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American Star
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"I cannot imagine an event that would cause a ship to flounder. Modern ship building has gone beyond that"
E.J. Smith, Titanic Captain
American Star
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The American star as she is today

(Please click on any image for enlargement)

On a small remote beach (Playa de Garcey) on the west coast of Fuerteventura lies the wreck of a ship. The American Star.
It takes a fair amount of time to get there but once you catch your first glimpse of the wreck, you are somehow inexorably drawn to the beach where she lies.
The History

Just before her final voyage in 1994, the American Star, a ship that was once the pride of the United States maritime industry, was sold to the Chaophraya Development Transport Company who planned to tow the vessel to Thailand to be converted into a floating hotel.

Early 1960's as the SS America

Their chosen route was via Gibraltar, along the west coast of Africa and around the southern tip of the African continent.
There have been numerous rumours insinuating that the last chapter in the life of the American Star was nothing more than an attempt to gain profit from disaster, as it would have been far easier and quicker to take the shorter route via the Suez Canal. While this is true, it is in fact illegal to tow ships along the Suez.

At the end of 1993 the ships propellers were removed and stored on the deck to prevent drag and the Ukrainian tug the 'Neftegaz 67It' began towing the American Star on what was to be its final journey.
During January 1994 while passing within a hundred miles of the Moroccan coast the convoy entered a violent storm that began to put the towing operation in jeopardy. On several occasions during the storm, the American Star broke free of the tow-lines and eventually it was decided that it would be safer for the towing vessel if the ocean liner was to float free until the storm subsided. Four crewmen stayed on board.
On January 17th the storm finally calmed down and the four crewmen were winched by helicopter to safety from the ship.
From then on the vessel was simply left to drift alone.
Though it was known she was heading for the Canary Islands through major shipping lanes, no successful attempt was made to take the hulk under tow again. After drifting for two days, the ship finally beached at the Playa de Garcey, on the west coast of Fuerteventura.
No effort was made to re-float the ship (some say because of arguments between insurance, ownership and salvage companies) and after 48 hours the ship split in two.

1994 just after she ran aground
Profit was still to be made and on the first few days after the ship ran aground locals salvaged as much as they could, such as brass fittings and furniture (there is even a Cafeteria in the capital Puerto del Rosario 'Cafeteria el Naufragio', which is completely fitted out with windows, doors, panelling and furniture from the ship)
Two years later after a constant battering from the ocean the stern section finally gave in and rolled into the ocean.
The American Star today

In the first few days whilst the vessel was still intact it was quite easy to gain access to the ship, and ladders were even welded to her sides by the Spanish Army.
But since she broke in two it is definitely unadvisable to try and board the ship.
Although she looks temptingly close, the currents in this area are extremely strong and sharp debris still lurks beneath the surface. Tragically at least eight people have died swimming to and exploring the wreck.

All that remains of the American Star today
Today only the bow section remains of the American Star, but the sheer size and beauty of the ship still make it a worthwhile day trip.



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