The history of diving the H.M.S. Hermes

Sri Lankan pioneer diver Rodney Jonklaas was the first to dive the HMS Hermes in 1967

By Dharshana Jayawardena

April 9th 2017 ushered in the 75th anniversary of the Hermes as a wreck. Who discovered the HMS Hermes wreck in Sri Lanka and dived it first?

Here is time line depicting the adventures of the first pioneer divers to explore the wreck of the HMS Hermes off Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

(The following information are excerpts from my book Ghosts of the Deep - Diving the shipwrecks of Sri Lanka)

Hermes First Diver Rodney Jonklass 1967

1967 - Pioneer Diver Rodney Jonklass discovers the wreck based on fishermen and conducts his first solo exploratory dive

" The wreck was first explored by Sri Lanka’s pioneer in scuba and free diving legend, Rodney Jonklaas, who in 1967, was led to the site by local fishermen.  According to another pioneering Sri Lankan diver, Rex I De Silva, when Rodney located the Hermes, he made several dives, including at least three night dives, all by himself. His only "safety companion" was a .357 Magnum "Bangstick" pistol which he never had to use. (Rex is known for his study on sharks, and also his documentation of the diving history of Sri Lanka. Learn more of his work on the internet by searching for “diving history of Sri Lanka”.)"

(Picture courtesy Rex I. De Silva)

Blue Water White Death Peter Gimbel HMS Hermes\

1971 - Divers from the documentary "Blue Water, White Death

"The Hermes, along with a profile of Rodney Jonklaas, was also featured in Peter Gimbel’s 1971 documentary, “Blue Water, White Death”, a movie about the search for Great White Sharks (It initially puzzled me of why the filmmakers would come to the tropical waters of Sri Lanka to sight these sharks, as this species is never seen here. It turned out that there were rumored sightings off the island that prompted this expedition. These sightings can likely be attributed to a different species of shark).  This documentary film records the first ever footage taken of the Hermes since it sank. "


Hermes Adventure Rex Morgan 1980's Hermes Expedition

1980's - The Hermes Adventure divers

"In the 1980s, one Rex Morgan from Australia organised a photography expedition to the Hermes along with Sri Lankan divers Jonklaas and Cedric Martenstyn.  Rex Morgan’s father, Charles Morgan, was the British Royal Navy photographer on board Hermes when it sank. Not only did he survive the sinking, but he miraculously managed to capture and preserve some iconic photographs of the last moments of the aircraft carrier.  Morgan’s story, along with these photographs, can be found in the book “Hermes Adventure” authored by Rex. It contains interesting details of the history of the Hermes, survivor accounts of the sinking, photographs and details of the dive expeditions."

Diving the Hermes in 2005


2002 - HMS Hermes dive expert Felician Fernando

Felician Fernando (right) first dived the HMS Hermes in 2002. Because of lost information he had to re-discover the location of the wreck based on information by fishermen and extensive searching. This picture was taken on my (left) first exciting dive to the Hermes with Felician in May 2005. It was one of my most memorable dives! Here is Felician's account of his first dive to the Hermes in 2002


Comprehensive information about the HMS Hermes D95 wreck