Por­tuguese men of war sink bat­tle­ship

Sport Diver - - Editor’s Letter - Will Harrison, DEPUTY ED­I­TOR

I must ad­mit I never ex­pected to see a war­ship get blown up. Balls of fire burst­ing from deck to sky, the boom of ex­plo­sives rat­tling my ribcage... These are the things that grand­fa­thers tell us about, that ex-forces-turned-authors write about, that Hol­ly­wood di­rec­tor Michael Bay might spend a cargo hold full of cash on for a two-sec­ond clip of Will Smith jump­ing hero­ically over­board with his shirt un­done. But there I was, bob­bing in a boat just a cou­ple of hun­dred me­tres away from the Gen­eral Pereira d’eça, a 1,438-tonne Por­tuguese Navy war­ship, as a se­ries of ex­plo­sions ripped through her and sent her to the sandy seabed a short dis­tance from the ferry port on the At­lantic island of Porto Santo. At 85 me­tres in length, and now sit­ting at a max­i­mum depth of 30m - and, per­haps most ap­peal­ingly, in an area with de­cent vis­i­bil­ity year-round - she’s a great dive. What’s more, the team be­hind the sink­ing, which in­cluded the Por­tuguese Navy and the organisers of the Ocean Re­vival project, has cut holes in the wreck to make pen­e­tra­tion safe for divers of al­most all cer­ti­fi­ca­tion lev­els. It truly is a wreck for all.

And here’s the re­ally good news. A short dis­tance from where the Gen­eral Pereira d’eça has gone down is Porto Santo’s first ar­ti­fi­cial reef, the Madeirense. Hav­ing been on the seabed for many years, she gives us a flavour of what we can ex­pect to hap­pen to the Gen­eral Pereira d’eça. I had the priv­i­lege to dive the Madeirense a cou­ple of years ago, and again on this most re­cent trip, and I’m happy to say it is ab­so­lutely smoth­ered in life.

So the mes­sage is sim­ple: get to Porto Santo. With a pop­u­la­tion of less than 5,000, good weather for most of the year and de­cent clear-wa­ter div­ing, it’s a fan­tas­tic low-key op­tion for a short-hop trip (flights from the UK take less than four hours). Ul­ti­mately, a lot of hard work, money and skill goes into cre­at­ing these ar­ti­fi­cial reefs. They are fan­tas­tic for ma­rine life and they are great fun for divers. A lesser-known Euro­pean dive desti­na­tion is push­ing to put it­self on the map by cre­at­ing such a haven, and I for one think that is some­thing worth sup­port­ing.

To see a se­lec­tion of im­ages of the sink­ing, both top­side and un­der­wa­ter, visit www. sport­diver.co.uk/por­tosanto.

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