One of three diving wrecks off the shore of Xatt l-Ahmar is called MV Karwela in south-eastern coast of Gozo. The MV Karwela was a Captain Morgan Cruises passenger ferry around the Grand Harbour. In August of 2006 it was scuttled along with another boat called the MV Cominoland, both acting as artificial reefs for divers. The other wreck which is found down in Xatt l-Ahmar was called the MV Xlendi and was previously scuttled in 1999.
The boat itself is about 50m long and sitting on a sandy bottom it sits perfectly at a depth of 50m. At 39m deep is her bow, and her stern resides at 41m deep. The captains cabin and top deck are found at a depth of 30m. On the contrary to the MV Xlendi, the MV Karwela wreck is easily penetrable and safe to dive due to the cleaning and various openings which were made before having it scuttled. On another note, there is much to explore on its three decks. On the sides of the boat, large holes were cut on the first two decks. In the middle of the wreck is its most photogenic feature. A staircase situated in the middle of the wreck leading to the lower deck. As for lighting the portholes give it that nice underwater glow. There is also a tiny amount of sand and silt on the inside.
The bow of the Karwela lies 80m south from the diver’s entry point and 40m from the drop off. She is also the middle one of three wrecks lying on the shore of Xatt l-Ahmar, Cominoland lies at 60m to the East and Xlendi lies around 60m to the West. The MV Karwela is one of the most dived wrecks around Gozo and all wrecks are usually dived from shore however they are also able to be accessed by boat. She is more interesting than the upturned Xlendi for the obvious reason that the deck of the Xlendi has been completely crushed and lies upside down. It is closer to shore as well and larger than MV Cominoland.
After the sinking of the Karwela a Volkswagen Beetle car was sunk onto her deck along the stern by local divers. They swam it out on floating barrels. Nothing is left of the car wreck unfortunately, but there is another car wreck situated very close to the MV Xlendi.
Karwela wreck history
The MV Karwela was built in 1957 in West Germany. Weighing 497 tons the passenger ferry with a steel hull was 50m long, beam of 8m and 23m in height. Originally named M/S Frisia II, she was then renamed to MV Nordpaloma in 1977. It was design to carry up to 863 passengers but no cars, arrived in Malta in 1986 and then was officially renamed MV Karwela. It was purchased by Captain Morgan Cruises, sailing as a tourist ferry. It was then decomissioned in 2002.
Before being scuttled it was seen to it that it was made environmentally safe to be penetrated by divers. During the scuttling process buoyancy tanks were used to ensure that the wreck lands upright. Both Karwela and Cominoland had been cleaned thoroughly by Cassar Ship Repair – removing 18 tons of oil and fuel from Karwela!
Before scuttling both boats, Karwela was left with paint and Cominoland was stripped of all its paint – to see which one would marine life respond to more, and encouraging more marine life on the wrecks.