Ursus

dive site type: wreck
difficulty: very hard
depth range: 47-60 m
distance from the diving centre: – 4 NM from Vis harbour

Around 4 nautical miles from the Vis harbour, close to the Stončica cape at the north-eastern coast of the island, the Ursus tugboat sank due to military activities. This Italian ship left the Zadar harbour on 30th January 1941. In that time Zadar was the Italian enclave on the eastern coast of the Adriatic sea. The tugboat’s mission was to deliver an armed raft – a motorless, floating platform, operating during the Second World War in shallow lagoons and estuaries – to Albania. The next day, when Ursus was passing the island of Vis, heading towards Korčula, the British submersible minelayer Rorqual emerged about a mile from it. Immediately after surfacing, the submarine began firing. One of the missiles hit the engine room. The Italian tugboat burst into flames. The transported ammunition began to explode, and as a result of the explosion, several crew members were thrown into the sea. Ursus began to sink, but some of the crew managed to leave it on a life raft. The crew of the armed raft, in turn, opened fire on the submarine. A battle at sea broke out, which was interrupted by the arrival of the Yugoslav Navy aircraft. Rorqual stopped the attack and returned underwater, and the raft crew started to rescue the sailors from Ursus. The deteriorating weather conditions did not help the rescue operation. As a result of the first naval battle that took place in the eastern Adriatic during World War II, many sailors lost their lives.