- Visit Of The Wreck -
Appendices: The Final Countdown ..? (1)
© Photograph: Christian Niehoff
13. Appendix, October 2006: The Dummy Smokestack Is Gone ...
It already happened before the middle of September: Our readers Siegfried Gerbode, Sebastian A. Schmitz, Nadine, Holger Oeser and Friedrich Foeste sent us their current photographs. Friedrich was the first one who made the discovery: The dummy smokestack is gone - swept away by the ferocity of the ocean.
While Siegfried Gerbode's picture still shows the sinking remainders (see photograph below), only a couple of days later everything was already gone. The photograph from Friedrich Foeste dated September 9th (click on Holger Oeser's other photograph below) shows that there is a gap on the now completely distorted deck where once the front "smokestack" was situated which was not even a real one - the end is not far away...!
14. And 15. Appendix, Still October 2006: What Happened To The Stern?
Not only we were astonished when Christian Niehoff from HELITOURS S.L. presented several photographs regarding a flight he had performed in August 2006. You can spot a scenario on the two pictures - he kindly provided - that has probably never been photographed this way before in the past few years: It is a sunny day in August when the wreck still shows its dummy smokestack.
The ocean is so unbelievably calm and clear this day that you can see the AMERICAN STARīS stern in details - unknown until now - as never before - in a manner we would have never expected earlier.
Several times before, you could detect certain shapes of the broken off stern on aerial shots (for instance see aerial shot from October 2004 in the report "The Ravages Of Time") but this view was more than amazing! We got in touch with Bill Lee right away, the expert for the "Autopsy" of the American Star, who was also very surprised as his analysis shows...
I am having some trouble decided exactly what I'm looking at, however. In some pictures, circa 1996 (also see for instance our picture from the "Autopsy" report), it appears the stern section is rolling further to port, but these images seem to indicate that the stern section may have gone down on an even keel - more or less. At least, the recent pictures 'hint' at the outline of a 'deck plan' - so to speak.
Could the mysterious "deck plan" possibly show the deep laying areas of the stern since you can detect a slight resemblance of the "D" Deck's layout (see also the "Autopsy" report) which also provides an explanation for the positioning of the stern? Could it be that this part has "rolled back" after the sinking?
There are several possibilities. What you suggested is mostly likely, or it may be that the stern section has deteriorated. Even after sinking, the relatively light superstructure of the sunken portion (especially the extension the Greeks added in 1965) could have been further damaged - even torn away - by storm action. It appears that some of the stern section's upper decks - lighter structures than the hull itself - have been torn away and washed to starboard, creating a debris field of some size. To be more definitive, what we would need would be some underwater photos ... but what we don't need is someone getting hurt (or killed) trying ...
Nevertheless, we asked Thomas from FuerteFunFactory for his opinion since he offers diving excursions on the island. And also Thomas cautioned against such activities: Officially, he does not know about any possibilities to dive over there.
Of course, somebody could try it on his/her own but they should not get caught. There are regular patrols by the police and the military. He would not necessarily recommend diving over there. Besides, you should only dive during the most favorable conditions around the entire west coast.
Therefore, we have to wait and see what the American Star will reveal in the future. We are exited at any rate!
What will not take much longer anymore is the further destruction of the bow - as Torsten Feix's photograph from October on the right shows, the ocean will not be content with the broken off dummy smokestack ...
Amendment: Only a few days after publishing of the above photographs, Stephan Robmann sent us his version of the stern's collapse - and it perfectly fits our up-to-date insights!
16. Appendix, November 2006: The Last Rites ...
First days in November: The structures slipped further down; the bridge is now vertical. The rear deck structure which can be easily detected on Friedrich Foeste's photograph dated September 11, 2006 slipped as well onto the water surface and is situated similarly like the dummy smokestack before. Also these parts will sooner or later take the same fate as the smokestack.
You can detect a field of debris on Jens Schroeer's photograph dated November 6, 2006 on the bottom left (still picture of a film). Kathrin Mein's photograph (below on the right) shows the same situation. She was there two days after Jens and one year after her last visit and was scared as she wrote to us.
Then Jens wrote us something touching and after a few e-mails we agreed that it fits the situation ...
Dear Explorer Team:
I returned from Fuerteventura with a heavy heart exactly one week ago. I drove to my secret love twice "illegally" with a regular car. She lost some of her majestic presence due to the changed position but to me, she is still the biggest gem on the west coast. Even when she will have disappeared into the Atlantic some day, under sand and legends, I would still visit her as a person's grave who was once important to me.
Every time while there, I am captured by an indescribable melancholy, sort of wanderlust and freedom, and a knowledge regarding the fragility of all beings in this world and the nothingness which turn my days to hell. If I had only a similar place of reflection here ... Nobody in this world would need Christmas to find out that he/she can love - even though it might only be moments that make it happen.
I filmed my lady and found something astonishing. I had
to isolate this picture from my video. It was really unbelievable what
I saw. Maybe others have it detected as well. Or should I be indeed
the first one who saw this ...
It is clear to me that this is an appearance caused by corrosion and destruction; however, this vision of a preying monk (my point of view) does not lack a certain dignity: a priest administering the last rites to the ship! Even when or just because the waves of the Atlantic and the salt in the air made the picture, the days of the old lady are numbered and somebody appears to settle her down ...
In any case, I am thankful for your website and I follow everything concerning my "ship". Thank you for that. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for your e-mail, Jens, and: We will continue ..!
17. Appendix, December 2006: Magic And Reality - The Bridge Is Gone
Once in a while, we are also sent wonderful pictures of the wreck filled with emotions. As, for instance, the two photographs with evening impressions by Ulf Jungjohann from October 2006 (below on the left) or the one by Mario Staffeld (below on the right) from November 2006 - the magic of these photographs is not lost despite the wreck's condition.
But then there is also the reality of December: Already on the last day in November, there was no bridge on the wreck anymore as the two following photographs by Juergen Keller and his mail show - the reality is the water which relentlessly makes its way through the hull ...
Since I found this website beginning of the year, the history did not let me go anymore. I wanted to be at location so badly before she will be the waves' victim. When it was time to pick our vacation destination for this year, Fuerteventura was on the top of the list. Arriving on Fuerteventura, I rented a car suitable for the terrain and started the search. Since I came from the South, I took the first exit through the military zone ... This was already the first adventure. Then I was standing in front of her resp. in front of her remainders ...
Note of the editor: We can only advice you not to pass through the military no-go zone close to Pajara that is declared a NATO training zone. The security through chains and locks underline the seriousness. Here, you can also find dud bombs from exercises and patrols from the police or the military; meaning, this can become a very expensive enjoyment to be caught ...
18. Appendix, End of 2006: A Glimpse Into The Past And A Glimpse Into The Future ...
We were surprised that Dirk Evers told us that the American Star is now used as a title subject on a DVD cover for an old movie. "Night fell over Gotenhafen" is the name of the German movie by Frank Wisbar from 1959/1960 with Sonja Ziemann, Brigitte Horney, Guenter Pfitzmann, and Dietmar Schoenherr among others. The flick is about Wilhelm Gustloff's fate, a German ship with thousands of refugees on board, which was torpedoed and sank right before the end of the Second World War in January 1945.
The Wilhelm Gustloff was originally a cruise ship with a length of more than 200 meters and was launched in 1937 - only two years earlier than the SS America. But it was rather fantasy that led the makers of the new old DVD to place the wreck of the American Star onto the label: It might have looked similar during that night on January 30, 1945 so they thought when that Russian submarine torpedoed and sank the Wilhelm Gustloff.
The numbers mentioned today of approx. 8,000 to 9,000 fatalities during that night point to the presumably worst catastrophe of maritime history. Does the good old SS America alias USS Westpoint alias American Star deserve this since there was not any loss of life to enemy action during times of war ..?
Besides, there are always reasons to fight over taste and, surely, the DVD cover of the disk just made available in December 2006 will be more favorable than the old pictures on the VHS tape of the nineties on which you can find the same film ...
After this "glimpse into the past" now a less happy glimpse into the future: Stephan Robmann, already known to us by his outstanding representation of the possible events around the American Star's stern, provided us again with something new: This time he is involved with the "future" development of the wreck and as we all suspect nothing good can happen.
Stephan described his three subsequent sketches as follows:
Sketch 1 (December 2006, below to the left):
The structures collapsed and fell into the ocean. The remaining hull will most likely be "caved" by the incoming waves. The foredeck with the massive anchor winch (one of which I love to have as decoration ) remained on the forecastle - the wave breaker. It will break the waves for now but not for long. The next thing disappearing will be the masts and posts on the former foredeck ...
Sketch 2 (left):
The forecastle has been destroyed more than half by the ocean and only the massive tip of the bow remains that has tilted even more towards the sea. On how long the anchor will stay visible will depend on how long the remaining structures on the former portside will hold up.
Sketch 2 (right):
Left is the bow with a few remainders of the hull planks. This had held on the longest but it will also disappear in a few years. Maybe a couple reminders will be visible during low tide. From above, you would be able to detect the hull's outline similar to the stern.
Only a comparison and because she was so beautiful ...
You can hardly add anything to the possible outcome as suggested by Stephan Robmann. Maybe this one: The ocean is doing everything to fulfill Stephan's predictions. Egbert Scholtis' photographs from the 47th calendar week show this - due to these photographs it is more than obvious why the structures are missing by now ...
We are ending the reporting of the American Star with these dramatic photographs for the year 2006. We wish all readers and fans of the wreck a happy New Year 2007 - a year, when we continue to report as usual ...
© 2006-2007 Explorer Magazin
English Translation: Britta Schaa, Venice Florida