A wreck of the Austro-Hungarian light cruiser Zenta, is probably the best example of the curiosity of diving in Montenegro. The history of this ship, exceeds the local relevance. It is a testament to the times and circumstances in which it sailed and sunk.
Zenta was build in 1899 in Pula. It was the part of the armada of similar warships, that Austro-Hungarian empire intended to use in order to maintain its rule over central Europe. In its interesting history of service, the most interesting detail is when vas dispatched to China in 1900, where it helped suppression of the Boxer rebellion. Zenta and its crew came back from the mission in Far East, followed by the heroic reputation, that represented the invincibility of the empire.
At the beginning of the WW1, Zenta was stationed i the Adriatic. Immediately after the declaration of war, on August 8th, 1914, Zenta sailed out of Boka Kotorska and by cannon fire, destroyed Marconi’s radio-telegraphic station at Voluica near Bar (ex. Antivari). That was the first naval encounter of the WW1. Again, on August 16th Zenta heads out south, escorted by the destroyer Ulan. It was already too late when they realized that the clouds of smoke from the direction of Otranto, was in fact large fleet of French destroyers, on the mission to decisively end the blockade. Ulan being younger and faster ship managed to escape towards safety of Boka Kotorska bay, but Zenta’s steam engines couldn’t keep it out of enemies overwhelming cannon fire. One grenade destroyed the engine room and within an hour, the ship disappeared beneath the waves. Part of the crew survived and eventually taken prisoner by Montenegrin army.
Rest of the 20th century, Zenta spend quietly at the depth of over 70m, far from the shore. No divers dared to venture there. First diver that visited Zenta ob October 26th 1996 was veteran diver Milos Stojanovic and published its location. Wreck is lying in the upright position on the muddy bottom. Ship’s haul and bulkheads are rising from the bottom from 5-10m in height. Most of the armament, cannons and machine guns are still in place. Objects on the deck are still recognizable, like navigational devices around the command bridge. Even for technical divers, it is impossible to view this impressive wreck in 1 or 2 dives.
Zenta is the largest artificial reef in Montenegro, oasis for versatile marine life, that has been protected over the years by wrecks remote location and depth it lays on.