Final Dives on the Wreck of the Zenobia

by B. N. Sullivan

This is the final article in a series about our seven dives on the wreck of the Zenobia, a large ship that sank off the coast of Cyprus in 1980. If you missed the earlier episodes, we invite you to scroll down to the bottom of this article for links to the whole series.

Diver swimming near a shipwreckIn the most recent episode, we talked about our first dive inside the sunken ship. For that dive, we entered the Zenobia's upper parking deck through a doorway near the bow end of the ship, swam through, and exited through a larger opening closer to the stern. For successive dives, we took the opposite route, entering the parking deck through the larger opening and exiting through the doorway situated underneath the ship's bridge, near the bow.

The first dive inside the ship was all about getting a feel for the vast interior space that had been the big ferry's upper parking deck. Now that we were more oriented, we could concentrate on what there was to see of the Zenobia's cargo, and the creatures that had taken up residence inside the sunken ship.

I mentioned earlier that the Zenobia was carrying more than 100 fully loaded lorries (trailer trucks). Those trucks, which had been lined up in the parking deck when the ship was still on the surface, now lay in a jumbled pile against the port wall of the parking deck, having tumbled there as the ship sank and settled on the sandy bottom on its port side. Many of the trailers had broken up and released their pallets of cargo to scatter about. We saw shoes, clothing, machinery, and cans of house paint that had been destined for distant ports, but never made it.

Diver inside a shipwreckWe looked all around inside the big ship, shining our lights here and there as we went along. In one of those sweeps, we saw what looked like a pile of bones. As far as we knew, no one had died when the Zenobia sank, so we were very surprised to see bones -- big bones -- piled in disarray near the remains of a half-disintegrated truck body.

Looking more closely, we saw what looked like thigh bones and ribs -- BIG ribs. It was a grisly looking sight and we were taken aback at first, but on closer inspection it became clear that we were looking at animal bones. The bones were all that remained of the cargo of a refrigerated truck that had been on board the Zenobia. The truck had apparently been carrying sides of beef and other large pieces of meat. Over time the bones had been picked clean by fish and crabs, I guess. The truck in which they were being transported had decayed and broken open. In sum, it was a rather distasteful sight, and we didn't linger.

In addition to the lorries and what remained of their cargo, we did see a lot of other things inside the parking deck, including an amazing assortment of living creatures. We saw several kinds of crabs, and two species of small nudibranchs (snails without shells). We saw many crinoids -- also known as feather stars -- a class of creatures that are in the same phylum as sea stars (starfish), but with arms that resemble feathers and a separate set of little feet that they use for locomotion, and also for hanging on to wherever they are perched. The crinoids inside the Zenobia were very delicate and flimsy looking, compared to most we had seen elsewhere.

Shipwreck doorwayWe saw quite a few fish, of course, darting in and out of the debris inside the Zenobia's parking garage. They were mostly small fish, like little wrasses and cardinalfish, and two small groupers. The photo at left shows the now-horizontal doorway that was our entrance for our first dive into the parking deck, and our exit for the final two dives. It looked a bit smaller when we were further inside the wreck, but it made a nice picture frame for fish that were busily going about their business outside the wreck. At one point we looked toward that door and saw framed there a small school of silvery jacks zooming past in a parade, a lovely sight we'll never forget.

While most of the fish we saw inside the wreck were small, we did see one large grouper. He was hiding in a nook a few meters inside of the door where we would exit. We disturbed him inadvertently, and he shot out between us and hurried through the door, away from us. Ten minutes or so later when we emerged from the wreck, there was the big grouper, hanging out near an algae-covered ladder on the exterior of the ship, not far from the doorway. As soon as we were completely out of the parking garage into the open again, the grouper hurried back inside, looking very annoyed. I could have sworn I heard him 'harumph' as he passed by us, probably calling us names under his fishy breath for having disturbed him in the first place.

On our next to last dive on the Zenobia, we saved a little time to swim through the ship's bridge. We also had a look inside what had been the ship's restaurant, where the drivers of all those lorries took their meals during the voyage. We saw three more small groupers in there, too.

Divers ascendingOne of our favorite finds on the Zenobia was a good-sized Mediterranean Moray (Muraena helena) that had taken up residence in a drain near one of the Zenobia's lifeboat stations. Ian, our guide, told us that eel had been living there for quite some time, and could be found in that spot reliably, just about every day. Click here to see a photo of the Mediterranean Moray that made its home on the Zenobia.

We felt fortunate that we had a whole week to spend on that trip, so that we could take our time exploring the Zenobia on those seven dives. This was not the first wreck we had dived on, nor was it the last, but to this day, we have never dived on a larger shipwreck. Diving on the Zenobia was a truly memorable experience.

We'll end our tale with a photo of the divers in our party ascending from the wreck for the last time, making their final decompression stop before climbing into Ian's boat to go back to the dock in Larnaca. Ian McMurray, who pioneered diving on the wreck of the Zenobia, and who was our guide for our dives there, is still taking divers to see this huge underwater wonder. If you are interested, visit the Octopus Diving Centre in Larnaca, Cyprus. Tell Ian that you read about the Zenobia on The Right Blue, and give him our regards.

Here are the links to all of the articles in this series about diving on the wreck of the Zenobia, near Larnaca Cyprus:More photos from the Zenobia:


  1. one day i shall be rich and get certified and get to go find the right blue myself. beautiful set of posts, as always. i love how you evoke images of the dive and the photography is gorgeous.

  2. Hello E.

    Thank you so much for your kind comments about the story and the photos. We're so glad you enjoyed this series.

    For the record, you don't have to be rich to get certified and dive into The Right Blue. Just do it!

    Cheers, Bobbie

  3. What an awesome experience this must have been! And the photos are great!


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Bobbie & Jerry