The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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HMS Olympus: Submarine visits wreck at 120 metres

Thursday, 25 December 2014, 11:00 Last update: about 10 years ago

A first-ever visit has been recently paid to a legendary wreck of HMS Olympus, tragically lost outside of the Valletta Grand Harbour in 1942. U-Boat Malta explorers and maritime archaeologist Timothy Gambin plunged to the depth of around 120 meters in a submersible C Explorer 5.8 to investigate the sunken British submarine.  

"HMS Olympus was one of the last remaining undiscovered warships from World War II and it provides further material evidence of the conflict that raged off the Maltese coast. The visit to wreck in the submarine enabled us to gather vital information on the damage suffered by the Olympus, which will in turn enable us to better understand the circumstances that led to her loss", - Dr Gambin led a team of researchers back in 2011, when a 283-feet wreck was explorers returned to the site with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to capture images. Configuration of the bow torpedo tubes, coning tower shape and other evidence allowed the positive of HMS Olympus. However, there was still much more to discover. Among other things, on the basis of a systematic visual examination experts intended to confirm or deny the version that the submarine was lost due to striking a mine.

U-Boat Malta's mission has become the next important step in HMS Olympus underwater investigation, letting researchers observe the object, make notes and verify theoretical evidence with factual data. During all submarine operations the survey methods were non-intrusive. The members of the exploration team ensured that through the methodology of "look don't touch", the site was treated with utmost respect as per local laws and international conventions

The core group of the project continues with its research and is currently planning further dives on the Olympus.

During the World War II, due to the difficulty of passing convoys to Malta, submarines were used to run essential supplies to the island. Among those which contributed towards this hazardous task was HMS Olympus (N35), which unfortunately, in the early hours of 8th May 1942, few kilometers off the coast of Malta, is believed to have hit a mine and sunk.

HMS Olympus, an O- or Odin-Class submarine, was commissioned in 1930. This class submarine measured 86.5 meters length, 6.1 meters width and had a draft of 4.9 meters. Her displacement was 1,781 tons surfaced and 2,038 tons when submerged. 

From 1931-1939 HMS Olympus formed part of the 4th Flotilla operating out of Hong Kong. After that she was with the 8th Flotilla, in Colombo, Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka). In 1940 she was redeployed to the Mediterranean.

HMS Olympus played an important role in what became known as 'Magic Carpet Service', ferrying passengers, fuel, ammunition and food from Gibraltar to Malta.

About hundred men were on board HMS Olympus on that fateful night - 8th May 1942: her own crew plus other survivors from different sunken submarines on their way to Gibraltar. Only eleven men made it to the shore. This was a wartime tragedy of epic proportions.

Although technical divers from UK and Malta believed that they had found the wreck way back in 2008, but after, it transpired that it was not the HMS Olympus. Later, in 2012, it was announcedthat it had been finally located.

Now, in 2014, U-Boat Malta Ltd., together with Marine Archaeologist Timmy Gambin, for the first time dived on HMS Olympus with their Submersible C Explorer 5.8.

U-boat Malta

The company explores the richness of the Maltese islands and launches expeditions to various intriguing locations abroad. Company's latest missions include an expedition to Greece, where researchers investigated legendary WWI wrecks, HMHS Britannic and S/S Burdigala. U-Group as a holding is investing in the documentary to promote the underwater cultural heritage of the Maltese Islands

U-Boat Navigator vessel, C Explorer 5.8 and Triton 3300/3 submersibles, wet diving bell, ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) and other leading-edge technologies ensure a sophisticated underwater experience with the maximum result in each mission. U-Boat Navigator is also equipped with decompression chamber, diagnostic medical system and other up-to-date facilities. 



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