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The second leg of the XR Wreck Tour 2018 which brings together a team of SSI Extended Range divers to promote and consolidate the XR Mares movement within the diving community. We left Otranto, after the dive on Hadonis, with destination Santa Caterina.
The next day we cross the “heel of Italy” moving from Otranto to Santa Caterina di Nardò, on the Ionian side of the Salento peninsula.
Here Andrea Costantini, owner of the Costa del Sud Diving Service, joined the team and offered us all the logistical support for the second leg of our tour.
The steamship Caterina Madre was a ship about 100 meters long and 15 meters wide that was launched in 1904 in the yards of Thornaby on Tees, in the United Kingdom. After a couple of changes of ownership, during which it assumed her last name, it was requisitioned by the Italian Royal Navy during the Second World War and armed with a massive anti-aircraft gun in the stern.
While sailing in the seas of southern Italy, it collided with a mine to sink off the coast of Gallipoli.
The wreck was tracked down and discovered by a team of divers led by Andrea Costantini about ten years ago and thanks to an accurate historical reconstruction through the reports of the war bulletins it was possible to identify it.
This giant of the sea lies on a sandy bottom at about 77 meters, in navigation attitude and is totally intact.
The north wind that cooled Otranto the previous day and that forced us to fight against the current here in Santa Caterina is imperceptible. So, under a scorching heat, we loaded all our equipment on the brand new diving boat towards our diving spot.
The sea was flat, there was no trace of current and already during the first few meters of our descent we realized that the visibility would be wonderful. The steamer appeared to us in all its majesty long before our impact. It is totally colonized by yellow sponges which make this scenery very suggestive.
The steamer gave us the privilege of clearly recognizing the majestic antiaircraft gun at the stern, the two bow anchors, the large propeller and the supports of the lifeboats.
The wreck was surrounded by a myriad of damselfish that danced in groups and then opened when the beam of light from our torches arrived. On the deck, leaning on the bollards, some huge scorpionfish remained undeterred as we passed while aft schools of snappers parade quickly in the hunt.
At the deepest point, on the sand, about ten meters from the large 4-blade propeller, we came across one of the mines that led to its sinking.
XR Wreck Tour 2018 continues next week with the transfer to Calabria for three more fantastic dives.