The sinking of the M/V SEA DIAMOND off Santorini on 5 April 2007
All pictures copyright Michael Hipler
|I was on a 4-night cruise through the Aegean Sea on the
AEGEAN TWO (former SS AUSONIA) in April and the SEA DIAMOND was on
exactly the same itinerary. The ship was Louis Hellenic Cruises' new
acquisition, that for the first time would bring economies of scale to
the Cycladic Cruise trade this summer. I had not taken advantage of the cheaper
offer of SEA DIAMOND because I found her exterior too ugly.
The SEA DIAMOND is seen here leaving Piraeus for her last voyage on 2
|The SEA DIAMOND was considerably faster than our 50 years
old AEGEAN TWO. So she was always first in port and last out of port. I
was amazed to find that the SEA DIAMOND was actually 16 meters shorter
(143 m) than AEGEAN TWO. She looked so massive. Who would have thought
that she would be gone earlier than our ship?
The SEA DIAMOND seemingly was very well suited for the Aegean Sea with her short hull. So she docked in Patmos and probably was easy to handle with her bow thrusters in narrow ports. I think though that she must have had a high density feel with a capacity of 1537 passengers, especially on deck.
|After we left Iraklion the SEA DIAMOND overtook us on the
way to Santorini. At high speed the proud ship did throw a high bow wave
while ploughing through the quite calm sea. Even though I am not fond of
her lines I was considerate enough to take a video of her passing us.
At 16:00, when we reached the caldera of Santorini, the SEA DIAMOND had already tendered the passengers, who were booked on a bus tour, to shore. We were scheduled to do the same, as only at this spot the busses can reach the waterline of the cliffs of Santorini. From there it was only a short sea trip of 15 minutes until the ship would reach Thira to disembark the passengers who wanted to go ashore individually.
On the highest deck of AEGEAN TWO we watched the SEA DIAMOND from 3 quarters stern angle making her last move under her own power. I said to my brother that from this angle her bow looked definitely even more ugly, as due to the curve of her fat short bow, the tip of the bow seemed to point downwards.
|Five minutes later this turned out to be no optical
illusion at all, when the public address system of our ship blared
something I could not understand, which ended with an apologizing
"... but safety comes first". Apparently we had just picked up
a distress signal from SEA DIAMOND and would skip the first tender stop
to head to the SEA DIAMOND.
The ship in distress had already reached a position at the anchorage of Thira. The flotilla of Santorini-based tenders were already surrounding her. There was still smoke coming from her funnel, but she did not use her propellers anymore. Nor did she throw her anchors. Our ship closed in to a distance of only a several hundred meters. The SEA DIAMOND had taken on a serious list to starboard almost immediately, which came to a halt after they locked the water tight doors.
<= click to enlarge!
|By 16:15 jacobs ladders had been lowered from the
promenade deck on port side, which was visible from the AEGEAN TWO. The
boat deck was packed with passengers.
By 16:45 both big lifeboats had been lowered on port side. The passengers were disembarked via a low hatch in the hull into the tenders. At the same time this must have happened on starboard side plus there had also liferafts been lowered.
By then the SEA DIAMOND had drifted dangerously close to the rocky shore of Santorini. So the local small ferry NISSOS THIRASSIA staged an attempt to tug the ship away from the rocks, to no avail. The SEA DIAMOND seemed to touch the rocks already. Luckily now the minuscule tug LEON entered the scene and managed to tow the ship into security.
|Now the starboard side came into view, where 6 jacobs
ladders hung into the sea and 3 liferafts clung to the ship.
On the not visible port side now a huge hatch, probably from her days as ferry, was opened through which the passengers could board the NISSOS THIRASSIA and other boats. At least this is what I could figure out from the Greek TV reports later that week.
The last evacuations took place via the lowest open stern deck on starboard side, probably the crew, which got into tenders via a jacobs ladder. I don't think that many passengers were evacutated via jacobs ladders
|While the name of the ship on the bow remainded above the
water line during the whole evacuation, which ended about 18:30. Thereafter the ship took on more water,
because when I made the last shot of
her at about 19:30, twelve hours before her final sinking, the name was
already under water.
When we came back from dinner, it was dark. We could not see position lights, so they had already towed the ship into a remote bay of Santorini, where we could not see her.
It was announced that we would take over passengers of the SEA DIAMOND for transfer to Piraeus. Judging from our passenger capacity and passenger complement and from the fact that some passengers and crew from SEA DIAMOND slept in the Discovery Lounge on mattresses, there must have been around 300 passenger taken over.
|Final view at 19:30 on 5 April 2007, about 12 hours before her sinking.|