Dive Taprobane North Wreck (www.DiveSriLanka.com)
Is this the Perseus (1917)?

By Dharshana Jayawardena.

Depth: 40 Meters.

The big picture - hauntingly beautiful.

The view of a mystical mountain far and beyond..

19/03/10: After a journey of two hours from Mount Lavinia, Colombo, we were far far away from land. 20KM direct West to be exact. The sea seemed ominous with huge swells. Perhaps the world below is friendlier. It is, as we soon discovered, when we rolled back into the warm tropical waters of Taprobane and sank gently into the arms of the great ocean. The visibility seemed limitless and soon a vast form gradually took shape beneath us, contrasting against the pristine white sand that seem to make this sea bed.

With a burgeoning sense of wonder, we sank deeper and deeper; finally touching down on what seemed to be amidships. Here the depth was 35 Meters. The sand below had to be at least 40 Meters. From both directions, and far away, the remnants of this massive ship seems to loom above our heads. For a moment the mind was confused. The two ends looked like the raised wings of a leviathan aircraft brought to life from the pages of a morbid tale of dark fantasy. But the moment of doubt was brief. Rationality prevailed over what was perhaps a slight bout of narcosis. This was nothing but a ship. A really big ship.

Then we faced a dilemma. To swim left or to swim right? The beguiling mountain far away to the left seem too irresistible We headed that way.

We were not disappointed.

The massive hulk of metal towered far above us like a mystical and mythical hillock of legend concealing many profoundly dark secrets. As we swam over the twisted and contorted debris, the mountain slowly took shape, unraveling its true self. It was the stern side of the wreck.

A clear and unhindered swim through provided a path to the other side. The mild current we had swum against became stronger. Probably the compression effect of water gushing through the open cavities of the stern. Finally we swam through and reaching the sand below gazed back at the back of the stern in reverence. It was a sight to behold. The visibility was near perfect and the ship loomed majestically above us a full 10 meters high.

We swam over the keel towards the propeller. From a distance, by the shadow of the great ship, it had looked small. Yet now we realized how large it was. Two of the prop wings had sunk beneath the sand. Two remained and in great condition covered with colorful corals.

We swam back towards amidships rising over the gentle slope presented by the vast hull of this giant ship. A large shoal of Yellow Striped Snappers enveloped the wreck ahead of us. But we didn't have much time. At this depth the bottom time was limited. It was a cruel irony we had experienced in the sea again and again. Good things were simply hard to get at and the bow of the ship remained yet unexplored.

(Look below for accounts of subsequent dives towards the bow)

In the stern

The giant propeller

Looking towards the bow - a goal far away for another day

13/03/2011: Towards the bow!

The anchor has dropped amidships. The same place we descended upon this large ship in the year before. Today I am alone and turn right towards the bow. An hitherto unexplored area.

The fish life is prolific as usual! A large shoal of snappers envelop the wreck like a protective yet pulsating cocoon. As I fight a gentle current and fin my way towards the bow I encounter trevally, a Napoleon and see a Stingray swim down on the sand. This ship seems endless. Huge cracks and crevices open up in areas where the hull has collapsed. This ship must be old. A fisherman said that this ship had been around when he started fishing in the late 60's. Research into past records have failed to prove conclusively as to what ship this could be. Is it the Perseus that sank 10 miles west of colombo in 1917?

Taprobane North Wreck is a unbelievably beautiful and great place to be.

11/02/12 and 18/02/12 - In two 22 minute tech dives on air we explore the stern area in detail and photograph key features that may one day help us to conclusively identify if this is indeed the Perseus that sank in 1917.

A different kind of sterring quadrant?

The massive rudder

Under the rudder

Huge pieces of ship on the port side

This pairs a strong resemblence to one of the masts Perseus had!

Close up of the wheel

The space between the rudder and the propellar
02/03/2013: We conduct a Technical Decomression dive to the Persues (?). We enjoy great visibility in the clear blue waters that sorround this massive wreck that lies on clean white sand. With the SS Worecstershire eliminated from the picture we can now reasonably focus on trying to prove that this ship is indeed the Perseus.

09/03/2019 - Update:

"A really unexpected find today at the Taprobane North Wreck in Colombo, long suspected to be the SS Perseus sunk during World War I by German commerce raider SMS Wolf. For years I had spent hours and hours diving this mysterious wreck lying upon pristine sand 40m deep and 15km west of Colombo but had given up finding any conclusive evidence that proved that this wreck belonged to the Blue Funnel Line (the company to which Perseus belonged) or to find the ships name as Perseus.

Today the intention was spending 1 hour at 40m on CCR and since I had more time, decided to explore an area which I rarely visit (forward ship south of the fore mast) and discovered this buried in sand.

As with the bell of the SS Worcestershire (1917) which I found in March 2014 (also sunk by Wolf), I will hand this over to the Maritime Archaeology Unit (MAU) in Galle. They have already been informed of the find.

This find and the previous conclusively confirm the locations of the Worcestershire and the Perseus which were sunk days apart in February 1917." - Dharshana Jayawardena

SS Perseus 1917 bell
Just after the discovery
SS Perseus (1917) Bell
Handing it over to the Maritime Archaeological Unit (CCF) in Galle
CCR Dive Sri Lanka SS Perseus
Editor near the stern of the SS Persus (1917)
SS Perseus
The restored bell of the SS Worcestershire by the newly found bell at MAU

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