Scuba Diver Australasia - - Lost Worlds - Text & images by Brook Peter­son

It is es­ti­mated there are more than two hun­dred ship­wrecks around the Is­land of Sri Lanka. A frac­tion of those have been ex­plored and doc­u­mented. Most of the wrecks near Trin­co­ma­lee are vic­tims of World War II, but two of the ships, the SS Worces­ter­shire and SS

Perseus, are found near Colombo and hold a sig­nif­i­cant place in World War I his­tory.

Dur­ing WWI, the SMS Wolf was sin­gle­hand­edly re­spon­si­ble for de­stroy­ing 37 ves­sels. Two of these were war­ships and the oth­ers were trad­ing ves­sels. The SMS Wolf dressed in sheep’s cloth­ing by dis­guis­ing her guns be­hind false sides, and con­ceal­ing a sin­gleengine bi­plane which was used to spot po­ten­tial vic­tims. In Fe­bru­ary 1917, she laid a mine­field near Colombo har­bour. Two ships fell vic­tim to the mines, the Bibby liner, SS Worces­ter­shire, and the SS Perseus, a 6,700-ton steamer. Both were mer­chant ves­sels serv­ing Great Bri­tain, and both sus­tained loss of life.

Now, 100 years later, the SS Perseus rests 35–40 me­tres be­neath the sur­face. It is a haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful wreck. Nearly torn in three, the hull is twisted and con­torted, giv­ing the im­pres­sion that it suf­fered a bru­tal death.

But in death the ship is given a new life as it has be­come a lush ar­ti­fi­cial reef. The wreck is lo­cated 15 kilo­me­tres off shore, be­yond the reaches of a recre­ational day boat. For this rea­son it has been dived by very few peo­ple.

But now the new Sri Lanka Ag­gres­sor makes it pos­si­ble for divers to visit reg­u­larly.

Along with his­tor­i­cal sites, there are many in­ter­est­ing wrecks that lie within recre­ational dive lim­its. One of the most pop­u­lar is the Pecheur Bre­ton, com­monly known as the Colombo Cargo Wreck. This ship is a mag­nif­i­cent ar­ti­fi­cial reef that lies on its port side, 18–32 me­tres be­neath the sur­face. Lost to the sea in 1991 just six kilo­me­tres west of Colombo, it is one of the best wreck dives in Sri Lanka, and

I am ea­ger to ex­plore it.

Each wreck we dive is ex­hil­a­rat­ing in its own way. We ex­plore the Nil­giri Tug, an up­side down tug boat char­ac­terised by two pro­pel­lers and large li­on­fish, who are the care­tak­ers of the grave. The Wal­let wreck is a strange sym­met­ri­cal ves­sel lack­ing any sign of a pro­pel­ler or rud­der, mak­ing it hard to dis­cern the stern from the bow. The MV Chief Dragon is a huge ve­hi­cle car­rier cov­ered with the re­mains of badly de­te­ri­o­rated ve­hi­cles.

The MV Ther­mopy­lae Sierra, which rests near Colombo and is only par­tially sub­merged, stands out like a bea­con above and be­low the wa­ter­line, and the Med­h­u­faru, on whose deck rests a fully in­tact back­hoe, beck­ons divers to dis­cover her mys­ter­ies.

In ad­di­tion to these relics of the past, there is a great deal of ma­rine life in the waters of

Sri Lanka. There are 11 species of whales and 15 species of dol­phins re­sid­ing in the sur­round­ing waters. Large rays, gi­ant trevally and sur­geon­fish are com­mon, as are puffer­fish, mo­ray eels, school­ing bat­fish, and li­on­fish. Bait­balls form around the wrecks pul­sat­ing in a syn­chro­nised rhythm of colour. It is clear that this ocean grave­yard is re­splen­dent with life.

Pecheur Bre­ton

Deck and rail­ings on the

Nil­giri Tug

A diver swims through the up­side down bridge of the

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