1860, Charles Lungley & Co, Deptford Green, London.
217.3 feet length (66.2 metres)
27.5 feet beam (8.3 metres)
14.7 feet draught (4.5 metres)
180HP Compound Paddle Engines, two-masted barquentine rigged.
21 February 1868.
Built 1860 by Charles Lungley & Co, Deptford Green, in 1860. Lungley’s yard was one of the first on the Thames to have its own dry-dock. Established in 1814, the yard was described as “one of the most complete on the Thames” and employed 800 men but closed down in 1866 when the region suffered a major financial crisis and Lungley moved on to become the Manager of C.J.Mare’s shipyard in Millwall. Lungley had actually been subcontracted by London-based Scottish shipbuilders J & W Dudgeon to build the ship; Dudgeon constructing only the engines for the ship. In 1856, John and William Dudgeon had established ‘The Sun Iron Works’ on Lollar Wharf, Isle of Dogs, later going into full shipbuilding themselves in 1861 and becoming the first to construct fast twin-screw steamers; several used as blockade runners by the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. (Later, a badly mishandled attempted launch of a ship for the Brazilian Navy resulted in the firm’s bankruptcy in 1875; William Dudgeon dying that year and his brother John declared legally insane and committed to a private asylum).
The ship that would become the Patris was originally constructed for the Greek Royal Family, launched as the King Otho along with a sister ship the Queen Amelia. She had been designed before the widespread introduction of screw propellers. King Otho himself was a Bavarian Prince who had become the first modern King of Greece under the terms of the Convention of London in 1832; the result of an international conference between the three Great Powers – Great Britain, France and Russia – to establish a stable government for the newly independent country of Greece. However, he was deposed in 1862 and his namesake vessel appropriated by the new Greek government.
The King Otho was subsequently taken over by the Greek Steamship Company (Elliniki Atmoploia, also sometimes called ‘The Hellenic Steam Navigation Company’) co-founded in 1856 by the Greek government and based on the island of Syros.
It appears that the ship was en-route with passengers from Piraeus to Syros when she struck the charted Koundouros Reef, Kea, and slowly sank. All passengers and crew were rescued before she went down. I haven’t managed to find a definitive explanation of why the ship hit the reef, some accounts citing fog, others bad weather and others still faulty navigation. However, you can see on the reef itself where the bow impacted as there are fragments of metal from the bow embedded into the rock, and the lower part of the wreck’s bow is badly torn and twisted.
It’s very unusual to dive on a paddle steamer. One of the wheels has been recovered and preserved on Syros but the other remains in place and is very interesting to look at. It’s a ‘feathered sidewheel’; the iron frame having eleven radial arms on each side of the axle. These arms are attached to the inner and outer rim of each wheel side, a distance of 1.4 metres separating the interior and exterior parts. Twenty-two wooden paddle blades paired on eleven radial axes each side of the wheel provided the propulsion. The top of the wheel sits at 41 metres. The wreck is broken in two and – once again – it’s hard to get a definitive answer why. Some say it happened during the sinking, but there are accounts of the wreck being cut in two after the First World War for the salvage of metals from within. It does look cleanly cut. The bow lies higher than the stern; resting on its port side facing north, the shallowest part lying at 27 metres. To the south, and pointing east lies the stern in deeper water, the bottom sloping downhill to about 55 metres at the absolute lowest point, the top of the stern probably at about 34 metres. Both sections are penetrable, the bow particularly open, while the stern requires more care and attention. She’s an iron hulled ship but there is still a lot of wooden fittings surviving after 148 years of submersion. The portholes along the stern all still have their glass. Fantastic dive.
The underwater photos below were taken by Vasilis ‘Bill’ Anagnostopoulos who happens to be a bloody great photographer.
The Stern, looking from the west
It’s a beautiful dive and can be host to a lot of fish including some pretty large Grouper who take off as soon as you approach. Recently I was lucky enough to look under a rock at about 18 metres between where the ship struck the reef and where she now lies and found a plate fragment which has cleaned up very well. It bears the crest of the Greek Steamship Company and a second crest on the bottom which actually looks like the British Coat of Arms to me, but I need to check that out.