Divernet

DECADES AGO THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT, faced with the continuing discovery of many ancient shipwrecks and their cargoes, decided to protect them by prohibiting diving in the areas until the sites had been surveyed by underwater archaeologists.
     Last August, after years of work and discussion, hundreds of miles of coastline were opened for sport-diving, allowing unrestricted diving in all but a very few areas from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara; the Aegean and Med to Alanya-Anamur Burnu.
     In the Kalkan area alone, where only three allowable dive sites previously existed, there are now more than 200. One of these is the last resting place of the Duchess of York, a steamer built in Hull in 1893. It had been identified from a bell bearing the name, recovered just days after the dive sites were opened up. A local diver had found it, apparently sticking out of the sand, and now has it displayed in his shop on the marina. The ship had collided with a reef, though we didnt know when. In fact we knew very little about it.
     In Kalkan I was the only guest at the hotel. It was early November and much of the town was closed for the winter, though temperatures were still hitting 30C. Today was sunny and warm, though dark clouds were building on the horizon. I wasnt worried - during the previous off-season, between October and April, it had rained for only two days!
     The sea was a mirror of deep blue calm. We left the small marina and within 30 minutes were over the reef, which rose from around 100m to top at 3m, though the chart showed 9m. A tanker had come within metres of the reef just two weeks before, and I wondered how many other ships had mistakenly adhered to the chart and foundered here.

amphoras on the wall
Look for the deep gash in the reef, I had been told by my buddy and BT Divings manager Nick. This was where the Duchess of York had struck and apparently broken in four. Three sections slid down the sheer wall while the fourth, the much-flattened stern, lay at a maximum 21m.
     A deep gouge extended down the edge of the reef into the blue. I had expected us to follow it but instead we traced the contours of the reef-top. I thought Nick had missed the signpost to the forard three sections of the wreck until I saw another gouge.
     We dropped to 30m, leaving the reef behind. In a small, flat, sandy section of the wall was a single steel door from the wreck and, next to it, intact amphoras, the cargo from a ship of many centuries before, possibly 1st century BC. We had come too far.
     We headed back round to the first gouge, at 20m. Following it out and down, everything took on a blue hue. Bits of wreck were strewn all around the reef wall.
     Deepest part first, I thought, as we glided over the mid-aft section in 36m, the mid-forard section in 45m and now the bow, deeper still. This wreck was enormous! I settled onto the sand of the now gently sloping reef. The seafloor carried on into unknown depths, while the bow that towered above showed a multitude of colours under the modelling light from my strobe.
     We had left the surface just eight minutes before. I was at 61m with my first deco-stop showing at ceiling 4m. My contents gauge showed 160 bar. We had staged decompression cylinders but it was time to start a slow ascent and take in the splendour of the wreck.
     The bow rested on its starboard side, the port anchor still in place on the steel hull. The deck, showing signs of many years immersion, was of teak planking. Though covered in a thin layer of rust, the bow capstans and winches were remarkably preserved and looked as if they would work after a little maintenance and a squirt of oil.
     A jagged tear through the plates, and snapped deck timbers, signified the end of the bow. Next to it rested the second section, and the cargo from its final voyage. On first inspection this appeared to be thousands of pieces of rock, but if not a Kings ransom it was one worthy of a Duchess - ton on ton of lead.
     At the limit of the 30m visibility, greater amberjack were shoaling around both forard sections. Grouper cruised the holds, and damselfish sought to evade their jaws. We briefly explored the mid-aft section and its leaden contents.
     We now had 17 minutes of deco, but much of this would be carried out around the stern section and then the reef.
     Unlike the other sections, the stern was much battered, showing steel ribs extending up from the keel to around a metre in height. No hull plates were visible on the ribs, but detritus had accumulated between them. This section looked quite unlike the other three, and might have been blown apart by explosives to keep it below reef height.

circling a wagon-train
Gliding over the stern was an anticlimax after the magnificence of the other three sections, though at 15m I was surprised by the number of large grouper cruising in and out of the ribs. It was certainly better than decompressing in the blue.
     Then I noticed Nick, about 5m away on the port side of the wreckage, standing facing me on the sand and holding something shiny. Behind him, a wall of silver was moving toward us. I started to open my mouth in surprise, then, remembering my situation, clamped down on the mouthpiece and shouted into my second stage while pointing.
     Within seconds, Nick had been enveloped by greater amberjack. I had never seen anything like it. There must have been 200 circling my startled buddy, many up to 1.5m long, like Red Indians attacking a wagon-train!
     I moved in, adjusting the camera settings. I was within 2m of Nick when the shoal opened briefly to enclose the pair of us and then transformed into a figure-of-eight pattern, holding us both within its tight embrace.
     In Nicks outstretched hands was a 70cm gilt-headed bream. I assumed that the amberjack had been attracted by the dead fish, though it might well have been our exhaled bubbles. Following our deco requirements we slowly rose, following the contours of the reef, but the amberjack stayed with us up to 6m, where only a few persisted as our close escort.
     Nick told me later that when he first found the bream it was still just alive, with a large fish in its throat - it had choked to death on that last meal! In fact the bream preceded us up the dive ladder. On deck I found that the skipper had the fish in a firm grasp. I understood little except the word dinner.
     Later that day he would board a bus for Istanbul, some 16 hours away, accompanied by his fish. During our slow return to Kalkan we speculated on the smelly discomfort this would cause his fellow-passengers.
     We had more important questions, however. Why was the stern section of the Duchess of York so different in make-up and condition from the other three sections I had heard no mention of explosives being used on it.
     I also had difficulty working out how the stern came to be so remote from the rest of the ship. From the large impact-gash and the relative positions of the sections, it looked as if the ship had backed into the reef and broken up - hardly feasible.

the wreckage that grew
Later, when I received details of the Duchess of York from Lloyds of London, things became clearer. The iron-screw steamer ketch was 101ft long and weighed 58 tons net. Yet the four sections on which we had dived I estimated to have a combined length of more than 250ft and tonnage of around 1000.
     We must have dived two wrecks. What we thought was the aft section atop the reef was in fact the complete wreck of the Duchess of York. The other three sections were from another ship, but where was its stern
     I thought back to the steel door and debris next to the amphoras and guessed that it might be found below that area.
     According to Lloyds the Duchess had been sold and re-registered in 1902 to a Spanish company under the name Carmen. The Carmen was sold again in 1919. There are no further records of it.
     What had initially been a straightforward dive had turned into one on an amphora wreck, the Duchess of York and our mysterious large Turkish wreck, with aft section still to be located! Knowing the size of the reef and the incorrect depth of water shown on the charts, I wouldnt be surprised to find more wrecks on future dives on Wreckers Reef.

Oldales
Oldales buddy holds a dying gilt-head bream as greater amberjack up to 1.5m long start to circle
The
The starboard anchor on the bow of the Wreckers Reef wreck, at 61m
Diver
Diver at the entrance to an open hatch
A
A seat in the foreground, lumps of the lead cargo to the right
Nick
Nick next to a deck capstan, at a point on the wreck where the timber decking had mostly rotted away

FACTFILE

GETTING THERE Flights from London Gatwick and Manchester to Dalyman Airport, two-hour transfer to Kalkan.
DIVING: BT Diving in Kalkan, 0090 242 844 2757, www.bougain ville-turkey.com. As it is broken into sections at depths of 15, 36, 45 and 60m, the unknown wreck/Duchess of York can be dived by divers of varying levels of experience. The bow section at 60m is offered as a technical dive.
ACCOMMODATION: David Oldale stayed at the Nur Apart/hotel but Kalkan has a wide range of hotels accommodation.
COST: Tapestry Holidays organises packages including charter flights, accommodation and transfers from£450 to£700 for a week depending on the hotel specified. Dive packages cost£150 for five days or£250 for 10 days, with 20 per cent off if own equipment is used. 0208 235 7800, www.tapestryholidays.com. Scubaholiday also offers packages, 0208 251 0208.
WHEN TO GO: Warmest months are from May-November. At other times a 5-7mm wetsuit is recommended.
MONEY: Turkish lira, but sterling is welcomed everywhere, or can be exchanged for lira at good rates at local booths.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Turkish Tourist Office 020 7355 4207