In June 2019 lots of old fishing net (Ghost Netting) has been removed from the wreck Perseus submarine with more dives planned soon.

He was born in July 1928 at the Vickers-Armstrong yards. The following spring was launched and on April 15, 1930, he was delivered to the British navy, ready for action. His skills undoubtedly and impressively for his time: 88.4 m long and 9.12 m wide; surface speed 17.5 knots and 8.5 dives; 152 m diving depth. He brought 14 torpedoes, he had a gun and two machine guns and his guts could carry 59 men. You would understand, I suppose, that this is the description of a submarine. This was the Perseus, who was to make his last patrol in the winter of 1941, in the Greek seas. He sank out of Cephalonia and passed definitively and irreversibly into the jurisdiction of history.

A few weeks ago, Greek divers found themselves in the wreck of “Perseus” and proceeded to lift abandoned nets from its carrier with the collaboration of Aegean Rebreath, within BlueCycle, the first comprehensive program for the recycling of marine plastic waste from fishing and maritime activities – an important initiative of the Catherine Laskarides Foundation.

But let’s take things in turn. “Perseus” started his business life in China’s sea, on the British base there. Before the Second World War broke out, he had already returned to Europe and joined the Mediterranean Fleet. On 26 November 1941 he departed from Malta for a patrol in Sicily and the Ionian Sea, with a final destination in Alexandria, Egypt. In addition to his permanent crew, the British heater John Caps and the Greek subcommander Nicholas Merlin boarded the submarine. Kays was in Malta to sort out a legal case – his car had collided there with a … cart and he was judging for it – and Merlin had asked himself, and even persistently, to participate in this patrol to see the technology and capabilities of the British submarines and gain extra combat experience – the British were the model of the Greek Navy, and yet it is. One would live a thrilling adventure, and the other, who came from Kefalonia, would make the final journey of his life outside his homeland, “says Konstantinos I. Mazarakis-Ainian, vice-admiral (s.c.) Navy, Honorary Fleet Chief and Chief Executive Officer of the Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation.


The British heater John Caps, the only survivor of the shipwreck.


The last trip

On December 6, on the celebration of Saint Nicholas, patron saint-tragic irony, “Perseus” patrols on the surface, south of Kefalonia. It’s a very dark night and it makes a cold cold. Suddenly, a terrible explosion tricks the submarine. He has struck a mine and, before his crew is well aware of what has happened, the boat is inclined. The turret hatch is open, as is usually the case during surface patrols, and tons of water are getting inside. Within seconds, Perseus sank, dragging with him, in the icy waters of the Ionian Sea, 61 officers and sailors. Only one of them was to live and describe the last moments of the British submarine …

John Caps was in the aft compartment, where he had made a clipboard, on an empty base of torpedoes. Exactly on it there was an escape manhole. When the submarine “sat down” in the seabed miraculously, this part of it had not yet been flooded. Though wounded, recruiting as many of his forces as he had left, he passed from the intermediate watertight door to the heater’s dining room and then arrived at the engine room. Among his many innocent colleagues, he found three survivors, also traumatized, and carried them to the aft apartment. Time was running over them. Capeps found the special underwater escape devices called Davies, wore one, and helped others to wear their own. He would now have to open the manhole so that the place where they were to be flooded too. The four men would dump under the water and, through the escape line, would try to unbolt themselves from the submerged submarine. In fact, a few minutes later, everyone was outside the wrecked boat. 

“John Caps knew well that he did not have to hurry. The distance to the surface would have to travel slowly and steadily. An excessively fast emergence could prove fatal to his life, causing his lungs to be embolized, “says Mazarakis-Ainian. 

Judgment after death

The British heater finally came to the surface. He had returned to the world of the alive. Swimming for six hours, he arrived in the village of Mavratsa in Kefalonia. His inhabitants cared for him for eighteen months, hiding them from home to home, so as not to fall into the hands of the Germans. In June 1943, after a well-planned Greek-British operation, he moved to Smyrna. For the other three Britons who attempted to leave the Perseus, no one ever learned anything. Obviously they were not the same lucky.

“When the war ended and he returned to his homeland, they did not believe him. They believed he had never boarded the submarine or was on the bridge at the time of the crash and jumped into the sea to save himself, leaving behind his colleagues. With this chaos he died, with a cloud of doubt around him, “Constantine I. Mazarakis-Ainyan continues. “Several decades after, however, in 1997, when Kostas Thoktoridis dived into the wreck, his research proved that what John Capes had described was beyond all truth …”


The group is ready to begin removing the “ghost-nets” that have covered the wreck – so they are called abandoned nets, which pose a major threat to marine fauna.


Recent Events at Perseus

And we are reaching today. 

At the beginning of June, a group of Greek volunteer divers from Aegean Rebreath  launched the task of removing the “ghost-nets” that have covered the wreck – so-called abandoned nets, which pose a great threat to marine fauna. Als Marine Consultants Ltd. contributed decisively to the company. with the availability of a high-tech ROV and specialized operators, also volunteers. It was an action of BlueCycle blue and cyclical economy. 

“Worldwide, more than 640,000 tonnes of fishing equipment end up in the sea every year. Our program approaches holistically the problem of plastic waste in Greek seas. It is the first in Europe to focus on the recycling and re-use of materials from fishing and shipping activities: ropes, nets, lines, cages, etc. It concerns three categories: those that would end up in the landfill or Third World countries for recycling; those collected at collection stations located in various parts of Greece; and those below the sea – a few decades. Besides, as you know, plastic takes too many years to decompose. Indicatively I mention: a bottle 500, a lighter 100, a plastic bag for 55 years, “explains Suzana Laskaridis, general secretary of the Catherine Laskaridis Foundation, founder and director of the BlueCycle program. “Shipwrecks, like artificial reefs, attract dozens of marine life, but they also contain waste, and they are turned into submerged garbage. And especially the nets become traps, especially for marine mammals. ” 

In a recent offshore and underwater cleaning operation in Salamina, together with Aegean Rebreath, 700kg of garbage was gathered in just a few hours. Under BlueCycle, plastic waste will be collected, cleaned, processed, promoted in industry and reused – for the same use but not only. A boat bucket, for example, could “give” cages for ten or twenty smaller boats. For the issues of quality control and properties of the material, there will be cooperation with the School of Chemical Engineering of the National Technical University of Athens and with the Hellenic Center for Marine Research – Institute of Oceanography (HCMR).

Allies of the program are already many fishermen. “They show great interest and desire to participate in order to clean the seas but also … their name,” says Mrs Laskaridis. “They acknowledge that in the past the tactic of throwing away the useless messy materials was not the right one, but we did not dangle the finger. There was no management system, no alternatives. Now they have. ” 

Among the eight volunteer divers found at the bottom of the Ionian Sea to clean the “Perseus” was Elia Nikitopoulou, archaeologist-museologist, coordinator of the BlueCycle program on behalf of the Catherine Laskaridis Foundation. “Experience was unique,” he says. “And the emotions vary and contradictory: on the one hand joy because we managed to carry out a difficult mission (in great depth, with strong currents), on the other hand the awe in front of the sunken skier and also the concern about its environmental dimension theme: the turret was covered with nets and cords, almost did not look. We cleaned part of it as well as the whole bow. ” 

Within the next few months, BlueCycle and Aegean Rebreath will return to Perseus. The silence of the wreck will be disturbed again. But for good purpose. ■

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