Shipwreck!

28 January 2012

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We normally associate shipwrecks with the bottom of the sea but with the recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia our perceptions have changed. Many ships end up on or near beaches. Here are just a few of the ships around the world which did not sink but were shipwrecked nonetheless.

This is what happens when you use a single anchor to ride out a storm and the chain of the anchor is too short. The ship, the New Carissa, dragged its anchor and the crew failed to notice that the ship was moving. Once they did detect movement it was too late to properly raise the anchor and move away from the shoreline. The anchor was raised but by this point it was too late for the ship to be saved. Since February 1999 it has been a permanent feature on the coastline of Oregon. Only the stern section is still on the beach, however. The bow section was towed out and sunk at sea. Unfortunately, there was a lot of spillage of fuel and a significant amount of ecological damage was caused to the coastline.

This may well be how the Costa Concordia is removed from the coast of Italy. In 2008 an oil rig was used as a platform from which to dismantle the hulk of the Old Carissa.

This wreck lies under the cliffs at Land’s End, the most westerly point on the British mainland. The RMS Mulheim was transporting a load of over 2000 tonnes of shredded plastic from Ireland to Germany, when she was dashed on to rocks between Land's End and Sennen in March, 2003. There were no deaths and much of the cargo and other noxious waste from the ship was retrieved but there was still significant environmental harm to near bays, shorelines and their respective ecology.

At the end of 1993 the American Star left Greece for its new home in Thailand where it was to become a floating hotel.  It would never reach its destination.  A thunderstorm in the Atlantic broke the towline between the ship and its Ukrainian tug.  It ran aground on Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. The ship was left to the elements and the stern section collapsed in 2006.   In April 2007 the remainder broke in half and the ship sank – 4 years after it had originally ran aground.

A rusting hulk lies tentatively but boldly upright on the stone beach of the Aran Islands. This place is not to be confused with the Isles of Aran, which is not the home of the famous knitwear. This is this place. Perhaps the sailors on board were looking for a few new pullovers and got stitched up instead. It is hoped that they were all OK. Many of the inhabitants of the island are dependent on fishing as their main source of income.

This looks surreal. It is the wreck of a Second World War tanker, called the liberty ship and its final resting place is the northeast coast of Lanai. It literally crashed in to the island and has slowly been moldering away ever since just fifteen hundred feet from the shore. Not many people get to see this because to get to the beach needs either a sturdy four wheel drive or a two mile hike. This being America, most people get there using the vehicular option.

Cape Verde has had many shipwrecks in its history and although this is a recent one it is still a poignant reminder of our mortality. If you are more interested in what is found in shipwrecks rather than the wrecks themselves then you could do worse than visit the capital of Praia. It is host to a marine archaeology museum which documents the variety of wrecks that have happened around the island since the fifteenth century.

One thing that any sailor will tell you is that coastlines that have a barrier reef are among the most dangerous in the world. Many a wary sailor has gone down to Davy Jones’ locker when his ship has strayed too close to the shoreline and on to the reef. One such barrier reef is off the coast of Belize and it is home to a staggering amount of wrecks. The top one is situated near Half Moon Cave. If you look closely you can see people wading towards the bow of the ship, giving you an idea just how shallow the water is. The second, nearby, functions as a good spot to catch a few fush.

Cyclone Uma had many victims and this ship was one of them. It ran aground when the cyclone hit the islands of Vanuatu in the nineteen eighties. Since then it has remained on the reef – eventually becoming a popular tourist attraction. The Republic of Vanuatu is in the South Pacific Ocean consisting of eighty two islands (and counting). Sixty five of them are inhabited. It is used as a tax haven by many rich Australians, even thought the Australian government is leaning on Vanuatu to be more transparent in their financial dealings.

There are two large wrecks near Komandoo in the Maldives and this is one of them. This was not the result of any accident, however. It was what is commonly known as an insurance job. Whether or not those who wished to cash in the ship for money actually received the insurance is unsure, but the wrecking of the ship had one positive upside. Nature always gets in quickly and an ecosystem has emerged around the two ships which attracts divers and as such money to the local community. Out of every evil some good must come.

The Bettina, which arrived at this unfortunate position in 1994. The first reaction when seeing this site is an ‘ouch’ and if the ship had had receptors there is no doubt it would have felt a lot of pain. When it ran aground on the shores of Stroma in the Orkney Islands of Scotland all of the crew (six men) was saved. Tugboats – not necessarily called Willy – attempted to take her back out to sea but it was not to be. The waves and the wedge did for Bettina. In fact there are the remains of over sixty vessels on and around this single island. The Scottish hope at some stage in the future to be able to harness the awesome power of the waves to create energy for the area.

One of the most famous beach in Greece, Navagio takes it decidedly unhellenic name from the shipwreck that lies upon it. It seems in the very early nineteen eighties the ship was in a desperate rush to escape some Greek Navy ships that were dogging it. The words smuggling and cigarettes are bandied about as to the reasons for this need to flee. However, the ship ran in to some stormy weather, was abandoned by its amateur crew and landed up where it is today. It, like many other wrecks, has become a popular tourist destination but it is only accessible by boat, ironically.

Our final ship is the stuff of legend. The story goes that this ship, derelict on the shores of Roatán in the Honduras was full of contraband when it went aground. Many believe that it had involvement in the Nicaraguan Revolution of the nineteen seventies. Slightly more believable is that it was an innocent carrier of timber which was offloaded in an attempt to try and save the ship. The amount of wooden buildings from that period that dot the shoreline give us a vague hint at what may be the real truth.




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