Environmental Divers Clean Up the HMS Perseus
The Ghost Net divers are at it again, this time liberating the wreck of a downed British WWII sub from those deadly nets.
Header photo by Cor Kuyvenhoven.
28 July 2020
While shipwrecks and reefs are hot spots for biodiversity by providing food and shelter to extensive marine life, at the same time they are deadly traps. Lost and discarded fishing nets, also known as ghost nets, often get snagged there, capturing animals such as sea turtles, dolphins, seals, birds, and also fish that die because they cannot free themselves.
In the area between the Greek islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos, the wreck of the British submarine HMS Perseus lies at a depth of 52 m/170 ft in the Ionian Sea. Not unlike other wrecks, this one also comes with a fascinating story about its lone survivor, a British Navy stoker by the name of John Capes who escaped from the submarine’s hatch after it hit an Italian mine during WWII. He survived not only the journey to the surface, but also the five-mile (8 km) swim to the island of Kefalonia during the night, where he was hidden by islanders for 18 months before being smuggled in a caïque to Smyrna, Turkey. He was subsequently awarded a British Empire Medal.
The HMS Perseus is one of the biggest submarines of World War II and a cultural heritage site . Between July 22nd and 26th, after long preparations, six specifically trained volunteer technical divers from Ghost Diving, who have long been allured by the mystery and historical value of the wreck, finally made it their mission to dive at the HMS Perseus to remove the fishing gear that was covering the submarine. By doing so, their goal was to protect the marine inhabitants of this biodiverse area, such as the loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, and monk seals that just so happened to make an appearance in the area while the divers were working. It is estimated that millions of animals die each year by getting trapped in lost fishing gear.
The team performed three dives on HMS Perseus lasting 65 minutes each. After a thorough survey dive, the divers decided to focus on the conning tower and the front outer hull. Following the second dive, the conning tower is now almost completely free of fishing nets, and the wreck’s original structure has been unveiled. During the third dive, a large piece of fishing net that was covering the outer hull and reaching all the way to the bottom, was also removed. The difficulty level of the job was escalated by the many long lines that had been mixed up with the nets over the years. However, the operation went as planned and without any problems thanks to the professional support of Aquatic Scuba Diving Club. The underwater cleanups lasted five days targeting also other wrecks in the area, at 50m/163 ft depth and recovering a total of 500 kgs/1102 lbs of lost fishing gear.
The event was organized by Healthy Seas, and besides the sea clean ups, also included a public awareness event in the capital of Kefalonia. Local groups and various artists participated in the event, attempting to highlight the importance of the marine and coastal Natura 2000’s three sites around the island and raising awareness about marine pollution and ghost nets. The public event was organized within MIO-ECSDE’s ‘Mediterranean Action Day 2020’, supported by the LIFE+ Operating Grant for NGOs and made possible thanks to the support and hospitality of Aenos National Park, the Kefalonia – Ithaka Geopark, the Kefalonia & Ithaca Port Fund, and the Municipality of Argostoli.
To further support endeavors for the protection of the endangered Caretta caretta, native to the Mediterranean Sea, Healthy Seas handed over a donation cheque to Kateleios Volunteer Group. Recently, Healthy Seas also released “A Turtle’s Fear”, a short and poignant film narrated by AJ+ and National Geographic journalist, Gelareh Darabi, about the ghost fishing phenomenon and its deadly effects on this majestic species.
The nylon fishing nets that were recovered during this mission will now continue on a journey from waste to wear and will be regenerated, together with other nylon waste, into ECONYL® yarn, the basis for new sustainable products such as socks, swimwear, sportswear or carpets.
- The discarded, lost, or abandoned fishing nets are sometimes called “ghost nets”, since they continue to catch fish and other marine animals without human involvement. Millions of marine animals, including sharks, dolphins, seals and turtles suffer because of entanglement in these nets which leads to serious injuries and death eventually. Every year, some 640,000 tons of fishing gear is left in our seas and oceans. It is plastic waste that remains in the seas for hundreds of years and doesn’t biodegrade.
- Unbelievable Submarine Escape Proven True – John Capes’ Story of Unsung Heroism in WWII – Wreckage Video
PERSEUS SUBMARINE 1928-1941 – WRECK WRAK EPAVE WRACK PECIO
Submarine escape: A WWII survival tale from Kefalonia
HMS Perseus: The story of the sole survivor of a British submarine sunk in 1941 off Kefalonia, Ionian Sea, Greece
- Natura 2000 is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species and some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. Stretching over 18% of the EU’s land area and almost 6% of its marine territory, Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the World. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive.
- Healthy Seas
The mission of ‘Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear’ initiative is to remove waste from the seas, in particular fishing nets, for the purpose of creating healthier seas and recycling marine litter into textile products. The recovered fishing nets will be transformed and regenerated by Aquafil into ECONYL® yarn, a high-quality raw material used to create new products, such as socks, swimwear, sportswear or carpets. Since its founding in 2013, Healthy Seas has collected over 510 tons of fishing nets with the help of volunteer divers and fishermen. https://healthyseas.org
First Healthy Seas Mission in the Ionian Sea – HEALTHY SEAS
- Ghost Diving
Ghost Diving is a registered charity organization of volunteer technical divers specialized in the removal of lost fishing gear and other marine debris since 2009. The organization was formerly known as Ghost Fishing foundation. Ghost Diving is the biggest international diving team working on this topic with a track record in a significant variation of countries and international waters.
Ghost Diving: Home
Diving Pioneer and Inventor Phil Nuytten Has Passed On
R. T. (Phil) Nuytten, OC, OBC, L.L.D. (hon), D.Sc (hon)
Text and photos courtesy of the Nuytten family
Phil Nuytten spent his life in subsea exploration. He logged many thousands of hours underwater world-wide as a working commercial diver, and as a developer of underwater equipment and techniques. He was widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern commercial diving industry and a significant force in the creation of new technology.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Phil was heavily involved in experimental deep-diving and the development of mixed gas decompression tables. In 1968 he was a member of the team that completed the first 600-foot ocean ‘bounce’ dives on ‘Project Nesco’, and in 1972 he wrote the protocol for ‘Deep Work 1000’, the first North American thousand-foot saturation dive. These early projects helped set the international standards in use today.
In 1965 Phil founded Can-Dive Services Ltd, and in 1969, he co-founded Oceaneering International Inc. Both companies pioneered many early subsea development projects, and Oceaneering has gone on to become the largest publicly traded underwater skills companies in the world.
In the 1970’s, working with long-time colleague Dr. Joe MacInnis, Phil headed the equipment research component of a series of high-arctic expeditions. Among the goals of these expeditions was the testing of Phil’s designs of life-support gear for use in polar and sub-polar conditions. In 1984, Phil appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine for his record dives through ice-covered arctic waters onto the Breadalbane, the northern-most known shipwreck. His involvement in underwater activities in virtually all of the world’s oceans has resulted in articles on his work in Reader’s Digest, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, Popular Science, Discovery, Fortune, and Scientific American, as well as dozens of diving and aerospace technical journals. Phil was a popular speaker at underwater conferences around the world and has published numerous technical papers on his leading-edge work in subsea technology.
Phil was instrumental in the development and current acceptance of Atmospheric Diving System technology. In 1977, he began work on a revolutionary new one-atmosphere diving suit that resulted in a patented break-through in rotary joint design, which formed the basis for the world-famous ADS ‘Newtsuit’, a thousand foot-rated hard suit that completely protects the wearer from outside pressure and eliminates the need for decompression, while still maintaining mobility and dexterity. Always looking to improve on technology, Phil later introduced a new concept for an ultra-light weight hard suit called the ‘Exosuit ADS’. In spring 2012 the first production Exosuit ADS was unveiled, a natural successor to his original Newtsuit, and, like its predecessor, the Exosuit ADS a valuable tool for research scientists around the globe, as well as commercial dive companies, military organizations and explorers.
Among his diverse interests, Phil was a noted expert on West Coast Native Art. In 1982 he published a book called The Totem Carvers. An accomplished carver himself, Phil was of Métis descent and was adopted into the West Coast Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation. He also frequently acted as a consultant for appraisals of West Coast Native art and antiquities.
In 1992, Phil Nuytten received the Order of British Columbia, his home province’s highest honour, in recognition of his contribution to the economic well-being of the province and the recognition and support of the native culture, and for making the province known beyond its borders as a leader in underwater high-technology. On Canada Day 2016, Phil was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada “for his innovations in deep-sea exploration, which have improved safety and made Canada a leader in underwater development and commerce.”
Of the many projects he conceived and patented, Phil often said he was proudest of the ‘Remora’ submarine rescue system, a rescue vehicle with a manned personnel compartment and a patented articulated mating skirt that permits mating with a disabled submarine at angles of misalignment up to 60°. During a NATO presentation by the U.S. Navy ‘Remora’ was described as a major breakthrough in submarine safety. ‘Remora’ vehicles subsequently were purchased by both the Australian and American navies. In 2008, the US Navy announced the successful test of the ‘Pressurized Rescue Module System’ (PRMS) and described it as “the world’s most technically capable submarine rescue system”. The PRMS was based on Phil’s 1997 patent.
Phil and his design team also produced the two thousand foot-rated micro-submersible ‘DeepWorker’ and received a five-year contract from the National Geographic Society to provide DeepWorkers and crews on the ‘Sustainable Seas Expeditions’, an initiative to study deep ocean environmental impact. The use of the DeepWorker micro-subs to explore and monitor marine sanctuaries has significantly increased scientists’ understanding of underwater ecology, habitats, and biodiversity.
Phil was heavily involved in the production of film and TV specials based around his unique technology. Made for TV specials include a one-hour CBC special on his life and work called “Descent of Man”, NBC ‘Mysteries of the Sea’, Walt Disney’s “Pressure Point”, and dozens of Canadian, U.S., European and Asian specials. Phil was also senior technical advisor and provided the submersibles and other futuristic subsea devices for James Cameron’s Academy Award winner “The Abyss” and consulted on Cameron’s ‘Titanic’.
Phil Nuytten spent over fifty years developing undersea systems that have the safety of the diving technician as their common theme; to provide scientific, technical, military and sport divers full access to continental shelf depths without the hazards of decompression, so that humans can explore, learn about, and—ultimately—protect the world’s oceans. And Phil loved every minute of it.
Phil Nuytten was the Chairman of the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences at the time of his passing. He had been inducted into the AUAS Diving Hall of Fame in 1997 and passed away on May 13, 2023, at the age of 81.
TEDx: Welcome to Vent-Base Alpha | Dr. Phil Nuytten | TEDxWestVancouverED
aquaCORPS archives: Think Hard: Interview With Phil Nuytten (1994)
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