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Diving the "Jura" Wreck, Lake Constance

A photo report about a diving adventure to one of the most famous wrecks in fresh water in Europe. But what damage happened recently on the wreck? What should divers do to save the wreck?

Text and photos by Jerome Konen
(Trip from 22 - 24 June 2002)

Ready for diving
Ready for diving

Slowly we go down along the anchor line, both of us, Paul and myself, we are mentally going through the details of our photo session again. The descent is terribly slowly as my photo housing equipment slows down my progression due to its volume. I start deploying the two strobes not to lose to much time on the bottom as the air consumption will be increased and the bottom time is highly reduced.

After 25m descending I begin to see the contours of the wreck but deeper we go, less ambient light is visible and we have to switch on the torches. Arriving on top of the debris we immediately begin to orient ourselves upon the wreck and we are heading for the the stern of this sinked paddle steamer. In fact it's one of the most famous wrecks in fresh water in Europe.

Helmut Steiner
Helmut Steiner, the skipper

Helmut Steiner, the skipper let us go as the first group for having best conditions in terms of visibility, advantage of a photographer. I'm still impressed by the precision, he navigated his boat to the wreck without GPS, only by cross bearing. Hats off to him for his experience!

The collision

During the 12 February 1864, the "Jura", the wooden flat-decked passenger paddle steamer collided in dense fog with the Swiss ship "Stadt Zürich" and sank minutes later near Bottighofen on the Swiss side of the Bodensee (Lake Constance). There was one loss of life of a crew member in this tragedy. All passengers have been rescued on the other vessel that was almost undamaged.

Now the wreck is lying in 38m upright on the bottom. Due to the dark and extremly cold water (5°C) down in the lake, the wreck is well-preserved. Although I have observed quite a lot of damage done by careless divers and wreck looters over the last years because this site has become very popular among divers. Some lower deck structures have collapsed as well as the impressive funnel. So far, despite this desolate situation, no legal protection has been launched for this wreck.

The lavatory
The lavatory

The first dive

While diving along the deck, I start taking some pictures, let Paul bring himself in a right position in the scenery as we had fully discussed previously during our briefing. I can't leave for the stern without taking some pictures as well of the lavatory visible through the widely open door of one of the two paddle housings that are together with the small bridge and the stairways, the only superstructures on deck.

Arriving finally at the stern I notice the little bottom time left for the final pictures. Quickly we pass besides the steering wheel to continue the descent along the rounded stern. I'm quite astonished by the enormous rudder I haven't had that big in my mind. Even with the fisheye lens I have difficulties framing the whole stern with Paul included as a diver. The reduced visibility of about 5-6m does not allow a huge distance between the object and the lens. After the shooting, the ascent required some deco-stops before we get on the boat again.

Diving above the deck to the stern
Diving above the deck to the stern

After collecting all the other divers as well, we cruise to Konstanz (Constance) for having some lunch at the "Biergarten" in the harbour.

The second dive

Back on the boat after a long surface deco-stop our skipper set course again for the "Jura". As Helmut had marked the anker line with a buoy, finding back the position of the wreck is an easy task.

Again we dive as first group, thanks again to Helmut. We are interested now more in the front part, the wonderfully decorated bow of this wooden wreck. While approaching, the excellent preserved windlass appears out of the darkness in the beam of our lights and in front the beautiful carving on the top of the bow.

Around the bow and lower deck
Around the bow and lower deck

With enough air and bottom time left, we dive back to the middle part of the wreck trying to go lower deck, into the passengers' room, but very carefully without too much fin strokes avoiding to swirl up sediment from the floor and the planks as this may be very dangerous by bringing the visibility to zero and the immediate way out is blocked.

Preservation required

Back on the boat, we are all glad about the excellent dives but at the same time we are aware of the need for preservation for this beautiful wreck. But only considerately diving can save this wreck from further damage and keep it as the one of the most famous and interesting wrecks accessible in a lake.

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Related Links
> The Jura Wreck

More Info
> Die letzte Fahrt der Jura
> Tauchen im Bodensee
> Location Map of "Jura" Wreck
> Seemuseum, Kreuzlingen (CH)
> Dampfschiff Hohentwiel
> Pfahlbaumuseum
> Überlingen - online
> Uhldingen - online
> Konstanz - online
> Yahoo! Weather - Konstanz

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