By Pierre Kosmidis
It was February 23, 1868. The paddle steamer PATRIS, one of the most modern ships of her time, started her voyage from Piraeus with 400 passengers and crew and full of goods. PATRIS is sailing towards her final destination, the island of Syros, a commercial business centre in the second half of the 19th century.
ALL PHOTOS BY DERK REMMERS
PATRIS was not, however, destined to reach Syros. Due to a navigational error, the proud ship collided with the mapped reef of Koundouros in Kea Island.
Frantic scenes followed, according to survivors who told their stories to the newspapers of the era. Passengers and crew threw themselves into the lifeboats, trying to reach the shore. Luckily, Neptune was magnanimous that night and no casualties were reported.
The beaches of Kea Island were just a few hundred meters away from the wreck. The newspapers of the time recorded vividly the dramatic moments experienced by the survivors.
Over time, the wreck passed into the oblivion of history. Many divers visit the wreck with respect to her history, without removing objects from it, as unfortunately is the case in many cases.
Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Tech Instructor Derk Remmers, an underwater photographer and experienced diver from Germany, immortalized with his camera images of unique beauty of a true jewel of the depths and shared his unique photos and experience with the blog.
“PATRIS is a unusual wreck, as it is very old but still in amazing condition. Apart from the broken hull, which happened while the paddle steamer sank, it is fascinating how it withstood time, sea water and the currents”, Mr. Remmers says
The ship rolled on the slopes of the reef and is torn into two pieces, at depths ranging from 30 to 55 meters. Although several pieces were pulled up over all these years, the iron skeleton of several sections of the wooden deck and the “wings” of a paddle wheel are still visible. The second wheel was pulled up a few years ago and is currently exhibited at the Museum of Syros.
Diving is a ritual.
By starting the descent into the abyss, sections of the wreck are appearing from the abyss, covered by various colorful forms of life, sponges, fish and other species that have now become her permanent residents.
The lifeboat davits still stand upright, revealing the intensity of the moments following the collision with the reef. Fortunately, no one drowned, so the shipwreck is a time capsule of a bygone era, without being weighed down by the loss of human lives.
Divers wander with calm moves into the holds of the ship. Here and there, traces of human presence are still visible. A plate, a cup of coffee with the coat of arms of the Greek steamboat company, reminds us all that before 147 years in the same place passengers and crew enjoyed their sea voyages with a state-of-the-art vessel.
The paddle wheel remaining at the wreck is an impressive sight. Back in 1868, with the power of steam, the two wheels moved the ship, without relying on Aeolus and his “weapons”, the winds. PATRIS was a true innovation for her time, an industrial revolution in the Aegean Sea.
Parts of the wooden deck are still visible today. The iron skeleton of the ship stands on the bottom and reminds us that no one can despise the truth of the sea: Respect her whims and always have in mind that an oversight is sufficient to bring destruction.
Paddle steamer PATRIS
A unique wreck lies hidden in the bay of Koundouros Kea for 147 years. It is a rare example of a paddle steamer, the only one resting in European waters, which in appearance is reminiscent of the famous riverboats seen in rivers in the USA.
PATRIS was a modern boat with a length 66 meters, width of 8.5 meters, and steam engines providing 180 horsepower. She was built in the British shipyards of C. Lumgley & Co and was launched in 1860. Her original name was “Otto.” The ship was renamed PATRIS and took commercial voyages from Piraeus to the islands of the Cyclades, especially Syros, an important commercial and transit center of that era, until she was sunk in 1868.