Dive The Irrakandy Ship Wreck (the SS Ava?) (www.DiveSriLanka.com)
Irrakkandy, Trincomalee
By Dharshana Jayawardena.

Depth: 9.5 to 11 Meters.

What was this ship? Who owned it? Where was it heading? How long ago did it sink? No mortal soul knows... What tragedy befell this mysterious vessel? How many souls were damned to the depths? Alas! The truth is as lost as the ship we see before us.

Welcome to the Unknown Ship Wreck off the coast of Nilavali Trinco. The wreck lies beneath 12 M of shallow seas about 40 minutes on boat from the Nilavali Beach Hotel. Locals call this the Irrakandy Ship Wreck.

What we do know is that this is a beautiful dive site. The propeller and the engine remains indicate that this was a coal steamer most probably of British origin. The ship is hardly recognizable but the ravages of the ages have created enough nooks and crannies in the wreck to attract a plethora of ocean denizens including large Groupers, Morays, Octopus shoals of Snapper and Trevally.

In it's prime this would have been a beautiful ship. One can imagine the pride of the captain as he set sail across the seven seas.

Local fisherman say that he ("Kappiththa") still watches over the wreck in some form and manner. Often as a large Long fin Batfish (Platax tiera) which we were fortunate to capture on film (See Below). This was a curious creature indeed. It inspected all the divers one by one and disappeared into the gloom.

They say a captain leaves a doomed ship the last. Looks like this captain has no such intentions. In life or in death...

Top Left: Colorful coral is abundant around the rocky terrain that surrounds the ship.

Top: A mast of the ship leans precariously over the chasm of time

Left: Away from the metallic clutter of the ship, a beautiful sand garden awaits us.

Bottom Left: What would have once been an entrance to a cargo hold is now a doorway of refuge for many denizens of the deep.

Bottom Right: Dwelling within shadowy remains of the ships slowly rotting carcass are millions and millions of Glass Fish (Bulls Eyes).

Welcome to the Little Garden at the Engine Block!

This is not to be missed! Lying atop what appears to be a huge square contraption is a beautiful garden of Sea Anemone's and a healthy citizenship of various types of Anemonefish and other Damsels.

Top Left: The Little Garden with Clarks Anemonefish photographed last year (July 2003).

Top, Left and Bottom Left: We were happy to sea the Anemones and the fish still thriving in the same location this season (June 2004)

It's so entertaining to see the little fish flying over their little city!

Bottom Right: Various types of Coral thrives on a fallen boom.

Top: The tantalizing first glimpse of the Great Captain, perhaps woken from a great slumber and summoned to inspect this latest intrusion into his (Middle:) sacrosanct domain. Right: Having gently brushed us all with his long fins, the Captain departs and disappears into the dark gloom, feeling safe with the knowledge that his ship is in no danger... This is indeed the largest Batfish we have ever seen in anywhere.

Bottom Left: A school of Bullseyes march east in a very determined pace.

Bottom Right: Moray Eels are in great abundance inside the wreck seeking refuge as well as concealment to pounce on unsuspecting prey.

Top Left: A Sea Slug of sorts on slow march across the rusted terrain.

Top Middle: What looks like a prized crown is but a sponge coral growth on a rusted cylinder

Top Right: A Saw Tooth Feather Star adorns the top of a circular crevice that is home to a family of butterfly fish.

Left: Deadly Beauty. A Crown-of-thorns on a insidious march, sucking in the live layer of coral from it's underbelly and leaving vast swathes of waste land in it's wake.

Bottom Left: An inquisitive Grouper keeps an watchful eye. Is this the new manifestation of the captain? For see we did not, much to our sorrow, the graceful Long Fin Batfish of the yesteryear.

Bottom Right: Large patches of coral feed many species of fish.

Left: Soldierfish on the prowl in and around the wreck.

Top: One of many types of beautiful Star Fish one can find resting on the coral bed alongside the ship wreck

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Photo Credits: (c) www.DiveSriLanka.com