From a life of luxury on the high seas to troop transport vessel, like many ships of her kind, the SS Polynesian underwent a complete change of purpose during the First World War. Built in 1890 by Messageries Maritimes in La Ciotat, France. SS Polynesian was a Risbec-class ocean liner, one of four sister ships, measuring 152.5m in length with a beam of 15m. Polynesian was a 3-masted barque made of steel, with a steam engine, double funnel, and a four-bladed propeller.

Operating first on the France-Australia route through the Suez Canal, SS Polynesian was later active in the Far East, and then again towards Australia and New Caledonia, before being dispatched back to Europe. At the beginning of World War I, she was requisitioned by the French authorities and armed as a troop transport vessel.

Polynesian’s final voyage, only three months before the end of the war, was from Bizerte in Tunisia to Salonika (Thessaloniki), Greece, transporting Serbian troops, cadets and personnel of the Royal Serbian Army. On 10 August 1918, the French steamer was torpedoed by the German submarine SM UC-22, only a few kilometres off Malta. She was hit on the port side near the engine room and sank within half an hour. Most of the cadets survived the sinking, but eleven crew members and six passengers died. The survivors were taken to Malta and recuperated at Cottonera Hospital. The wreck lies about 3km east of Marsaskala.

SS Polynesian

Dive Site, War Grave

Open to Divers through Registered Dive Centres and Clubs

Maximum Depth: 65 metres

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