Malin Head: The Giant’s Graveyard (3)

Part 3: SS Justicia

The deep crystal-clear waters off Malin Head in Ireland were once a navigation route for wartime convoys and after two World Wars the seabed is now a graveyard for super-size wrecks. In the third of four mini-stories we look at the transatlantic ocean liner, SS Justicia which at 32,234 tons was the second largest ship sunk the First World War.

With little demand for transatlantic passenger crossings during that war the British government put Justicia into service as a troopship capable of carrying 4000 soldiers! In July 1918 whilst heading to New York, the unladen liner came under attack from UB-64 which managed to send 4 torpedoes into her before escorts forced the persistent U-Boat to break off. But Justicia’s position was now known and the following day UB-124 attacked, finishing the mighty liner off with two further torpedoes and costing the lives of 16 men. UB-124 was not as lucky in its escape as UB-64, being forced to surface by the destroyers and then itself sunk.

As we descend, the spectacular forward deck appears, as vast as that of the most famous White Star liner, the Titanic. Thereafter, our progress seems slow as we explore the exposed lower decks, but this wreck is in fact so big that getting anywhere takes time!  We make our way to the tip of the bow and I sit on the seabed at 72 metres with this great ship towering before me, one of the most awe-inspiring sights I have seen in my entire diving career! But the tide waits for no diver, so we need to return to our shot line before the current starts again after the slack water period. On our return journey, we fin over a deck that resembles a giant pinball machine, due to capstans that have been thrust upward through the decks. Everything is so big on this wreck! Finally the remains of the bridge appear, giving us one last glance of this once-magnificent ship.

Thanks to Steve Jones