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Titanic's sister ship Britannic to be open to recreational divers

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The Titanic’s sister ship, The Britannic

The Titanic’s sister ship, The Britannic

The hull of the vessel which lies on the bed of the Aegean
Sea off the coast of Greece

The hull of the vessel which lies on the bed of the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece

The Titanic’s sister ship, The Britannic

The wreck of the sister ship of the Titanic will be open to divers after the relaxation of rules that were designed to prevent looting in European waters.

Built in Belfast's Harland & Wolff shipyard, the Britannic was converted into a British hospital ship during the First World War and was sunk by a mine in the Aegean Sea near Greece in 1916.

It will soon be open to recreational divers under Greek legislation to be voted on next month.

Divers will be permitted to visit ships, submarines or planes that sank in Greek waters between 1860 and 1970.

After the Titanic sank in 1912, the Britannic was changed to add new safety features which made her even larger than the famous cruise liner. Thirty people died when the Britannic went down close to the island of Kea, after its lifeboats were dragged into the propellers as the captain tried to beach the vessel. Yannis Tzavelakos, a diving instructor who has called for the Britannic to become part of an underwater site, told The Times: "Such initiatives can only facilitate innovative projects and add to the tourism industry. This time we need to see proof designs like these will go through."

The Britannic may have survived the attack had some portholes not been opened to air its hospital wards. Water was allowed in as the vessel began to tilt to one side. She was located in 1975 by Jacques Cousteau, the French marine explorer, and is thought to be the world's largest passenger ship wreck. Although it lies at more than 100m - too deep for most scuba divers - it is within range of experienced technical divers. The vessel sits on its side, largely in one piece.

Nearby is a Junkers Ju 52, a plane used by the Luftwaffe, lost in 1943 and said to be one of the best preserved aircraft wrecks in Greek waters.

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