HMS Maori was a tribal class destroyer, evolved into fast powerful destroyers, with greater emphasis on guns over torpedoes than previous destroyers, in response to new designs by Japanese, Italian, and German manufacturers. Launched on the 2 September 1937, Maori first served with the Mediterranean Fleet, then witnessed Norwegian campaign, Atlantic convoys and carried out a number of North Sea duties.
Maori achieved her historical importance by establishing radar contact with the enemy German battleship Bismarck and bringing the ultimate destruction of that ship in May about 1941.
HMS Maori History
In the morning of February 12th, 1942 at 02:00AM, when she was moored at the entrance to the dockyard Creek, Malta, she received a direct hit, as a bomb exploded in her engine room and killed one person. Maori blocked a major shipping lane and was hazard to shipping, where it sunk. Years later, in 1945, the wreck was decided to be raised & scuttled off Malta.
The guns were eventually removed, however the rings, they were mounted on, can still be seen, as can some torpedoes.
The ship broke in two parts during the procedure of towing from Grand Harbour to Marsamxett Harbour, leaving the bow section on the bed of white sand in shallow waters (14 m), a few hundred meters from the shore near Valletta. Only this section is diveable now and it’s heavily broken up. The rest of the ship was dropped in deep water. The guns were eventually removed, however the rings, they were mounted on, can still be seen, as can some torpedoes. The bows and stern are gone, and only part of the raised bridge is still there.
Whats good about this wreck dive?
Although a lot of divers I know, would rank this wreck as “far from the best dive in Malta”, beyond the shadow of doubt, I can say, that I’m fond of Maori. I have dived it many times and I always felt in close connection with the history of Malta, whilst doing it. Nowadays it’s a beautiful, easy wreck dive with lots of swim throughs and holes to investigate. Due to it’s harbour location, Maori is very well sheltered from the North-Western winds and perfectly accessible for most of the year.
There is a wealth of life on the Maori: fascinating nudibranchs and fireworms, stonefish & flatfish, also sea horses can be found close to the wreck, if you are lucky!
Despite the lack of visibility for Maltese waters this still makes a good dive & the swim is very straight forward. Getting closer, one can discover what is left of the windlass and a certain amount of anchor chain. Astern of this, at deck level, are twin bollards, on both side of the vessel, and then some form of splash guard stretches right across the deck. Close to this is a hatch and the framework on which the forward gun was mounted. The sides of the wreck are well rusted through enabling us to swim in and out. Wrecks act as instant additions to any underwater reef formation and this one is no different
Marine life & dive highlights
There is a wealth of life on and around Maori: fascinating nudibranchs and fireworms, stonefish & flatfish. You can spot some eels and perhaps an octopus on the way to the wreck. Fish egg sacks are to be found all over the place and there are plenty of crabs around, especially on the Maori herself. There are also sea horses close to the wreck! While the Maori is an easy dive in terms of access and depth, you should always be careful of the jagged bits of metal. She lies in fairly shallow water, and is in quite a state of decomposition. Some people say she is not safe, but like all wrecks – treat her with respect and you will be just fine. The swim back to shore is also very leisurely and the sloping sands turn to rocks once you begin to approach the shore
Wreck diving precautions
Although it is no longer possible to penetrate the wreck please exercise caution.
- Marsamxett Harbour is home to a fair amount of scorpion fish. Their camouflage works well against the rusting hulk of the Maori. Always watch where you are putting your hands and be careful of jagged metal that remains on some parts of the wreck.
- The Maori lies half buried in sand. Be very careful if you plan to penetrate the wreck. Portholes allow some light into the hulk, but always make sure that you know where you are going.
- Although the situation has improved since last year, the kitting up area is notorious for thieves who break into vehicles while divers are underwater. Take nothing of value with you and always lock your vehicle.