Wreck of the Zenobia

Zen is fast becoming one of the world’s must-do wreck dives

Author: Pat
4th February 2012
 

If divers could construct their own underwater playing ground and training centre, it would probably resemble the wreck of the Zenobia.

This 10,000-tonne RO-RO ferry lies just off the coast of Cyprus, where she foundered back in June 1980. The circumstances of her sinking are still rather unclear, although it seems a computer error mistakenly pumped her ballast water around, causing a list and subsequent sinking. At the time, the Zenobia was loaded with brand new trucks and cargo, both within her holds and on her decks.

Written off as a complete loss, the sunken Zenobia might have been forgotten, except that she now lies on her port side in only 45 metres, and only ten minutes by boat out of Larnaca harbour in southern Cyprus – a popular holiday destination.

Today, she has become a must-see for fans of wreck diving and has even been rated one of the top ten dive sites in the world.

a pile of upturned lorries visible through the murk

Due to her carefully computer-controlled descent to the bottom, she certainly ranks as one of the most pristine wrecks, and her outline shape is clearly visible about 16m below from the surface. We descended down a permanent shotline to the stern (there is also one on the bow), and landed on one of the giant propellers at 26m. A moray eel glared at me from a hole in the prop shaft.

The ‘Zen’ is a large wreck and there are myriad choices for how to dive it. We circled round through the rear loading doors and across the superstructure, a pile of upturned lorries visible through the murk about 20m below. I chose to dive in a 3mm shorty (when is water likely to be warmer than 21 degrees?), although a 5mm would better suit those who get chilly. Along the way we passed between the funnels, across the deck to our right and over the flydeck. Two unused lifeboats lie twisted here, luckily never needed.

Around the bridge area, there are some windows missing and others still in place, and the Zen is an easy wreck to penetrate in lots of places. The bridge itself has been stripped bare but we swim in and try to imagine it in life – difficult to do when everything is at 90 degrees with blue mood lighting. I float inside a corridor that looks like a ghostly lift shaft, resisting the urge to drop down into it.

As a newly qualified Ocean or Open Water diver, the Zenobia would make a fine introduction to wreck diving, and could be adventure enough just to swim across at 15 or so metres. For those after slightly deeper challenges, the seabed is way down at 45, with plenty to see in between. Crucially, the wreck is large and unbroken, making it an excellent playground for wreck lovers and technical divers. Full schematics are available in most Cypriot dive centres, and there are plenty around the Larnaca area.

In my opinion, for lovers of marine life, the Zenobia is too sparsely populated to merit repeat visits. A few large Grouper swam lazily sideways across the cargo deck (they confuse the heeled-over ship with the seabed, apparently), along with Damselfish and the odd Barracuda patrolling the surrounds. Very little else by way of anemones or marine growth can be seen either inside or outside of the ship.

But if you’re looking for an introduction to wreck diving, a challenging wreck penetration, or just fancy seeing what a large modern vessel looks like on its side, the Zenobia has everything you could wish for.

 
 
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