SUBMARINES AND COELACANTHS Expedition 14 to 23 MAY 2015 by Pat Voorma

3Durban’s Ghost Fleet In 1685 the sailing ship The Good Hope ran aground off the Bluff, South Africa and became the first recorded wreck of the Durban bay. There are 141 recorded wrecks off Durban and many more unrecorded. In the past two years we have been exploring the coastline around Durban in search of some of these wrecks. The first wreck we found was the Namaqua or uMZimvubu as she was best known as. She sunk in 1932. She is at 60 meters approx. 6km NEE of the Durban Harbour.

The next wreck was the Sir Gordon, the dredger attributed to building the Durban Harbour. She lies in 65m Our most exciting find was that of the HMS Otus, a British Odin class submarine, scuttled in 1946. She is at 105 meters. On the 24 January 2014, 30 years after she sank we found the MV Cape Columbine, a fishing trawler that sprung a leak and sank in 65m. The next exciting discovery was the US Nahma, one of the most expensive private ships built in 1898. She sunk in 1933 and lies in 75m. The last wreck we discovered is at 75m but I am yet to identify her. We have called it Durban’s Ghost Fleet. During my searching for these wrecks I have come across a couple of stories about two possible submarines that were sunk off Durban amidst much secrecy.

shot 001Amongst others, I have spoken to a navy and later commercial diver, who says that he had personal knowledge of these two submarines. He provided me with the approximate depths and positions that he could remember using Durban landmarks. They had no GPS at that time. For the past two years I have been searching this area and am now confident that I have found the position of one of these submarines. She lies at 80 meters.

I have been fortunate enough to have dived with the late Peter Timm on numerous occasions. Peter discovered the prehistoric fish, the Coelacanth, thought to have been extinct for more than 30 million years in Sodwana’s Jesser Canyon. He has identified more than 19 individual fish before his untimely passing. Peter was confident that if we were to find a similar canyon off Durban on the 100m Isobaths we would find Coelacanths.

2After many hours of searching out at sea using sonar, I have managed to find such a canyon off Durban. So this now all sets the scene for our planned Submarine and Coelacanth expedition in May 2015.

  • 14 May:               Assemble gear, briefings, final coordination of plans and teams
  • 15 May:               Check out and shake down dive Max depth 30m.
  • 16 May:               60m Dive, procedures, support divers and emergency plans
  • 17 May:               Discover a Submarine 80m
  • 18 May:               Revisit the Submarine 80m
  • 19 May:               HMS Otus Submarine 105m
  • 20 May:               Canyon Dive searching for Coelacanths 120m
  • 21 May:               Canyon Dive searching for Coelacanths 120m
  • 22 May:               Canyon Dive searching for Coelacanths 120m
  • 23 May:               Canyon Dive searching for Coelacanths 120m

Roger Horrocks will be the cameraman to film this expedition. He has been involved with many underwater documentaries for National Geographic, Discovery, BBC and Disney Channel. He will be filming using the Red Dragon Camera and Gates housing. The team members involved in this expedition will be the following:

Pat Voorma

PADI Course Director and TecRec Instructor Trainer

5 Replies to “SUBMARINES AND COELACANTHS Expedition 14 to 23 MAY 2015 by Pat Voorma”

  1. Pat Voorma.

    Dear Pat,

    Have you seen my recent book, ‘When I was a Fish. Tales of an Ichthyologist’, which describes my career as an ichthyologist and especially my coelacanth research? The book contains a great deal of information about the coelacanth, which may assist you in your forthcoming dives. The book was published by Jacana Media in April 2015 (ISBN 978-1-4314-2057-5; 310 pages) and is available through Exclusive Books and Bargain Books at R240.

    Best wishes,

    Mike Bruton

      1. That’s a pleasure – let me know if I can be of any further assistance. Best wishes,


  2. Dear Pat

    I am very eager to learn of where the Durban canyon is and what it looks like. I am a marine geologist with particular interest in canyons; I was the geologist involved in the first coelacanth programme in Sodwana Bay where I did my PhD on the canyons there. From a scientific perspective I’d be interested in mapping this canyon with detailed sonar at some stage. Please keep me updated on your search at

    All the best


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