On Jan 18th 1915 the Italian cargo steamer VARESE was on passage from Sfax to Venice when she struck an Austrian mine near Pula.

Due to the bad weather that was affecting the entire Adriatic at that time, the captain decided to seek refuge in the port of Pula. On the way to the city he hit a mine that destroyed the bow and sank the ship quickly. Only one man of the crew was saved, and one dead body was found, even though two ships came for rescue, but they were too late.

It was the first Italian ship that sunk in the First World War. Italy was not at war with the Austro-Hungarian Empire at that time, but it declared war only months later in May of 1915.

The steamer was caught in an Austrian mine belt that had been placed to protect the main Austro-Hungarian naval port of Pula. This minefield also caused the sinking of the “Baron Gautsch”, the torpedo boat TB 26 and another merchant steamer, the “Josephine”, other smaller vessels also hit the mines and sunk. Many of the ships that hit the mines weren’t war ships.

* Size: 82,3 x 10,3 x 7,4 (m)
* shipyard: Humphrys, Pearson & Co., Ltd. , Hull (UK)
* 1 x 2 cyl. compound steam engine, 1 shaft, 1 screw
* last owner: Orlando Figli, Livorno (Leghorn) – SS Varese

If you want to read more about VARESE, I can recommend this website:

The Wreck

The wreck lies upright on the ground. The bow is broken off by the mine explosion, while the bridge and superstructure are in ruins. Sediments of mud cover the steam engine which is freely accessible and visible from above. The wreck is at present heavily overgrown with sponges, mussels and seaweed. The Wreck is now on a depth of 33-41 meters.

The Model

I’ve scanned the wreck in June 2024 during one single dive. Because of the size of the wreck and difficult visibility conditions and current on this day, it wasn’t possible to scan the sea bottom around the wreck. I was glad that I got it almost complete in one dive.

You can download the model in my Download area.