THE BIG GREEK DIVE
HMHS Britannic was the third of the White Star Line's Olympic class of steamships. She was the youngest sister of the RMS Olympic and the RMS Titanic and was intended to enter service as a passenger liner . She was operated as a hospital ship from 1915 until her sinking near the Greek island of Kea, in the Aegean Sea, in 1916. At the time she was the largest hospital ship in the world
Britannic was launched just before the start of the First World War .
In 1915 and 1916 she served between the United Kingdom and the Dardanelles. On the morning of 21 November 1916 she was shaken by an explosion caused by a mine set by a german U-Boot, very close to the north cape of Kea and sank 55 minutes later
There were 1,066 people on board. the survivors were rescued by lifeboats.
The wreck was located and explored by J.Y. Cousteau in 1975. The vessel is the largest intact passenger ship on the seabed
In 1976, Cousteau entered the wreck with his divers for the first time.
The wreckr lies on her starboard side hiding the zone of impact with the mine. There is a huge hole just beneath the forward well deck. The bow is heavily deformed and attached to the rest of the hull only by some pieces of C-Deck. The crew's quarters in the forecastle were found to be in good shape with many details still visible.
The forecastle machinery and the two cargo cranes in the forward well deck are well preserved. The foremast is bent and lies on the seabed near the wreck with the crow's nest still attached. The bell, thought to be lost, was found in a dive in 2019, having fallen from the mast and is now lying directly below the crow's nest on the seabed. Funnel number 1 was found a few metres from the Boat Deck. Funnel numbers two, three, and four were found in the debris field (located off the stern).Pieces of coal lie beside the wreck.
In August 1996, the wreck was bought by the British naval historian and author Simon Mills
In September 2003, an expedition led by Carl Spencer dived into the wreck. This was the first expedition to dive Britannic where all the bottom divers were using closed circuit rebreathers (CCR). British Diver Leigh Bishop brought some of the first photographs from inside the wreck and his diver partner Richard Stevenson found that several watertight doors were open. It has been suggested that this was because the mine strike coincided with the change of watches. Alternatively, the explosion may have distorted the doorframes. A number of mine anchors were located off the wreck by sonar expert Bill Smith, confirming the German records of U-73 that Britannic was sunk by a single mine and the damage was compounded by open portholes and watertight doors. Spencer's expedition was broadcast extensively across the world for many years by National Geographic.
On 24 May 2009, Carl Spencer, drawn back to his third underwater filming mission of Britannic, died in Greece due to equipment difficulties while filming the wreck for National Geographic.