Continuing our historic dives in Malta leads us to the wreck of The Polynesian.
A few years ago, the Times of Malta reported that the French auxiliary-cruiser was part of a convoy to the island, which it had joined southwest of Sardinia. ‘When it was sailing west of Gozo, the Polynesien suffered an engineering problem and was forced to proceed at a slow speed. Thus, the ship was abandoned by the convoy.’
Then there were conflicting stories. Original wire reports suggested that on August 10, 1918 at about 8pm, she struck a mine and sank, whilst other reports claimed she was torpedoed by the German submarine UC-22.
What is known for sure is that she was conveying Serbian troops from Bizerta to Salonica. Six Serbians, eleven Indian firemen, and two of the crew were reported missing – and presumably lay with the wreck.
The survivors, some 500 Serbian soldiers, besides the crew, were brought to Valletta, where they were taken care of by the military authorities, many being transferred to Cottonera Hospital.
All those missing were presumed to have lost their lives in the explosion. Otherwise everybody aboard was safely removed by destroyers and trawlers which proceeded to the assistance of the liner. Newspapers reported that there ‘was not the slightest panic aboard,’ and this greatly contributed to the absence of any loss life subsequent to the explosion.
Experts agree she is a tough dive, especially given strong currents and her depth of 67-metres – but, the top of the wreck stands around 44-metres. She is also a big vessel, and is probably best explored over several dives.