Ambon Wreck Diving
Only recently, has more information been discovered about one of the hidden highlights of Indonesian Wreck Diving which came to rest in Ambon Bay in the mid 1900s. Though the dive team always knew about the large wreck, having dived the site many hundreds of times over the years, information as to the actual history of the vessel was always hard to find. It was common belief that the wreck was a Dutch vessel, scuppered to prevent her falling in to the hands of the Japanese forces during World War II, when occupation of Ambon was hotly contested as a result of its strategic location.
It wasn’t until October 2009, when Maluku Divers introduced the new nitrox facility that divers could really afford the bottom time to get in to the engine room of the vessel to find identification clues. It fell to some sharp detective work by Marcel Hagendijk, Maluku Divers Resort Manager, and Andreas De Beer, supplier of the nitrox system, both avid wreck diving enthusiasts, to discover a plaque from the machinery, from where the truth as to the history of the vessel could be traced. The plaque detailed a serial number of a Water Heater, from a company called Central Marine Engine Works in West Hartlepool, UK. With helpful assistance by Mr Wouter Groenewegen and later Mr Ron Mapplebeck, the following information was uncovered;
The vessel resting in Ambon Bay is the Duke of Sparta, launched in 1940 from the William Gray shipyard, West Hartlepool. Sold in 1951 to an Italian company from Naples, she was renamed SS Aquila.
Bombed by the Americans during Operation Haik, against the communist rebellions in Indonesia, on 28 April 1958, she was anchored and in ballast, she sank on the 27 May 1958.
Built Wm Gray, West Hartlepool (yard no. 1104),
Launched 9 July 1940 and completed in October 1940 as DUKE OF SPARTA for Trent Maritime Co. Ltd., London.
Sold in 1951 to Grimaldi Bros., Italy and became AQUILA.
The vessel is 137 Metres in length, has a 17 metre beam and was registered at 5,397 gross tons.
The Dive Site
The wreck diving experience on the Duke of Sparta is exceptional. At 137 metres in length and 17 metres beam, the vessel is immense, and after over 50 years beneath the ocean in the fertile Indonesian waters, she is encrusted with corals and is a unique ecosystem in her own right. The vessel dwarfs the USS Liberty wreck in Bali and the intact superstructure makes her perfect for planned penetrations, a personal favourite tour which is lead by Maluku Divers Resort Manager Marcel.
The DUke of Sparta sits upright with her stern the shallowest part of the dive, in about 15 metres of water, her bow resting in around 35 metres. The site is about 15 minutes boat ride from the Maluku Divers Resort’s waterfront location. As with all wrecks, the dive is often quite gloomy, however, when dived on the correct tide, the visibility can actually be very pleasant.
Further exploration of the wreck of the Duke of Sparta has revealed a second wreck in very close proximity, a 30 metre wooden vessel is just a few metres from the larger wreck, certainly very few locations exist where two wrecks can be dived on the same site. Maluku Divers will continue to explore and search for other vessels which lie in wait in Ambon Bay.