PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF HANNAH JANE
On the 27th of March 1951 the Slemmestad, laden with 3,500 tons of general cargo, including bitumen, brandy, kerosene, lube oil, matches and bagged cement, whilst on a voyage from Gothenburg to Madagascar, caught fire shortly after leaving Dar es Salaam. Some seven miles from the port, a fire ignited in the engine room which prevented the pumps from starting. The Master radioed the port and turned the vessel around, eventually beaching her on Daphne Reef where she burned for several days, buckling and eventually sinking. All the crew were rescued.
The vessel was built in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1928. It’s length is 376 feet (114.6 meters) with a beam of 53 feet (16.15 meters) and a displacement of 4,295 tons. A full account of the sinking may be read here.
The top of the hull is approximately four meters below the surface. Hundreds of cement bags, hardened from over sixty years in the water, may be seen in the bottom of what used to be the cargo hold. The pistons and steam chambers may be seen towards the rear end of the wreck. The Slemmestad is situated in an area that is not well protected from the open ocean swells so the visibility is often not ideal due to the water being churned up by the swell. Careful attention should be paid in keeping a safe distance from sharp wreckage and corals so one is not pushed into them during the surges. The site is best dived after a calm period at high tide to lessen the effect of the swell.
The hull is covered by colorful soft corals and other growth and marine life. Shoals of sweepers and glassies surround the hull and swarm in the hatches. Lionfish and stonefish abound on the wreck as do moray eels.
Today the vessel is a popular dive site for scuba diving.
Access: By Boat
Dive Operator(s): Sea Breeze Marine Ltd. at Msasani Slipway
Difficulty: All divers
Average Depth: 10 meters
Max Depth: 13 meters
Currents: Strong ( > 2 knots)
Visibility: Okay ( 1 – 10 m)
- Large wreck with lots to see and explore
- Abundant with corals and marine life
- Shallow depth makes for a long dive and provides good lighting for underwater photography
- Sometimes strong swells which can push you into the wreckage
- The swells can also make for low-visibility conditions