Kea Britannic Shipwreck

The Shipwreck of Britannic in Kea, in the Cyclades: The Britannic was the largest sister ship of the Titanic. It was also the largest Olympic-class ocean liner belonging to the White Star Line and, according to a White Star pamphlet, it was originally named Gigantic. However, after the Titanic disaster, the company decided to change its name to Britannic. The ship was launched in February 1914 and was sunken in November 1916, just 4 miles from the island of Kea, at a depth of 119m, where she lies almost intact till today.

Britannic was originally a commercial ship sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. However, in May 1915, it was named HMHS(that means His Majesty Hospital Ship), it was repainted white with red crosses and a horizontal green stripe and served in the World War I as a hospital ship, collecting the sick and wounded British soldiers from the Mediterranean countries and carrying them back to the United Kingdom.

On November, 12th, 1916, the Britannic departed Southampton, Britain, for the island of Lemnos, Greece. It made some stops on the way but, in general, everything went as usual. On November, 16th, 1916, at 8 a.m., while the ship was sailing between Kea and Cape Sounion, in the Aegean Sea, a loud explosion was heard. The ship had hit a submerged mine at about 10 feet below the waterline. The doctors and nurses reacted immediately and put the passengers into the safety boats.

The Britannic sunk very quickly, in 55 minutes actually! The explosion had opened a big hole of about 20 and 30 feet in size and much water was coming into the vessel. Besides, it is possible that the ship suffered a second explosion, provoked by gas fumes. However, the most crucial point was that the crew had opened the portholes to air out the rooms where the 3,600 wounded men from Lemnos would be put. This allowed the water to enter faster.

The fishermen of Kea were the first to arrive at the spot and pick up the survivors. Two ships also came to rescue the passengers in the lifeboats. In overall, 1,036 people were saved and thirty people lost their lives, while about twenty others were injured. Some survivors were transferred to the port of Piraeus, Athens, while others were offered hospitality by the people of Kea and stayed in Korissia village for a few days.

The first person to discover the wreck of HMHS Britannic was Jacques Cousteau in 1975 and intended to turn the Britannic into the first underwater museum in the world. In August 1996, the sunken Britannic was sold to Mr. Simon Mills, a maritime historian who had written two books about its wreck. Many expeditions are still organized to reveal the mystery around the wreck of this ship, which followed her sister's fate: it sunk although it was built to be unsinkable, just like Titanic.