The Cristobal Colon
This 499-foot Spanish luxury liner is the largest known shipwreck in Bermuda’s waters. Launched in 1923, this transatlantic luxury liner was the most advanced design of her time. She was wrecked on October 25, 1936, when she wedged herself into a coral reef at a speed of 15 knots. Today, she lies in 30 to 55 feet of water with her wreckage scattered across 100,000 square feet of sea floor.
Gigantic in size, she offers endless hours of fascinating exploration examining her six boilers, steam turbines, propellers, drive shafts, and hundreds of ship parts. The Cristobal Colon is one of the few wrecks that has rectangular portholes. The wreck has also become a haven for large groupers and a variety of reef fish.
The remains of the ship are incredibly spread out and for the most part flattened. This is in stark contrast to the images of the ship when she ran aground sitting near North Rock for several months as if she were still afloat.
This provided salvors an unequaled opportunity to salvage the fine contents of this Royal Spanish luxury liner. She was eventually taken for salvage by Burt Darrel but many Bermudian boats made salvage trips to the ship and while many objects and parts of the ship ended up at auction much of it did not. From pianos to paintings, tea sets to the chapel doors, brass portholes to doorknobs Bermudian homes and places of business are full of salvage from this ship. As generations shift efforts are underway to make sure that the provenance of objects from the Cristobal is preserved for future generations.
The crew of the Cristobal may not have been as lucky as her contents as it is rumored that Franco had them shot upon their repatriation to Spain.
This doomed ship eventually doomed another when the Iristo, in 1937, followed into port the Cristobal, which the captain assumed was steaming down the channel. The Cristobal was deemed a hazard to navigation and was subsequently de-masted and used for target practice by the US Air Force, training in preparation for WW2.
Even after this she was still considered a hazard and Teddy Tucker was commissioned to blow her up by the Marine Board (or Board of Trade) and finally flatten her.
The wreck was never lost and was always known as a fishing site.
This wreck is part of the Bermuda Shipwreck Certificate Program instituted by the Department of Tourism. It is also buoyed under the Bermuda Dive Sites program established by the Marine Environmental Committee of the Bermuda National Trust in association with the then Ministry of the Environment and is a protected site with a 500m no fishing limitation.