MILLIONS OF EUROPEANS TAKE A HOLIDAY in Spains Balearic Islands each year, and the sight of the fleet of modern ships and ferries connecting them to the mainland is familiar to anyone who glances up from a sunbed to view the horizon.
In the Euro zone, as Spain has become richer, these vessels have become bigger and more sophisticated. Some are as big as office blocks, and seem as secure as the rocky headlands they pass. It would seem inconceivable that any one of them might be steered into a well-marked reef - but this is exactly what happened on 11 July, 2007.
It was a calm, clear summers night, and most young tourists in Ibiza were partying the night away when the Iscomar Lines roll-on/roll-off container ship and truck ferry Don Pedro left port.
She was a modern vessel, built in 1982 and equipped with every navigation aid going, but she was just reaching her full speed of 12 knots when her helmsman took a wrong route and piled into a reef in sight of Ibiza town.
Don Pedro was fatally holed, with a 7m gash along her portside bilge keel. Her 18 crew and two passengers took to the rescue boats. The giant vessel sank from sight within 45 minutes, and now lies on a seabed around 45m deep.
The 150 tonnes of heavy fuel oil from Don Pedros bunkers, along with 50 tonnes of light diesel and containers full of chemicals, including one of old car batteries, threatened to pollute Ibizas popular beaches and destroy the islands holiday industry.
A long-planned emergency response procedure was put into action. Salvage vessels with divers and all the paraphernalia necessary to halt the oil leaks arrived within a few days.
There followed a careful operation to remove the bunker oil and clean those beaches immediately affected. It was not a quick process. Holes had to be cut in the sides of the hull, with a hot-tap system to allow valves to be connected, and the first oil was not pumped out until 30 July. It was a tense time for the residents and businesses of Ibiza, and typical Mediterranean summer storms did little to help.
In the year that has passed since, arguments have raged as to whether to raise Don Pedro or leave the wreckage where it lies. It is no hazard to shipping, and at the start of July the authorities unexpectedly announced that it was now open to leisure divers, though penetration of it was forbidden.
At 142m this ferry is now one of the Mediterraneans bigger accessible wrecks - to put it in perspective, the Zenobia ferry in Cyprus is 172m long.
I was on the first available flight out to the island.

IBIZA IS NOT WELL KNOWN for its scuba diving. It has a vibrant Discover Scuba industry that serves the hordes of young people drawn to the island by the night life and sun-bathing, but the dive centres were caught out when it came to providing for the sort of serious diving the Don Pedro requires.
The wreck lies within 2000m of one centre but, unbelievably, that centre has no boat. Get-wet dives are shore dives.
Amiable Australian giant Nick Thompson, Brit Jason Hawkett and Italian Giampi Mancini own several dive centres on Ibiza but, importantly, their Punta Dive operation at Santa Eulalia has a very large and exceptionally quick 12m RIB.
Although the wreck site is 16 miles from Santa Eulalia, the RIBs twin diesels can fling you through any sea to get there in about half an hour.
The problem for me was that in July and August the dive boat was fully occupied taking inexperienced divers out to inauspicious locations close to base. We attempted to take one group of more capable divers with us to the Don Pedro but had to turn back because the rough sea was more than they were prepared for.
With only three days to spare for this project, I began to feel frustrated.
I had twinned up a couple of 12-litre cylinders ready for a photographic session that could lead to lengthy decompression stops, and this drew the curiosity of some of the resident divemasters, who had never seen such a set-up. I caught them calling it technical diving, when in fact I was simply using nitrox.
I finally managed to compromise with the business needs of Punta Dive by doing one dive after business had closed for the day and another at first light the following morning.
It was not ideal for photography, as I was denied the magic of Mediterranean sunshine to light up large areas of the wreck, but it was the best we could do.
Manuel, the captain of the dive-boat, wanted to moor up to one of the submerged buoys that is permanently attached to the wreck, as was his normal routine elsewhere.
I pointed out that in anything but the calmest sea the boat was going to buck and prance like an animal possessed, and that he should drop off the divers and come back for them once he saw a surface marker buoy appear.
He wasnt keen. We were in a busy shipping lane. The owners of Punta Dive would have to rethink their procedures and strategy if they were going to satisfy serious divers, and they are already talking about getting a second smaller boat for just this purpose, to operate from a jetty at nearby Playa den Bossa.

Finally, after a wasted couple of days, I was able to plunge into the water with Cockney-Italian Diego as my buddy and underwater model.
We dropped through the gloom to find this office block of a wreck lying forlornly on its side. I made straight for the propellers. This would be the deepest part of my dive, at around 40m, and I wanted to get a shot of Diego dwarfed by the enormous fans that formerly drove the ship along.
I had persuaded Diego to carry a lamp to add a point of interest, but I was unable to get him to understand under water that I wanted it turned on!
During my unheeded hand signals, I also noticed that he had no strap to his mask (evidently it interfered with his hair) and that a long string with a plastic duck floating from it was attached to his tank valve.
This might have amused his introductory divers, but it looked like a serious hazard to any wreck diver. Thank goodness for Photoshop!
It was pretty chilly down there, too, despite it being midsummer. I saw 16°C recorded on my twin computers, and reflected that I might have done better than the two layers of 5mm neoprene semi-dry I was wearing.
Diego at least had come prepared. He was wearing his drysuit.
We moved up from the propellers. Giampi, Jason and one other instructor from Punta Dive had come into the water with us and, although they politely kept well out of our way, we could easily tell where they had been.
The wreck was by now covered in a layer of brown algae, easily disturbed by anyone finning near it. This also tended to spoil many of the shots I grabbed in those last moments of daylight.
Not exactly sure of how deep or how long I would be diving, I had taken a tank of air as a bottom gas and a tank of nitrox 32 for use once I was shallow enough. This meant a 25-minute decompression stop, which we made near a line that was impossible to hold onto, thanks to the antics of the boat moored to it.
Finally and safely back on board, we were soon being flung at around 30 knots through a less than kind sea, passing another office block but one that was underway - the Don Fernando, sister-ship of the ill-fated Don Pedro.
Then it was back to our dive base to download the pictures and get some well-earned sleep.

I NEEDED ANOTHER DIVE, and that is how three of us came to make a rendezvous in pre-dawn darkness the following morning. I had forgotten that dawn comes long after seven in the Med during summer, and the boat was needed elsewhere for 9.30am. Our window of opportunity would be brief.
Again, we flew 16 miles across the waves at the speed of a seabird in the Punta Dive RIB, as the rising sun attempted to penetrate a heavy layer of cloud.
Again, I plunged into the water closely followed by Diego, and we duplicated our route from the following evening, this time sans plastic duck, and with Diego fully briefed to turn on the lamp.
I had carefully prepared my camera equipment overnight, recharging the batteries of both camera and flashguns. Alas, no one had thought to do this with the lamp, and it soon dimmed to darkness.
This time there was less liberated mung to cope with, apart from that which we had stirred up on our own. Down to the propellers, up over the rear ro-ro doors, a quick look at some ropes attached to the top of the superstructure, and a few shots of the funnel, all lying at an unfamiliar angle; I felt that I was looking at the top floor of a huge edifice without actually seeing the rest of it.
The bow was a very long swim away. Diego started to clean the mung off the metal to reveal the ships name, but I reminded him that we needed to keep our decompression time short.
This time I had used nitrox 32 for the whole dive, and our stops were limited to 12 minutes in the shallows after a two-minute deep stop at 18m. Even so, thats a long time when the dive boat is bucking and plunging above you.
Well, those two dives were all I could manage in the short time available consistent with getting the pictures reproduced in this months magazine.
By next spring, Punta Dives operation will be readjusted to cope with the needs of serious divers, and I am sure that the wreck of the Don Pedro will be big enough to keep those divers busy for the best part of a week.

John Bantin flew cheaply to Ibiza from Gatwick with EasyJet, stayed at the all-inclusive Club Punta Arabi and dived with Punta Dive, www.puntadive.com, www.ibiza-diving-holidays.com