Exploration

Durban divers solve missing British submarine mystery

HMS Otis
HMS Otis.jpg

A team of Durban deep sea specialist divers has solved a mystery going back to the end of World War II, when a British Odin-class submarine, HMS OTUS was scuttled somewhere off the Durban coast.

The submarine, which was built in 1928, was decommissioned while in the port of Durban, at the end of the war. In 1946, it was taken about eight miles out to sea and sunk, but her exact position remained a mystery. The two divers who found her, Patrick Voorma and Allan Maclean, have been looking for the submarine for almost ten years.

In the past year, they have discovered five shipwrecks off Durban, which have been dubbed Durban’s Ghost Fleet. Among them is the coaster NAMAQUA, which sank in 1932. They report finding another larger, unidentified ship of about 80 metres in length.

HMS Otus was found in 105 metres of water, eight kilometres south-east of the Durban harbour entrance. She is lying in an upright position and appears to be in good condition.

The submarine had been deployed in Simon’s Town for training purposes but, at war's end, was in Durban, where she was decommissioned and disposed of by the Royal Navy. Over the years, she became something of a legend among the diving fraternity and several attempts were made to discover her whereabouts. As it happened, on the day she was found, Voorma and Maclean were not looking for her, although they had dived in search of her in the past.

HMS Otus is just one of a number of ships that have been scuttled or sank off Durban's coast, whose whereabouts remain unknown. The KZN coast is a rich reserve of sunken ships dating back five hundred years, of which, not all have been recorded.

HMS Otus displaced 1 475 tons and carried a complement of 53. Her weapons consisted of eight torpedo tubes, six in the bow and two at the stern, with a total of 14 torpedoes. She also carried a deck mounted 4 inch Mk XII gun and had a surface speed of 17.5 knots and 8 knots submerged.

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