tides, surge, waves and swell have flattened the Danfjord. Within the haunting skeletal frame, you can still seel remnants of the wooden decking. The cleats are clearly visible together with the two props, albeit the propellers are no longer in situ, assumed salvaged in the past. One anchor can still be found. Our dive guide has dived the Danfjord before a few years back and from her pre-dive brief, commented that the diagramed superstructure has since collapsed.
A very shallow 11 metres maximum depth and average 9 metres. Water temperature 25degC and a very snotty/milky 15 metres visibility. Loads of debris suspended in the water column including chunks of vegetation which impeded objective of photography. There was a mild current on the surface and measurable surge on the wreck. Total dive time was 74 minutes.
Critters spotted included turtle, shark, moray eels and puffer fish.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the divemaster Ben found an intact bottle on the wreck. Marked “CLOC”, this was the first commercial Danish whisky. Amazing to find such a glass bottle in the battered remains of the ship.
The tide turned after 1945, because in the post-war period the trade routes were often subject to restrictions and the whisky supply threatened to dry up.
In 1952 the first Danish whisky came under the C.L.O.C. brand on the market. The abbreviation stands for the Latin term Cuminum Liquidum Optimum Castelli, which roughly translates as “the castle’s best cumin liqueur” and refers to Ålborghus Castle, because the headquarters of the state spirits manufacturer was in the North Jutland city of Aalborg. To the chagrin of the Roskild manufacturers, the whisky was not as well received by the population as expected. On the one hand, that may have been due to the name, a whisky called cumin liqueur is certainly an unusual choice. The main reason, however, was probably the taste, which obviously could hardly show any resemblance to the Scottish models favored by the Danish population. So production was inconsistent and eventually ceased in 1974, by which time losses due to cask evaporation exceeded volumes sold!