Baron Gautch was a beautiful Austrian passenger ship built in England in the year 1908. With a length of 84.5m and 11.8m wide, it was gracefully sailing on the route from Kotor to Trieste and transporting members of officer’s families. Now it is looming 40m under the sea surface, as a reminder of the greatest nautical tragedy on the Adriatic and continues to compel public interest in the sad fate and shipwreck exploration in general.
August 13th 1914, World War I. The wheatear was sunny, the water was calm, and all the passengers heading north were on deck. The captain had a map of all sea mines near the major harbors and no new mines were reported. The circumstances are still unclear, but on the open sea near Rovinj the ship hit a mine and sank within minutes, taking at least 270 soles with it. Those who survived the initial explosion and had not been pulled into the depth had yet to face a new problem. People watching from the coast couldn’t offer any help, as only the military had maps on how to cross the minefield safely. The tragedy took an even bigger turn when the bunker fuel leaked to on surface. It was preventing survivors from swimming and the rescue ships weren’t fast enough to save them all. In honor of the victims, on the anniversary of the sinking, people lay wreaths into water and divers organize a dive to the wreck.
Today Baron Gautsch is an artificial reef and home to corals, sponges and numerous sea creatures. If you are interested in seeing it, get in touch with the local diving centers that have the permission to take you to the first two decks. The best time to dive is from May to September, as the visibility and water temperature are optimal.