Ghost Fishing, Scuba Academy and Krnica Dive (located on the eastern coast of Istria, Croatia, in a small village called Krnica) have joined forces to free the MS Argo shipwreck from the ghost nets that have completely covered the wreck. A team of eight Dutch and Croatian divers will execute the project in five days, starting on June 9th.
The MS Argo is one of the most beautiful wrecks in the Kvarner Gulf (Croatian: Kvarnerski zaljev), in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. During World War II it sailed under the name HMS Flint as a British minesweeper and anti-submarine frigate. After the war, the vessel was sold to the Norwegian shipping company Valdemar Skogland and rebuilt for refrigerated transport.
But on January 22nd 1948, disaster struck. The MS Argo carried a full cargo of tomatoes from Venice to Rijeka, when it hit a World War II mine near Cape Lubenice (on the island Cres). After a heavy explosion, the ship broke in two pieces, separated directly behind the bridge. Eleven of the twelve crew members lost their life. The two parts of the wreck are still standing upright on the ocean floor of the Kvarner Gulf, fifty meters apart, at a depth of 50 meters.
Since 2001, the MS Argo is visited by divers. A fantastic dive opportunity, but with one dangerous disadvantage: of all wrecks in the Gulf, this wreck has been covered most extensively in ghost nets en lost fish traps. This fishing gear is not only a danger to divers, but is also a deadly trap for all marine fauna.
Because of the depth, the dive team will descend to the shipwreck only once every day, using trimix, a breathing gas, consisting of oxygen, helium and nitrogen. The first dive will be used to estimate the quantity and register the positions of all abandoned fishing gear on the vessel, followed by setting up a cleaning program. On the consecutive days, the nets and lines will be recovered. The afternoons are scheduled for shallow dives on the reefs near Krnica and in the town harbor, where there is also a large amount of derelict fishing gear. There is a lot of work to be done!
‘Project Argo’ is the first campaign to recover fishing gear in the region of Istria. Besides the effort of eight volunteers the project is sponsored by Maurizio Grbac of Krnica Dive and the Healthy Seas initiative which will refund most of the budgeted costs.