Out of this world dive destinations are truly recognizable, and people often plan their trips to them months in advance. This trip was one of those, but it was also a little different for several reasons. This meeting between two friends, Ivan Stankovic (Mares XR Ambassador) and Predrag Vuckovic (Photographer and Mares Ambassador), was another trip of theirs in search of special, unique dive locations.
This time they chose Croatia, and a small bay near Trogir. Not much is known about this place. The underwater museum, 'Via Crucis' (Stations of the Cross), includes 54 submerged figures that represent the Via Crucis underwater. A Soko Jastreb J-21 airplane from ex-Yugoslavia also makes this location very special. All the artificial structures are made from ferrocement, a hard, eco-friendly structure, and designed to attract fish. These structures provide marine life, such as barnacles, anemones and soft coral, a place to adhere to on an otherwise barren seabed. This unique underwater environment is the private project of its owner, and our host, Josko Kandija. At the moment, it is considered one-of-a-kind, and a location with this theme is not known to exist anywhere else in the world.
The goal of the trip was to visit this unique location and take photos underwater in order to present the underwater museum to more people. The Mares Horizon SCR was also selected for this adventure. Exploring new locations, the Mares Horizon lightweight system is the ideal travel companion and does not require dedicated cylinders or weights. Simple logistics allowed us to use standard nitrox gases which are easily obtained from most dive destinations like this one. On the dive map, in the area of our usual dives, we found a challenging dive destination full of artificial and contemporary wrecks with historical themes, where using an SCR comes to the fore, offering incredible extended dive time compared to open circuit dives, giving the diver the possibility to extend their time in the wonderful underwater environment in a position which improves trim and comfort.
The permanent underwater museum consists of the 14 'Stations of the Cross' with 52 life-sized statues and a large, 8-meter-tall statue of Jesus Christ at the 15th station. All the statues are set on the seabed at a depth of 4-5 meters, and the big, 8-meter tall statue of Jesus is placed at a depth of 10 m. This means scuba diving here is adapted to all, for experienced divers as well as beginners. Due to the very good visibility and little depth, the statues are extraordinarily set for photoshoots and testing the Horizon SCR unit.
In addition to the unique underwater sculptures, there is also a modern part for divers who have not had the opportunity to enjoy wrecks at greater depths. At a depth of 10m, the wreck of the Soko Jastreb J-21 is accessible to everyone. It is a Yugoslav single-seat, single-engine, light attack aircraft designed by the Aeronautical Technical Institute (ATI) and Vojnotehnički Institut Beograd (VTI) in Belgrade, manufactured by SOKO in Mostar. Derived from the G-2 Galeb advanced jet trainer and light attack aircrafts, it was designed in single-seat ground-attack and two-seat advanced flying / weapon training versions. The airplane has been completely renovated cosmetically in order to take care of marine life and be more eco-friendly. Anything that could potentially pollute the environment has been removed. The aircraft has no mechanical parts and includes replicas of the machine guns.
From a photography perspective, this location can best be described as a "paradise for photographers". The possibilities underwater are incredible and change literally every hour when the light changes. Illuminated by the sun from different sides, countless new photographic moments are created because the figures look completely different at different times of the day. The visibility is generally good because the depth is very shallow, but it can easily become photographically unacceptable due to the sandy bottom, which is easily raised by changes in currents underwater or by a diver's lack of attention. All in all, the shallow water enables great, long-term fun, especially in diving conditions with the silence of the Mares Horizon SCR. After 3 days of intense diving, we finished our dives with smiles on our faces and were satisfied we had accomplished our target of a great photoshoot.
Article by Mares XR Ambassador and Horizon SCR Instructor Ivan Stankovic (Diver) and Mares Ambassador and Extreme Photographer Predrag Vuckovic (Photographer).