Wreck Nuts? Perhaps that’s not a very tactful way to coin it. Maybe we might call ourselves wreck radicals, enthusiasts, or better still, aficionados. Well, you get the picture. We know who we are. Shipwrecks are our passion. Some of us like to categorize and research our favorites, such as the ore carriers of the Great Lakes, the Old Bay Liners of the Chesapeake or the windjammers of the world. And there are treasure galleons too…Mel Fisher didn’t discover all of them.
In choosing a favorite, we might seek out the history of the ship, what it was transporting, how it sank, and other links that lead to the joy of exploring a ghostly structure resting on the bottom of the sea. The tale might come first, before the exploration, or perhaps it can be researched later. Either way, the story is the hook that garners interest and spawns the Wreck Nut.
Such was the case when I explored my first wreck, the Sapona, a freighter cast in concrete. A ship made of concrete! Sounds crazy doesn’t it? That’s what intrigued me. Built in 1919, the 181-foot freighter was one of a fleet of twelve tankers and freighters whose hulls were poured concrete—a means of saving steel during the WW I. But the concrete prematurely cracked and the ship sailed for only three years.
Bruce Bethell, a one-armed gangster from Miami, bought it with plans to convert it into an international gambling casino. Unfortunately, the vessel ran aground while being towed to Bimini in the Bahama Islands. That’s were it sits today, about two miles offshore, broken in two at midship with half of the hull above the water.
Throughout the years, the concrete monolith has been used as a turtle crawl, a storage place for bootleg rum during Prohibition, and a bombing target for training fighter pilots during WWII. Divers still explore the shallow water wreck, occasionally finding a bottle of whiskey left by the rum runners years ago. The Sapona, like many other wrecks, has ever more intriguing stories to tell both before and after its demise.
There are many ways for a ship to meet her demise and just as many stories surrounding the sinking. Ships founder, collide, catch fire or get struck by torpedoes, mines and hurricanes. Occasionally there’s a triumph among the tragedies, where doomed passengers and crew some how survive. Their stories are exciting too, just like the wrecks we nuts explore.
How about you? Are you one of us? If so, post a reply and tell the others about your favorite shipwreck: The who, what, where, when and why. We’ve got to stick together you know, us Wreck Nuts. And don’t forget our motto: “Wreck Nuts Together, Shipwrecks Forever!”