This Post is for Wreck Nuts Only!

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.

Sapona

The SAPONA, broken in half by the hurricane of 1926, rests in 30 feet of water. Photo by Ellsworth Boyd.

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.

Sapona

The cement shipweck, SAPONA, built in 1919, broken in two on a Bimini reef in 1926. Photo by Ellsworth Boyd.

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.

Alison

Alison

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!”

About Ellsworth Boyd

Ellsworth Boyd, Professor Emeritus, College of Education, Towson University, Towson, Maryland, pursues an avocation of diving and writing. He has published articles and photo's in every major dive magazine in the US., Canada, and half a dozen foreign countries. An authority on shipwrecks, Ellsworth has received thousands of letters and e-mails from divers throughout the world who responded to his Wreck Facts column in Sport Diver Magazine. When he's not writing, or diving, Ellsworth appears as a featured speaker at maritime symposiums in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, New York and Philadelphia. "Romance & Mystery: Sunken Treasures of the Lost Galleons," is one of his most popular talks.
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15 Responses to This Post is for Wreck Nuts Only!

  1. Dive Silver Spring says:

    I’ve had wonderful experiences diving on the remains of a huge tanker sunk only half a mile from shore off the island of Aruba in the Caribbean. Have you heard of this wreck?

  2. Ethan W Allen says:

    Hi Professor,
    Loved the article, the offical number of wrecks in Puget Sound is now 455!!!
    I have started the report for the DuPont museum and I will mail you a first edition copy with pictures.

    Sincerly, Ethan Allen

  3. Hi Ethan: Oh good. I shall be eager to read all about what you have written on the shipwrecks of Puget Sound. Please keep me and the readers posted.

    Ah yes, Aruba and the ANTILLA. This is a fascinating shipwreck that was purposely sunk a half mile offshore, just prior to WWII. Germany had invaded Holland and the marines from Dutch owned Aruba were about to capture the vessel that had tied up for fuel and supplies. The German captain and crew fired up their ship and scuttled it in shallow water offshore. It is over 400 feet long and I have visited it many times. It is one of my all-time favorite shipwrecks. I will write more in detail about it later on in another column. Thanks for writing.

  4. Oh and Ethan: Did you find that book I recommended about the shipwrecks in Puget Sound? E.B. Wreckmastser

  5. Ethan W Allen says:

    Hi Professor,
    Yes I did find the book and I have been reading it and it is very interesting.
    Got to get back to the grind.
    Sincerly, Ethan Allen

  6. Ethan W Allen says:

    Professor, I have looked at Aruba on Google Earth and it is true the Antilla is clearly visible and has a broken back.

    Sincerly, Ethan Allen

  7. Ian Smith says:

    Hi Professer,
    I’m not a wreck nut but there is one that has always intrigued me and Im hoping you can shed some light on it. Its on the west coast of an Indonesian island called Halmahera, North of Ternate, probably up near Tobelo. I flew over it a few years ago, she looked as if she was still steaming away trying to climb back to the surface in an erie kind of way. I only have a couple of pics and from them Im guessing she was around 300ft long and around the ww2 era. Looking at the deck gear she could have been a fuel boat?
    Regards,
    Ian Smith.

  8. Thanks for writing. This sounds interesting. Is it possible for you to e-mail me the pictures of it? My e-mail is: ellsboyd@aol.com
    Many thanks, E. B.

  9. Steven says:

    Clive Cusslers books have instigated me just as well to explore the oceans as a diver. The first wreck I dived is still my favourite. It’s on the French coast near Gavres. The wreck is the SMS Thüringen, a helgoland class german battleship. With eb tide, you can see parts of her sticking out of the waves since she lies at a depth of roughly 11-12meters. This wreck is largely forgotten since it was used as a practice target for the French navy till the early 90′s. Though little is left of her, I think most divers will concur that your first wreck you dive is the one that sticks to you most.

  10. Greg May says:

    Greetings from the Philippines!
    ‘Wreck Nut’ is a great term; I might even print a T-Shirt now that I know what I am! A few months ago I located a 180′ supply ship, (Mayon), that locals say was bombed by the Japanese in WWII, and I think I might have found a small Japanese submarine in Butuan Bay, Mindanao, but I have yet to confirm. I use a JW Fisher 18″ Pulse detector along with sonar; it is a fun avocation and I venture out to sea 6-8 times a month. My greatest challenge in this clime is securing accurate information about ship travels in this part of the world; might you have any insights/information/suggestions on how to access such information in this clime-or if it exists? I greatly appreciate any thoughts you may have.
    Thank you very much,
    Greg May
    Butuan City, Philippines

  11. Hi Greg: Good to hear from another “Wreck Nut!” I have a friend who is a whiz on the Internet, especially in digging out newspaper clips of shipping losses long ago He is away now, but I am going to contact him and see what he thinks. I will look through my files too. Nice going, you are really findng some interesting stuff. I will be back in touch with you. Best regards, Ellsworth Boyd Wreckmaster

  12. Greg: Contact me on my e-mail: ellsboyd@aol.com
    I want to tell you about a book, the Diver’s Guide to the Philippines (if you don’t already know about it) and some other details about what I found. I didn’t find a lot, but I might have a few suggestions for you in your search for lost ships. Best regards, Ellsworth

  13. Julius Tiagson III says:

    I am currently working with two older local Filipinos to take picture of “military bunkers” World War II treasures which consist of U.S. Nickel Babitts, Lead, Platinum, Gold bars etc. We will go to location to take picture and also to video the “loot” inside the bunker which I was informed to have “millions of bars” inside this military bunker.

    I will keep you guys posted and will let you know what I will see and verify when I get there……..I will post the pictures on Facebook or you can send me your email so I can “send the pictures.

    Here is my email address: jtiangson3@yahoo.com

    Wish me luck to witnessing this “secret bunker treasure”

    Julius T. III

  14. James says:

    I read this and related articles with great interest and wondered whether anyone has researched or dived on the site of the Palatine (Princess Augusta) off Block Island, Rhode Island?

  15. steven seavey says:

    i suppose knowing where the “WHITE BIRD”,the lost french flight from “28 would intrest u would it.as soon as the ice is out i’m on it.how do i go about getting the rights to this fantastic find?would you please email me so i know how to go about the protocol.this mystery is finally gonna be solved.i’ve came across some nice pieces of history while being a commercial diver in maine,but this time i hit gold.incredible this plane has been right under everyone’s nose this whole time.you will be amazed when you see where this is.they made it to the united states and they made it to the fresh water,just barley but they did it.like i said you will be amazed when you learn where she sits.email me.

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