Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay/RMS Athens

Diving the Cape Peninsula and False Bay : RMS Athens
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The dive site RMS Athens is an inshore historical wreck in the Green Point area on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.



S33°53.85’ E018°24.57’ (approximately)

This site is not in a Marine Protected Area. A permit is not required.

The RMS Athens


The "Royal Mail Ship Athens" was an iron steam screw barque of 739 tons, built in 1856 by Denny of Dumbarton and operated by the Union shipping company. It was wrecked between Mouille Point and Green Point on 17 May, 1865 at night after the boiler fires were extinguished by heavy seas during a north-west gale while trying to steam out of Table Bay. The ship had been lying at anchor while preparing for a voyage to Mauritius. The site can be identified by the remains of the engine-block, which is visible abive the water. The Piscataqua was wrecked at the same place.


Maximum depth is about 7m, average about 5m. Some of the wreckage is very shallow and in the surf zone.


In conditions when the site is diveable, the visibility will generally be quite good, and the site is very shallow, so there will usually be good light, but the site is also largely in the surf zone, so if there is anything of a break, the visbility may be reduced by wave action picking up any sand and shell particles that may be among the rocks.


Rocks form ridges and gullies, aligned in general perpendicular to the shoreline. The major landmark of the site is a low pressure piston and part of the cylinder from the ship's engine, standing on top of the reef and exposed above the water

Geology: Precambrian sedimentary rocks, probably of the Tygerberg formation of the Malmesbury series. Strike appears to be north-south, Dip is nearly vertical. The rock appears to be very resistant to wear and fractures in nearly rectangular blocks. The natural colour is probably a dark grey.


The surge can be quite strong. The site is very exposed to westerly seas, and moderately exposed to south westerly swell, so should be dived in relatively flat seas, and is most likely to be good in summer. The site is completely protected from waves from the south east and can be dived during south easterly winds with little risk.

Get inEdit

This site can be accessed from a boat or from shore. The site is about 1km from the Oceana Power Boat Club slipway at Granger Bay.

Follow Beach Road from Sea Point to Mouille Point past the Green Point lighthouse. Pass Fritz Sonnenberg Road on the right and look for the car park on the left. The wreck lies a little further west. Part of the engine block can be seen approximately 75m out from the high water mark. It is easiest to approach by way of the parallel gullies leading to the site


Anemones and urchins near the wreck of the RMS Athens. The two pices of bronze drift-bolt are probably from a wooden ship wrecked nearby
Highfin klipfish are well camouflaged
Reef life at the wreck

Marine lifeEdit

The shoreline reef are the substrate for a moderately dense kelp forest of sea bamboo. and the understorey includes areas of algal turf where there is some protection from the stringest pounding of the waves. The more exposed areas are generally coated with encrusting coralline algae, also known as "pink paint" for the appearance. There are usually moderate numbers of West Coast rock lobster, a few abalone, it they havent been poached yet, and a small variety of sea squirts, starfish, urchins, small sponges and bryozoans, mostly in small gaps and crevices among the rocks and wreckage.

The low pressure cylinder of the main engine is high on the rock and visible above the water
The wreckage is well camouflaged by coralline algae and other encrustation


Iron wreck of historical interest. Other wrecks in the vicinity include the Piscataqua, an American ship of 890 tons, wrecked here on 19 July 1865. The wreckage of the Athens is very broken up, and what remains is mostly structural iron sections heavy enough to have survived this long and which have been wedged into the reef and concreted there by the combination of rust and encrustations of marine life. In most cases the wreckage requires close inspection to distinguish it from the reef.


There will usually be plenty of light, adequate for wide angle shots, but a flash may still be necessary for macro work. The subjects are somewhat limited. Most of the wreckage will look very much like the reef in a photo, and the marine life is not particularly diverse. Avoid big cameras with long strobe arms, they will snag when you are washed through the kelp by the surge.


No particular route recommended.

Stay safeEdit


The surge and breaking waves in the shallower areas could be a problem in rough weather and to the weaker or less experienced diver.


No special skills recommended. Fitness should be sufficient to deal with the wave conditions of the day.


No special equipment recommended. Avoid all dangling equipment that can hook on the kelp. Stay streamlined.

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