The Beagle Channel became famous for its treacherous
rocks in the middle surrounded by 90 meters depth which caused many ships
to sink. But there were not so many accidents in this canal. It is reasonable,
as Fitz Roy discovered it in 1833 and it was not until 1882 that ships
began to sail through it.
|The most famous vessels sunk
here are: the Monte Cervantes, the Sarmiento, and the Logos (1985)
– the most recent case.
The Monte Cervantes was part of a rehearsal of high class tourism on a large scale. It was chartered by the Hamburg Company of South America and left the port of Buenos Aires on 15 January 1930 with 1,200 passengers and 300 hands. It arrived in Ushuaia onJanuary 21 having touched Puerto Madryn and Punta Arenas.
After visiting the little town, she was ready
to set off at noon. It crashed into one of the rocks at Les Eclaireurs
islet just 7 miles away from the port. The precise cause was never known.
It started to sink quickly and, because of the condition of the waters
at that moment, all lifeboats were driven to the nearest estancia (sort
of cattle ranch): "Remolino". Later on, they were taken to Ushuaia
by all the ships in port. The wreckers were lodged in quarters, houses,
and anywhere else because the population doubled with them. There were
no victims, except for one. Following the old nautical tradition, the
captain disappeared in the chilly waters of the Beagle. Many years past
till it was decided to move the 150 meters long damaged ship to try to
put it afloat again. All the vessels in Ushuaia took part and the tugboat
St. Christopher (nowadays beached in the bay, visible for everybody),
which arrived from Buenos Aires in 1953 chartered by the Salvamar company.
In the tugging operation, the hull turned round again and sunk 90 meters
down.Again, there were new protests and charges. Today, Les Eclaireurs
Lighthouse marks the place where the accident took place.
Remolino, one of the first estancias of Tierra del Fuego, was founded in the late 19th century by the missionary Lawrence. In his land, the last Yamanas of the region used to gather looking for understanding and protection. Near the pier, a ship covered with oxide appears: It is the Sarmiento that, on 1 April 1912, sailing to Buenos Aires, with load and passengers, touched Lawrence's stones (named after the missionary) in front of the estancia and quickly propped up. Her cabins and holds being flooded. The pilot could change the course and luffed on the coast.
After spending the night at the estancia, the
82 wreckers set off on lifeboats to Ushuaia, which is 5 miles away. Besides,
as the channel waves are dangerous for boats, they were towed by a motor
boat until the Frigate A.R.A. Sarmiento, which was sailing
in an instruction voyage in the area, took them to port. Nowadays, there
is a large buoy on the Lawrence's stones that warns navigators about the
risk. Besides, it reminds us of the accident. The school-ship Logos could
|It is the most recent of the shipwrecks. It took place near Snipe island on 4 January 1988, few minutes after the Chilean pilot disembarked giving the ship the course to be followed which, apparently, had not been fully accepted by the captain. These stones –together with a little bank represent a great danger for navigation in the eastern mouth of the canal— are now somewhat buoyed by the Logos|
Bove was the lead player of the oldest shipwreck
registered, which happened at Slogget Bay and was commented on by Thomas
Bridges when he rescued his son from the accident. It took place in 1883,
when the Golden West (San José) --that belonged to the fleet of
the Austral Argentine Expedition— run ashore in a sudden storm.
At Valentín Bay, almost in the Eastern extreme of Tierra del Fuego, china bowls, smoking pipes, and several remains such as the fragment of a mast, copper covering of a ship, stamps for fabric, etc., have been found in consecutive expeditions, some by the Museum of the End of the World and others by private undertakings. The reasons for these elements to be found here may be several: the main one, maybe, is that this bay is the most exposed to the hurricane-like southerly winds that, from Cape Horn or Antarctica, arrive here with great violence.
Neither the names nor the causes of this shipwrecks are known, but indigenous archaeological deposits have been found in the same places where survivors stayed. Fantasy makes us fly: Did they live together? When? What happened to them? Questions that, maybe, we will never be able to answer. And what about the ships mentioned: Didn't the captain of the Monte Cervantes know those stones --visible in daylight--, did he? Why is that he did not order to change the course? Didn't the captain of the Sarmiento know the stones that all sailors in the area avoid and which usually emerge causing a quite particular groundswell? There is no answer for these questions as in these cases we cannot talk about lack of skill. What happened?