FLORIDA West Coast Shipwrecks Tarpon Wreck Panama City
Historical and current Florida West Coast Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers, fisherman and marine historians.




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TARPON Panama City

The combination freight and passenger steamer Tarpon was built in 1887, by Pusey & Jones Co. of Willimington, Delaware. She was originally named Naugatuck, was 131 feet long, had a 26 foot beam and displaced 449 gross tons. The iron hulled steamer was powered by two compound engines and was owned by Pensacola, St. Andrews & Gulf SS Company. In September of 1891, the Naugatuck was sent back to Pussey & Jones to be lengthened by about 30 feet. Her new length was 159'9", and her name was changed to Tarpon. In December of 1902, the Tarpon was sold to Pensacola, St Andrews & Gulf Steamship Company. Captain William G. Barrow was put in command. 

On March 21, 1923, the Tarpon caught fire at her dock in Panama City where she was severely damaged and was laid up for several weeks as repairs were made. In another incident on September 21, 1926, the Tarpon was blown ashore by a hurricane; two weeks later she was pulled off relatively undamaged. Three years later, the Tarpon again found herself driven aground by a hurricane, this time near Apalachicola, and again she was pulled off with little damage. At 7:00 PM on August 31, 1937, the Tarpon left port for the last time. She had 205 tons of general cargo, which consisted of flour, sugar, feed, canned goods, 175 barrels of fuel oil and 15 tons of fresh water. At the time she was en route from Pensacola to Panama City. Shortly after midnight, the wind increased substantially. The Tarpon, which was heavily overloaded, listed to port. In an effort to relieve her list, the first mate, Captain Danford, ordered cargo on the port side jettisoned. For the next two hours the crew tried to keep the vessel's bow into the sea, but her bilges were clogged and she began to take on water. Finally, Captain Danford headed for land in hopes of beaching the Tarpon before she went down. Captain Barrow, who had been below, then came to the pilot house and ordered his only command of the day, "pull her offshore and head back on her course...we'll save her yet". He then went down to the engine room and realized his mistake when he noted the sea water threatening to extinguish her engine fires. All hands were ordered into life jackets. While attempting to launch the first life boat, Captain Russel was crushed. According to one survivor's account, the cork life jackets would keep you afloat only if your head was underwater; if you raised it up, you would sink until the water was over your eyes. According to the NEW YORK TIMES account of the disaster, " Addley Baker, a 25 year old seaman, stumbled to a beach west of Panama City at 10:00 AM. He swam twenty-five miles and had been in the water since 8:35 AM, yesterday. Hours later, an exhausted negro, so weak he could not give his name, swam to the beach". The Coast Guard quickly sent a rescue fleet and picked up nine more survivors plus two bodies including the body of Captain W.G. Barrow.

Today the Tarpon sits in 90 to 95 feet of water on a flat sand bottom. Her structure is broken, and divers will find the remains of her beer bottle cargo littering the site. Her boilers and engine are still intact, and she is considered to be a good artifact hunting wreck.

Photo: The steamer Tarpon was built in 1887. Photo courtesy The Peabody Museum Of Salem.
Assortment of artifacts recovered from the Tarpon. Courtesy Danny Grizzard.

Basic shipwreck information and images for this section of this site was taken with permission from the book Florida Shipwrecks by Daniel Berg. You are invited to submit your shipwreck related articles, images and information. As long as the text, photographs, sketches etc are of professional quality we will showcase them. Full credit will be provided and a same page link to your web site can be arranged.

Florida Shipwrecks ebook
The Divers Guide to Shipwrecks around the State of Florida and the Florida Keys,

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By Dan and Denise Berg, 180 pages. Shipwrecks are an important complement to the natural coral reefs as a sport diving attraction in Florida. From the barley discernable ballast piles of the 1733 fleet to the almost perfectly intact modern ships sunk specifically as artificial reefs throughout the state, shipwrecks inspire an aura of mystery and fascination. Florida Shipwrecks is the most comprehensive, accurate, illustrated collection of information, photographs, sketches and stories ever written about the shipwrecks around the state of Florida. This downloadable ebook contains a wealth of enlightening information that gives the readers a nostalgic glimpse into the history and present condition of over 235 shipwrecks. Florida Shipwrecks includes over 240 illustrations comprised of 151 color photos, 83 black and white historical images, 8 dynamic u/w sketches. Divers , snorkelers, marine historians, armchair sailors or anyone with a general interest in history diving or the sea will surely find this ebook fascinating, as well as indispensable.


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