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PROJECT PEDESTAL








A team of technical divers from the UK and Malta set out to locate, dive and document the wrecks of armed and merchant vessels sunk during a pivitol event of World War II - Operation Pedestal. Join these true 'Wreck Detectives' as they explore the deep waters around Malta...


PROJECT PEDESTAL
BACKGROUND



In Spring to Autumn 1942, Malta was locked in a fight for survival that would determine the whole course of Word War 2. As Britain's main Naval Base in the Mediterranean - located in the narrow channel between North Africa and Sicily - the island's strategic importance was huge. Malta’s airfield formed the base for an English squadron of Spitfires whose air support was so crucial to Montgomery in his North Africa Campaign against Rommel's Desert Rats.

The Axis forces of Italy and Nazi Germany realised that the campaign hung in the balance, and the key was disabling this air support from Malta. The island, even now, has very few of its own natural resources, and was totally dependant on convoys of supplies arriving from the UK.

In early 1942, these supplies were running very low, but most crucially, fuel to keep the Spitfires flying was all but depleted. The convoy of April 1942 had been all but wiped out by Italian and German submarines and MTBs out of Sicily, plus the many minefields laid around the Maltese Islands and German Stuka Divebombers who relentlessly attacked the supply ships and their escorts.

In one final desperate attempt to get supplies through to Malta, Churchill ordered the largest convoy ever assembled at the time: Operation Pedestal consisted of 14 merchant supply ships, protected by no less than 77 warships including 4 aircraft carriers. The mission was simple and specific: get supplies through to Malta at any cost.

Only 5 of the 14 merchant supply ships were to make it - 9 were lost along with around 20 of the warships that were either sunk or heavily damaged by enemy action.

At the centre of the merchant convoy was the then largest oil tanker in the world, fully laden with 15,000 tons of fuel for the spitfires: The SS Ohio. Under requisition from the Americans, with an all English crew lead by Captain Dudley Mason, who was later awarded The George Cross for his gallantry in commanding what basically amounted to a floating bomb under almost unimaginable and constant attack from Axis forces. The Ohio took countless hits from bombs, torpedoes and aircraft fire, but refused to die and was eventually limped into Valetta harbour, straddled between two warships, her back broken. Every last drum of fuel was removed from her, before she finally sunk onto the harbour seabed, moments after the last barrel was removed. It was like she knew her job was done and she could stop trying

The fuel kept the Spitfires running, and the allies vanquished Rommel and the Axis forces 8 weeks later at the second battle of El Alamain. This freed up the allies to invade Sicily, and this chain of events turned the tide of World War Two.

It perhaps too dramatic to say that one convoy, and in particular one ship, The SS Ohio, won World War Two, but one only has to look at the importance that Churchill attached to Pedestal to realise its key historical and strategic significance.


Supported by Royal Navy destroyers, the tanker SS Ohio limps into Valetta

The merchantship SS Waimarama explodes after being bombed




PROJECT PEDESTAL
OBJECTIVES



Some of wrecks created by the campaigns of 1942 have been found in the water surrounding Malta, but many remain, the sea surrounding the island gets deep quickly, and until recently the diving infrastructure wasn’t really geared towards the needs of divers involved in deep trimix diving.

Research suggests that there are as many as 30-40 deep marks still to be found and identified, including 4 ships of great historical importance.

In collaboration with IANTD UK, the Pedestal Project aims to locate, dive, document and record for posterity the remains of vessels involved in this fascinating chapter in Malta's maritime history.

A joint collaboration between Maltese and English divers, the project brings together some of the world's most renowned underwater explorers along with the UK's top Dive Skipper and wreck researcher Grahame Knott.

The Pedestal Project team assembled and all set to go wreck hunting!