Steamship “Patris”: Sitting upright on the seabed for 89 years

Interviews, Shipwrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

An unknown wreck was positively identified near Patroklos island in the Saronic Gulf by the diving team of Antonis Grafas in 2014.

The steamship “Patris” (“Homeland” in English), formerly the French “Saint Rémi”, sank in the early hours of June 15, 1927, after being rammed by the  steamer “Moschanthi Toya”, formerly the British yacht “Catania”, due to a navigational error.

The history of the wreck
At 22:50 hrs on June 14, 1927, “Patris”, with a total of 16 people on board sailed from Piraeus, with final destination the island of Naxos. At 1:30 on June 15, she was sailing on the opposite direction of “Moschanthi Toya” and “Tinos” steamships, which were on their way from Syros island to the port of Piraeus. At a short distance behind these two ships, another steamer from Syros, the “Angeliki”, followed.

“Patris” tried to avoid the collision and turned to the left, exposing her right side to “Moschanthi Toya”. The latter rammed “Patris” and immediately after, with her engines full astern, left a gaping hole in “Patris”, which sank in a few minutes with ten people lost forever in the deep blue sea.

Immediately after the sinking of “Patris” the captain of “Moschanthi Toya” ordered the launching of her lifeboats, in order to rescue the shipwrecked. Unlike “Moschanthi Toya”, the steamer “Tinos” continued her course to the port of Piraeus, without offering any assistance.

The steamer “Angeliki”, which arrived shortly afterwards at the scene of the maritime disaster helped the crew of “Moschanthi Toya” to rescue the survivors of “Patris”.

The “identity” of “Patris”
She was built in 1902 in France, named “Saint Rémi” by E. Amblard & Cie Constructions Navales Mécanique et Chaudronnerie à Dieppe.

She had an overall length of 32 meters and tonnage of 161 GRT. In 1911 she was obtained by the Greek shipowners Hatzikonstanti, fitted as a passenger ferry and was registered in Piraeus under the name “Patris”.

After successive changes of ownership, she was finally sold  to a politician from Corinth in 1923. On June 1, 1927 the politician leased the ship for 15,000 drachmas per month for a period of three months, who used to “Patris” for trips from Piraeus to the islands. The ship had already made two voayages and the third one proved to be her last trip.

The wreck – Dimitris Galon, historical researcher
The wreck lies upright on the seabed. The maximum depth of the wreck reaches 73 and the minimum 65 meters. The gaping hole amidships on the right side of the wreck is clearly evident. The 89 years that have elapsed since the sinking have not greatly affected the wreck, which still stands upright without parts collapsed.

The sinking of the small passenger ferry steamship “Patris” was not a loss due to an act of war, like so many other shipwrecks of the Greek seas. The fact that it comes from the inter-war period, during which the Greek merchant navy was in a period of radical regeneration, after the heavy losses suffered during World War 1, makes this wreck an important historical witness of that period, partly because of the ship’s specific shipbuilding and technical characteristics, as well as because she was the victim of a maritime accident, which came as a result of the competition and the participation in informal racing many ships are participating even today.

The diving team
Antonis Grafas – Head of the diving team
Kostas Mylonakis – diver, underwater photographer
Kostas Katsaros – diver
Giannis Moustakas – diver
Panagiotis Gavriil- diver
Dimitris Damigos diver
Dimitris Galon – Historical research and documentation
USEFUL LINK: www.grafasdiving.gr