Identification of S/S Nicolaos

100 years ago, The Sinking of the SS Nicolaos

About 6 or 7 years ago, our friend Mario Arena told my colleague Danilo and me that he has some doubts on the right identification of one of our shipwrecks.

During a GUE Tech 2 course they measured the width of the shipwreck that, until then, was known as the “Valdivagna”. The Valdivagna was a huge ship, more than 120 meters long and impressive 16.50m wide.

Our so called Valdivagna was just 9-10 meters wide and maybe 70-80 meters long.

So I tried to find a ship that sank in  a similar position ,but at that time i had almost no experience where i could get more infomation. I tried our books and the Internet resources i knew about,but i could’nt find any ship that would suit the sinking position or the size of the wreck.

In the last two years I was getting more interested in Naval History and during the research on one of our sunken ships, I found a very detailed list about the merchant ship losses during World War 1 caused by german submarines.

On the 1st of March 1917 the german submarine SM U 65 was hunting on the east coast of Sardinia. KptLt. Hermann von Fischel wrote in his war diary that he sank two ships by gunfire close to shore 10 miles north of Capo Carbonara, the small italian sailing vessel SV Teresina and the greek steamer SS Nicolaos.

I am reasonably sure that the shipwreck lying 3 miles ashore from Monte Nai (south of Capo Ferrato), which has been erroneously identified as the italian steamer SS Valdivagna, is in fact the greek steamer SS Nicolaos (ex-Aberfoyle,ex Sailor Prince,built 1882 in Blyth).

  SAILOR PRINCE    (iron)                                                                                                         BR                          1C

                1,229       James Knott, North Shields                                                                                                                 242.0 x 33.1

                    C         Hodgson & Soulsby, Blyth                   (7)           #40                                                                        84867

95 - Prince Line (1895), Ltd. (James Knott, mgr.)

95 - ABERFOYLE   A. & A. Y. Mackay, Grangemouth

14 - NICOLAOS   G. M. Pittas Bros. & Co. (D. N. Pittas), Syra                                                      GR

Captured, shelled and sunk by U 65, 1 March 1917, off Cape Ferrato, Sardinia


1.The Measurements

The Valdivagna was 123 meters long and 16 meters wide ,far too big to be our shipwreck

1Plimsoll data

The Nicolaos(ex-Sailor Prince) was 74 meters long and 10 meter wide very similar to the wreck.

2Plimsoll data


2. The Position

The british submarine HMS Pandora sank the Valdivagna on the 9th of January 1941 in Position 39.22 N 9.50 E, about 10 miles north from Capo Ferrato , our wreck is 3 miles south of the Cape.

The german submarine SM U 65 which sank the SS Nicolaos was about 10 miles north of Capo Carbonara, close to shore, our shipwreck’s position is exactly 9.6 miles north of Capo Carbonara.

3courtesy Michael Lowrey

3. The Cargo

In the sinking report of the SS Valdivagna it is mentioned that the ship was loaded with machines and other general cargo.

4from USMM Rome

KptLt. von Fischel writes in his war diary that the greek steamer he sank ,seemed to be empty and, in fact, the cargo holds of our shipwreck are completely empty.

4. The Wreck Report

Already 1998 a diver send photos to the UKHO from a recovered engine plate and a carbon water filter manufactured by Doulton 1877-1900

5 Wrecksite.euUK Hydrographic Office

The SS Nicolaos was built 1882 with the name Sailor Prince in Blyth, England

First of all, I would like to thank Mario Arena for his initial hints, my Team and friends at Morgan Diving Center, Mario, Angelo and Danilo for their help and support and special thanks to Michael Lowrey from for helping me with the KTB of SM U 65 and Platon Alexiades with the patrol report of HMS Pandora, last but not least the very friendly and helpful experts at the USMM in Rome.

Photo SS Nikolaos from