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BERMUDA SHIPWRECKS  Cristobal Colon Wreck
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    CRISTOBAL COLON Bermuda Shipwreck historical photo sinking   CRISTOBAL COLON shipwreck artifacts silverware Bermuda   CRISTOBAL COLON shipwrek propeller Bermuda
   

CRISTOBAL COLON
By Capt. Dan Berg

Photos: Cristobal Colon courtesy SSHS. Wreck of the Colon photo Mike Davis Collection. Silverware from the Colon wreck courtesy Teddy Tucker.  Propeller photo by Mike Burke.

The Spanish luxury liner, Cristobal Colon, was built for the Tras Atlantica Spanish Line by Soc Espanola de Const. Naval, El Ferrol in 1923. She was 499.4 feet long, had a 61 foot beam, displaced10,833 gross tons and was one of the most luxurious cruise ships of her time.

On October 25, 1936, the Cristobal Colon, under the command of Captain Crescencia Narvarro Delgado, ran high on a reef while steaming at 15 knots east of North Rock, eight miles north of Bermuda. At the time, she was travelling in ballast with no passengers, but with 160 crewmembers, from Cardiff, Wales, to Vera Cruz, Mexico. Captain Crescencia Narvarro testified later that he came close to Bermuda to check his instruments by lights. According to the New York Times, "He sighted a fixed light, which he believed to be St. David's, and later a close blinking light, which he believed to be the North Rock Beacon. He altered his course and said the wreck was caused because North Rock was not lighted, which fact the authorities here advertised months ago. "North Rock Light had been out since October 18th,repairs being prevented by bad weather.
 

CRISTOBAL COLON shipwreck Bermuda divers working on porthole  


Divers working on a porthole. Photo by Mike DeCamp

This vessel had a very interesting history in the weeks prior to her destruction on Bermuda's reefs. It seems that this Spanish ship was originally en route from Mexico to Vigo, Spain, with 344 passengers aboard. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, she was not permitted into port because Vigo was under control of the rebels. Her passengers were not permitted to landat Southampton, England, either, and she was ordered to France. French authorities would not permit the landing of Spaniards, so the Cristobal Colon anchored in St. Nazaire awaiting further orders. On August 15th, a leftist crew took command of the ship. Some passengers were permitted to disembark at Nates, France, before the Colon sailed for the Spanish harbor, Santander. There are many who believe that the Cristobal Colon was steaming to Mexico to pick up arms for Spain's war effort.

The crew from the wrecked cruise ship found bad luck waiting for them ashore as well. It seems that Bermudians disliked them because they could not understand them. The Government also feared that Bermuda would have to pay for their food and housing. The Spanish Government ignored Bermuda's distressed communications about the crew. Mexico refused to take any responsibility for their welfare as did Cuba and France. Bermuda's government, realizing that the un-welcome guests would be with them for a while, put the men to work. They repaired Barry Road and restored Gates Fort. Finally on Christmas Eve, the Spaniards boarded the Reina del Pacifico for La Pallice, France, where they then boarded a train for their homeland. Some sources claim that they were all executed upon their return by the Franco government.

The wreck of the Cristobal Colon sat high on the reef only eight miles from Dockyard for some time. This allowed for the easy salvage of some of her fine furniture, paintings and fittings. In fact, many homes in Bermuda are still adorned with items from the wreck. Many of these articles were bought at public auction, while others were taken in the age old Bermudian custom of piracy. Each night motor boats filled with loot from the luxurious ship would return to the island under cover of darkness. Literally hundreds of Bermudians took part in this modern day piracy; only 13 were ever caught, and of those twelve were convicted.

In 1937, Captain Stephensen of the Norwegian steamer, Iristo, seeing the Cristobal Colon, which appeared to be a perfectly sound ship under way in a channel, made the tragic mistake of following her. The Iristo soon found her hull being ripped open by the shallow reefs. After this incident, the Marine Court of Inquiry had the Colon's funnel and mast removed in hopes that the slightly disfigured wreck would not lure any other vessels into the reefs.
 
In the early 1940's the Cristobal Colon was used as a target by the American Air Force for bombing practice, so she is now completely blown apart and scattered over a huge area.
 
   



Today the Cristobal Colon, the largest shipwreck in Bermuda, lies split in two with half of her wreck on one side of the reef and half on the other. Divers can still see an unexploded artillery shell on the wreck. Her eight massive coal burning boilers, two spare propellers and deck winches are easily recognizable. Depth at this site ranges from 15 feet in the bow to 60 feet in the stern; a depth of 80 feet can be reached in the sand off her stern.

 

The information listed above was taken with permission from the Book:
BERMUDA SHIPWRECKS,  ISBN # 0-9616167-4-1
A Vacationing Divers Guide to Bermudas Shipwrecks,
by Dan and Denise Berg, 6x9 softcover,73 pages.
Retail $14.95

 

 

 

Now also Available as an instant download printable PDF eBook

 
BERMUDA SHIPWRECKS ebook
A Vacationing Divers Guide to Bermudas Shipwrecks

Buy Now  only $9.95
4.5 MB instant download, printable  PDF file

by Dan and Denise Berg, 6x9, 73 page downloadable ebook. From the first quarter of the 16th century, Bermuda became a landmark for Spanish ships sailing back to Spain from the New World. The desire to sight Bermuda to confirm their position often ended their voyage as they wrecked on Bermuda's outer reefs. To this day Bermuda's treacherous reefs have taken their toll on shipping. The reefs have claimed vessels ranging from ocean lines to small fishing boats. Bermuda Shipwrecks is the most comprehensive, accurate, illustrated collection of information, photographs, sketches and stories ever written about the legendary wrecks around Bermuda. Bermuda Shipwrecks includes over 100 illustrations comprised of 61 sensational color photos, 17 rare b&w historical images, 19 stamps, 4 sketches plus one map. Bermuda Shipwrecks contains a wealth of enlightening information that gives the readers a nostalgic glimpse into the history and present condition of over 55 of Bermuda's most popular Shipwrecks. 

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All photographs, sketches, images and text

Copyright Capt. Dan Berg / Aqua Explorers Inc

2745 Cheshire Dr
Baldwin NY 11510
E-Mail Wreckvalle@aol.com

 
 
 
 
 
   


 
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