Corsica’s Underwater Graveyard of Planes!
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
This year’s road trip, has led me to the beautiful French Island of Corsica. It’s been a while since I’ve done such a long driving trip. I leave Gibraltar early on a Saturday morning and drive just over half way through the Mediterranean coast of Spain and stay overnight at the city of Castellón de la Plana, near Valencia. The next day I drive into France and arrive at the Military Port city of Toulon in the South Coast of France. Finally on the third day of my road trip, I board a ferry; destination L'Île-Rousse, Corsica.
I stayed in the small town of Calvi, located in the Northern part of the Island. My first day of diving is in Calvi itself. I dive at a Marine Reserve. The sea is warm and the visibility excellent, there is no current and marine life is impressive at the reef. It reminds me a lot of the Cabo de Palos, Marine Reserve in Spain. I see a large school of barracudas and then a huge number of large Groupers swimming around. The Mediterranean is has a bad name for lack of marine life, but this was not the case here.
My second dive in Corsica is also in Calvi. This time on the famous wreck of the B17 Plane, lying a few metres off Calvi Citadel in Corsica. On the 14th of February 1944 the Bomber, operated by the United States Air Force during World War II, set out on a strategic bombing campaign to Verona Rail Road Yards in North Italy. During her flight, she came under attack by the Nazi Germans, which took down two of her four engines, and damaged the third, two of the gunman and the radio operator were killed during the attack. The Pilot tried to bring the B17 into Calvi in Corsica but started losing power on approach to the Island, and decided to ditch her into the sea instead. The Pilot managed to land the plane on the sea and all remaining 7 personnel were able to evacuate the aircraft before she sunk to the bottom of the seabed where she lies today. Two of the three killed in action were recovered from the wreck but the third; S/Sgt Tony Duca was never recovered, he would have been on the gunner position at the tail of the plane. In 2012 the US tried finding the remains of Duca and even had a bathymetry scan of the area done but to no avail. Many years ago divers took parts of the tail to be sold as scrap aluminium, and even some of the propellers have been taken! Such a shame and disrespect to this War Grave, the nose of the plane was also damaged recently by an anchor. The wreck is now protected and these events do not happen anymore. A memorial plaque was placed on the wreck but later removed and placed on the Citadel in Calvi instead.
For my next dives on the Island of Corsica, I have to drive a lot! I stayed based in Calvi for the entire trip, and most places are 2 hours drive away minimum. My third dive is on the plane wreck of a P47 American Fighter Plane off the town of Miomo. The dive centre is in Bastia, so I leave the hotel at 6AM to make sure I am there on time for the dive. The plane is another victim of World War II. The P47 sits intact on a seabed of neptune grass. The name of the pilot is still unknown to date. After the dive, I visited the local Museum and city of Bastia, before the long drive back over the mountains to Calvi.
The following day is another early 6AM start. Again another 2 hour drive, this time to the Costa Verde of Corsica. A dive centre found in a small marina called Port Taverna. Here I dived on another P47 American Fighter Plane, this one a War Grave! Two P47s lie close to each other off the Costa Verde of Corsica, but one totally destroyed. Unfortunately the plane crashed taking the pilot down with it. It wasn't until as recently as last year that the US Military found the pilot's remains, by carrying out an extensive excavation of the crash site underwater. Second Lt. James R. Lord has now been found after missing in action since the 10th of August 1944. A funeral service and an official ceremony to pay tribute to him took place in the United States a few days after the discovery.
I planned a final dive on the plane wreckage of a fire fighting plane, this time off the western coast of the Island, near the capital Ajaccio. Unfortunately, the dived was cancelled due to bad weather, and instead went on a sightseeing tour of the capital.
There are so many wrecks I still have left to dive in Corsica. One day I will have to go back and do these. But for now… other adventures await me!