Scuba Diving the MS Zenobia

Launched in 1979, the Swedish-built ferry MS Zenobia capsized and sank near Cyprus on its maiden voyage one year later. Today it makes for a great wreck dive.

Built in 1979, the Swedish-built MS Zenobia ferry sank just a year later on its maiden voyage. Today, it makes for a fantastic wreck dive. The Zen, as the wreck is affectionately known, now rests on its port side in around 138 feet (42 m) of water near Larnaca, Cyprus.

What happened to the MS Zenobia?

The Zenobia left Malmo, Sweden on its maiden voyage for Syria in May 1980, loaded with tractor-trailers and other cargo. Between Athens and Cyprus, the ship began to experience steering problems because too much ballast water had been pumped in. After pumping it out, the captain continued to Larnaca, Cyprus, meant to be the ship’s second-to-last-stop.

While the ship was in harbor, the ballast problem resurfaced. This time the engineers traced it to the computerized pumping system and a software glitch. As the list worsened, the captain decided to tow the ship out of the harbor to prevent it becoming an obstruction should it sink. Five days after arriving in Larnaca, the Zenobia went down in Larnaca Bay, taking all its cargo with it. Fortunately, there were no casualties in the disaster.

Diving the MS Zenobia

One of the best things about this fantastic wreck is its location, around a mile from shore (1500 m). It’s a very short boat ride, and many Cyprus dive operators offer tours. The Zen is a perfect dive for all levels as well, starting at 52 feet (16 m) along the ship’s starboard side. Wreck-qualified divers can penetrate the car deck and accommodation blocks.

At 590 feet (180 m) long and 92 feet (28 m) wide, the ship makes for an impressive sight as soon as you enter the water from the dive boat. Trucks litter the seabed outside of the wreckage, and two still hang from the chains on the deck. On our first dive from the car deck along the hull to the stern, we checked out the impressive propellers and then swam back along the superstructure past all the lifeboats, still in place.

Our second dive took us to the bow and along the bridge before we entered the accommodation block for a swim-through. Here you can still see the carpets and even a toilet. Conditions in this area of the ship are deteriorating, so if you do any exploring use the utmost caution. Finally, we exited onto the truck deck again before ascending.

The many dive centers represent all training agencies and languages in Cyprus, though some close during the winter. If you want to dive with a specific operator, contact them before you make the trip.

Depth: 52 to 138 feet (16 to 42 m)

Water temperature: From 62 F (17 C) in February to 82 F (28 C) in August

Visibility: Usually around 65 feet (20 m)

When to go: Dive season runs from March to November