Oman: Wreck Diving on the World War II Wreck “City of Winchester”

by    DiveSSI    20th November 2019
Brithish Cargo Steamer "City of WInchester"
Kreuzer Königsberg zerschossen
SMS Königsberg (c) Bundesarchiv, Figure 105-DOA3002 / Walther Dobbertin / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Hallaniyat Islands (c) snapshotdxb / Wikimedia

First dive to the wreck on "Oman Explorers" New Year's Eve trip

The British Cargo Steamer "City of Winchester" was the first shipwreck of the First World War. In recent years, dives to the wreck near the Hallaniyat Islands at a depth of 30 meters have been prohibited. After long negotiations with government agencies of Oman, the diving ban has now been lifted.

On the way home from her maiden voyage, the "City of Winchester" was sunk by the German Navy on the evening of August 12, 1914. The crew of the 6,608-ton colossus was allowed to leave the ship, but the cargo, consisting of tea and antlers, was sunk together with the nearly 140 -meter-long steamer and lay undisturbed on the seabed until 1986. A few divers of the only civilian dive club in Oman "stumbled" over the unknown ship. The wreck was identified at the end of the 1990s by the British diver Steve Dover during a dive near the Hallaniyat Islands off the east coast of Oman.

The "City of Winchester" was captured on the evening of 6 August 1914 by the "SMS Königsberg", a light cruiser of the Imperial Navy. A German crew took over the ship and made its way to the Hallaniyat Islands off the coast of Oman. Five days later, the crew of the "City of Winchester" was transferred to a German passenger ship. Subsequently, the coal reserves of the hijacked ship were reloaded on the "SMS Königsberg". The coal transfer was completed on the afternoon of August 12, 1914, and explosives were detonated in the engine room of the "City of Winchester." To speed up the sinking, the "SMS Königsberg" fired three shots into the hull of the cargo ship.

As the only liveaboard vessel, the Extra Divers “Oman Explorer” is now allowed to dive the wreck - and that should guarantee many exciting dives: In addition to masses of fish and the associated predators, large and small groupers, huge barracudas and sheer endless mackerel swarms, the wreck itself offers some surprises. The wreck has become an artificial reef over the years and is full of life. Twenty years ago, Steve Dover noted that the City of Winchester is regularly visited by dolphins and the local population of humpback whales.

Written by
20th November 2019
David Nam on Apr 21st 2021
I dived this wreck several times n April 1996 with the Ras al Hamra Sub Aqua Club (Petroleum Development Oman PDO) with friends from what I believe was named the Oman Divers. To say that it was only identified in late 1990 as the "City of Winchester" is incorrect. This wreck had been known by this name from some time before I had dived it. To dive this wreck was quite an expedition having to organise having to trail a boat down from the Capital area of Oman to the coast off the Hallaniyat Islands. This took about 10 hours as well as organise cylinder air filling at an inland oil company facility (PDO) some distance away. The boat ride to the wreck from our beach camp was a two and a half hour boat ride. This huge effort was rewarded with the most spectacular dives I'd experienced. The incredible variety and wealth of fish life was the best I'd ever seen.

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