Who can count the mysterious stories, the rumors, and the questions entwining around the
Why did she really run aground at the Playa de Garcey in 1994? Who was actually on board then? Who did loot the wreck the most intensively later on? How many people lost their lives in connection with the wreck since her running aground? What was going on with the odd masts stabilizing the phantom in the back for years? Were they there for constructional purposes or installed later? Were there any further masts added by the military? And so on, and so on ...
Abstruse rumors and questions - we are facing all the time - sound like this or similar. And one question posed many times is: What did really happen at the wreck´s stern? Why did it disappear completely? Was it blasted by the military? Or does it even lie off Lanzarote? It is by now a restaurant off Crete? Or was it destroyed in order to keep visitors away and prevent them from swimming over ..?
Well, in regards to a couple of questions and rumors, we will never receive a "scientifically" verifiable answer. The wreck will take some of her secrets into the wet ocean grave at the Playa de Garcey; however, we should be able to answer some with clarity (For the whole story read our report "An "Autopsy" by Sea ..." by Bill Lee).
The wreck of the American Star was undisputable the object of the military´s shooting drills. Certainly, you can hardly assume that this was the reason why the ship´s stern is virtually undetectable today.
As we wrote in the first part of our report and as you can read in the "Autopsy"-article above, the stern turned portside in the two years following the running aground and was not removed but destroyed by the wind, waves, and tides in the course of time.
The ravages of time as well as the relentless and continuous surf (especially during westerly wind in regards to the diagonal position of the stern) did a good job. And even if it is surprising that (almost) nothing is left of the stern (a few remnants are visible in the dark area behind the wreck in the aerial shot), the force of the ocean is not to be underestimated. Everybody observing one or two days what is happening during high tide-even with comparably weak wind-will realize this.
Wolfgang Peter, former "Fuertewolf" already mentioned in the first part sent us again something about the wreck´s history and stern above all:
In the year of 1994, the ship broke into two parts after her
running aground (Note of the editor: see above photograph on the left).
After that, the stern moved to the side due to a fierce storm (see above
photograph on the right from the Cafeteria El
Naufragio) and collapsed like a house of cards. You could see the
remnants during calm water and low tide. The ocean behind the ship is quite deep
and somebody once told me that the stern was pretty week without the stable
The hole in the front smokestack (see photograph below) was done with a bazooka by a soldier years afterwards. I know him. He lives in Gran Tarajal and was drafted at that time.
Greetings from Lanzarote. Wolfgang
Also in the first part, we presented our "American Star
Deterioration Puzzle" up to approximately mid-2005 (see above picture on the
right) that is not enough anymore to demonstrate the continuing collapse of the
wreck. At the end of 2005, the ravages of time hit unforgivingly and suddenly
without any warning as never before in previous years while the American
Star´s bow section dominated the bay.
Our picture documentation below illustrates well how the wreck changed in comparison to October 2004 (see below and the aerial shot above) when the ship is shown how she had been lying at the Playa de Garcey for several years.
In November 2005, a rapid multistage collapse took place that at the end of the same month sadly climaxed with tropical storm "Delta..."
Beginning November 2005, the shocking
news: The ship capsized! (See 2nd photograph from above, 11/2005). While in
the beginning, the smokestack hung on in this position for a few more days, it
just broke off along with a huge chunk of the deck (3rd photograph from above,
11/2005). Tropical storm "Delta" continued to weaken the wreck (4th photograph
from above, 11/2005) and shortly after another part of the backside was lost (photograph
02/2006 from our last visit).
The two photographs below - only a few weeks apart - comparing the wreck´s rear show that the proceeding collapse is hardly unavoidable ...
Since the wreck slanted on its portside facing the open ocean,
every wave can hit the deck unhindered by now which already happens with massive
force during each normal tide. As result, within a short period of time, a part
of the bridge broke off on the portside (see arrow on the right in the photograph below).
They are still there - the three prominent masts on the forecastle (the foremast and the forward set of king posts). They brave the burdens of storms and rough seas despite the significant slant because of good tension of their rigging; however, we cannot count on it much longer. Also there: one of two propellers, still in place on the vessel´s foredeck during our visit (see arrow on the left).
When considering that the stern´s fate in a similar slanted position was sealed for good within two years (see above), then you can imagine how much longer it might take ...
© 2006 J. de Haas, Photographs Explorer Magazin, Alexander
Barczyk, Jan Liska, Stephan Roth, Hans und Natalie Lipp, Eva Walder,
Antonio, Wolfgang Peter
("Fuertewolf"), Cafeteria El Naufragio, aerial shot: Kristina
English Translation: Britta Schaa, Venice Florida