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Diving Zenobia

Rated as one of the top ten wreck dives in the world, it is in Mediterranean Sea, few miles away from the port of Larnaca, Cyprus. Zenobia sank on June 7, 1980 after an error in it's computerized ballasting system causing it to list heavily to port – or at least this is one the theories. Whatever the theories are – the truth is that it could not be sunk in any better spot to make it just ideal for diving.

The boat ride from Larnaca Marina is short and pleasant and the depth is perfect for both recreational and technical divers. Because of the sheer size of the wreck, it would is possible to have an awesome dive with a single tank at average depth of 80-90 ft, or you could have a full-blown deco/penetration dive at average depth of 130-150 ft. I have not been back to dive it with the full technical rig, so the report below covers mostly recreational diving

Zenobia lies on it's port side and is totally intact. This Swedish built Roll On –Roll Off ferry was 600ft long and weighted 10,000 tonnes. It was on its maident voyage sailing between Syria and Cyprus when it started listing to port. Once the list became very pronounced and sinking was feared, it was towed away from Larnaca port for the concerns that it will block the entrance.  And so it sunk, whilst as anchor, a short boat ride from Larnaca marina. At the time of thinking, it had no people on it, but had carried a full cargo of 108 articulated lorries. No lives were lost, but there were a lot of Volvo, DAF, Scania and Merc lorries and their cargoes were scattered all around the bottom and cargo holds.

truck1.JPG (49807 bytes)   truck2.JPG (102585 bytes)
Dives usually take place in the first half of the day, before the waves kick in. Water temps range from high 60s in the winter to mid 80s in the summer and the visibility is usually between 50+ to 100+ ft. Last time I dove it in the middle of the summer and the viz ranged from 50 ft in spots to 90 ft

Wreck is accessible all year around, although there are significantly less people on it in the winter (I dove on Xmas day few years ago and there were only 2 of us there). It is so huge, that unless 2 and more group are trying to penetrate the same space at the same time, you never feel crowded

The wreck divers’ paradise
You can catch the first glimpse of Zenobia from the plane, just moments before landing in Larnaca airport. Look out of the window as you are approaching the landing strip - on a bright sunny day the ship is clearly visible from the plane. Being 600 ft long, the wreck is huge, even looking from high above. You second glimpse of it comes as you approach, after a short 20 min boat ride from Larnaca. With the visibility ranging from 50 ft to, reportedly, 150+ feet, you can see most of the port side of the wreck from the boat. Non-divers can (and do) snorkel

For a wreck diver, this is as close to diving paradise as it gets! The water is warm, the color is crystal-blue and are you about to dive the wreck that is rated as one of the top 10 wreck dives in the world. Due to its size and variations of depths (150ft to 50ft side to side), you need many dives to see everything that Zen has to offer. On a two tank trip, we typically did the first dive of the day covering the stern and other deeper areas and did the bow and superstructure on the second dive.

Descending to the wreck on the stern line, you then swim over the cargo deck with some lorries scattered at the bottom where they came to rest after the ferry sunk. One lorry was still chained to the upper side. The chain had been there since the sinking and it is not recommended that you position yourself under it since the truck can go down any minute.

truck_bottom.JPG (71658 bytes)  
truck_chain.JPG (94297 bytes)

At the very bottom came to rest couple of lorries that carried the cargo of eggs, which spilled all over. Some eggs are still intact, but it is of course not recommended to take them back since the smell would not make you the most popular person on the boat
eggs.JPG (68745 bytes)

From where the lorries are at the bottom, you could then go up and swim around the back and see the immense propellers.
prop_pperson2.JPG (38652 bytes)

Then back to the line and, or, if time permits, one could go to the cargo hold, which was a treat. First level closed cargo hold stretches through the whole cross section of a ship, and, because of the side position, the entrance start at almost the bottom and ends at around 60 ft. This of course means you could go in at the end of the dive, but only if you stay close to the ceiling.
cargo_hold_entrance1.JPG (43523 bytes)

There are lorries at the bottom of the hold, but it is so deep, that you pretty much have to stay close to the “ceiling” unless you decide to do the whole dive in the cargo hold (which would be possible since there was enough to looks at). Meanwhile, the “ceiling” is full of interesting things as well.

On my first dive there I noticed a few blue bottles stuck to the ceiling (side actually since Zen is on the side). They were obviously a cargo in one of the lorries in their past life and, due to being filled with something lighter than water (rumoured alcohol), they went up as the ship went down.
bottles_stuck_to_ceiling1.JPG (90434 bytes)  

I was wondering why there were so few, so on a next dive I looked a little bit further and further … and finally discovered the rest of the cargo ;-))

bottles_stuck_to_ceiling3.JPG (83606 bytes)   bottles_stuck_to_ceiling4.JPG (74679 bytes)

On a second dive of the day, we typically covered the superstructure that was all intact and looked absolutely beautiful with fish swirling around it.

superstructure.JPG (48560 bytes)   strusture_person1.JPG (35560 bytes)

Along the way, we passed over the life boats that were still there.
lifeboat.JPG (95684 bytes)
On a good viz day, one could can swim 50 ft in front of the bow and see the immense size of it. Unfortunately, when I was there on several good viz days, I either did not have the camera or it did not work ;-(.

The anchor on the side was more that a person’s height
anchor2.JPG (69840 bytes)

Did I mention the penetration opportunities? There is a lot to see with the fully redundant technical rig. Deco training and doubles would allow you to dive areas not dived all that often, such as lower cargo compartment and the engine room. However, there were abundant penetration spots even within recreational limits.

Captain’s bridge has been quite cleaned out of all interesting stuff and is not as attractive. I could have, however, spent the whole dive in the canteen. There were the remains of the carpet, drinks machine that still retained its green marbled color and the names of the drinks,
carpetinside_canteen.JPG (59577 bytes)  drinks_vending_machine.JPG (66876 bytes)

sinks that had a funny placements due to ship’s position and of course the highlight of any wreck (I don’t know why, but divers, me included, just love to see those). The toilet!
sinks.JPG (63677 bytes)  toiletseat.JPG (57013 bytes)

And there is so much more on that wreck to expore - i can't wait to get back!
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