FKA Kiteboarding Forums  

Go Back   FKA Kiteboarding Forums > MAIN FORUM > ** KITER BUZZ **
Connect with Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/rick.iossi
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01-23-2011, 08:27 AM
RickI's Avatar
RickI RickI is offline
Administrator
Site Admin
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,676
Arrow Life & Times of the SS Sapona, Grounded off the Biminis

Kent Marinkovic took a boat of folks attending the Neil Pryde Dealers Meeting in Bimini out to the Sapona. Kent, Dan Floyd and Damien Leroy shot images from the boat while I took a GoPro on the ship to shoot from above. A bunch of folks jumped off the wreck caught from above and below in many cases. I decided to do a swan dive off the bow GoPro first. Denise with GoPro assured me if I flooded the housing on impact they would fix things. It didn't flood, held up like a champ! I kited out to the Sapona on the first day with a GoPro and shot the wreck. Images from that are included to add perspective in the clip. Here is the video:


https://vimeo.com/19092402





Flying over North and South Bimini, the Sapona is grounded on the flats a few miles to the SSE of here.




President Woodrow Wilson approved the Emergency Fleet Corporation program on April 12, 1918 which was intended to construct 24 ferrocement "Liberty" ships for service in WWI. In an effort to maintain shipping despite a serious steel shortage. When the war ended in November 1918, only 12 ferrocement ships were still under construction with none completed. Eventually the 12 vessels were completed and sold to private buyers for use for transporting freight, storage, and even to be scraped. The 350 ft. SS Sapona was originally constructed as a ferrocement Liberty ship at the end of WWI. The S. S. Sapona was a cargo steamer built by the Liberty Ship Building Company in Wilmington, North Carolina and launched in January 1920. It was sold as scrap to Carl G. Fisher in Miami Beach, Florida who traded the ship's engine and machinery to a dredging company in exchange for dredging. The ship was used for bulk oil storage. In 1924, the Sapona was sold to Bruce Bethel, a rum runner based in the Bahamas. Bethel towed the ship near Bimini where she was used as a warehouse for liquor during Prohibition. He also wanted to use it for a night club and brothel eventually. The Sapona was driven aground on to the flats inside Turtle Rocks and south of South Bimini during the Hurricane of 1926. The stern of the ship was sheered off during the storm. The liquor stocks onboard were also destroyed in the hurricane, ruining Bethel.

It was used for bombing and strafing practice during WWII. Missing Flight 19 of Avengers from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl vanished after a bombing run here. Ian Fleming even used it as the hiding spot for atomic bombs in his novel "Thunderball." The movie altered the venue to something more romantic in the Exumas.

The Sapona was purchased by Carl G. Fisher in Miami Beach, Florida. Fisher traded the ship's engine and machinery to a dredging company in exchange for dredge work and the ship itself was used for oil storage.

In April of 1924, the Sapona was sold to rum runner, Bruce Bethel, in the Bahamas. He towed the ship near Bimini where she was used as a floating warehouse for rum and whiskey during Prohibition. Bethel also planned to use the ship as a night club.

In 1926, the Sapona ran aground on a reef during a hurricane and the stern of the ship broke off from the rest of the ship. Bethel's liquor stocks were also destroyed and he died penniless in 1950.


A circular on the construction of concrete ships



The SS Atlantis grounded off Sunset Beach in Cape May, NJ on June 8th, 1926 and may have resembled the Sapona.
http://www.concreteships.org/ships/w...antus1926.html



A postcard showing the grounded SS Atlantis.



Another of the dozen sisterships of the SS Sapona, the SS Polias. This one struck a ledge off Port Clyde, Maine, "shattered" and largely sank.
https://www.wearethemighty.com/artic...or-world-war-i


Placing steel reinforcement of the hull before casting.
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcos_de_hormigón




The Sapona grounded on the flats inside Turtle Rocks to the west.




Shots of the Sapona after grounding, they claim in the 1940's. I suspect it was shot earlier than this, no blast or machine gun damage!



Floating in the hold on an Aqueon, easily accessed through bomb perforated sides of the ship. The daughter of a good friend swims with the Aqueon for the first time in and about the Sapona a few years back.



A closer aerial view of the ship


This is what http://www.concreteships.org/ has to say about it:

"S. S. Sapona
The S. S. Sapona was a cargo steamer built by the Liberty Ship Building Company in Wilmington, North Carolina and launched in January, 1920. She is the sister ship of the Cape Fear.

The Sapona was purchased by Carl G. Fisher in Miami Beach, Florida. Fisher traded the ship's engine and machinery to a dredging company in exchange for dredge work and the ship itself was used for oil storage.

In April of 1924, the Sapona was sold to rum runner, Bruce Bethel, in the Bahamas. He towed the ship near Bimini where she was used as a floating warehouse for rum and whiskey during Prohibition. Bethel also planned to use the ship as a night club.

In 1926, the Sapona ran aground on a reef during a hurricane and the stern of the ship broke off from the rest of the ship. Bethel's liquor stocks were also destroyed and he died penniless in 1950."


Lots of debris on the bottom around the wreck.



The Fleming classic and basis for the movies "Thunderball" and "Never Say Never." Lots of lore tangled in the wreck of the Sapona. Folks even find munitions around the wreck in the sand at times.



A deck level panorama of the Sapona, time, hurricanes, strafing and all the other stresses are taking a toll on the vessel





There are still more details about the Sapona's colorful past in "Run the Rum In: South Florida During Prohibition" By Sally J. Ling. Portions of the text can be viewed on http://books.google.com/



More about the novel swimming device, the Aqueon at:
http://fksa.org/showthread.php?t=4372



Climbed up the side of this thing to dive off the bow in the 1970's. Time and corrosion are taking a toll. It is still standing, for now.



Flight 19 in better days. More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_19



Beneath decks, above the water. Have your hard hat?



The Sapona is slightly more intact condition, still grounded but in the 1930's.






Note the before, images above and below, and after condition. The vessel has some construction similarities to a sidewalk. It has held together remarkable well considering the major trauma of being blasted by bombs and machine gun rounds, ripped by many hurricanes and attacked for almost 90 years by corrosion and chloride contamination. Don't make em like this anymore I suspect. It was made when there were critical steel shortages near the end of WWI. I recall a sister ship is grounded off New Jersey. When I first dove and climbed all over her at 16, there was more to the vessel, particularly the stern. Time has pulled mass away from the wreck.



Her stern still broken off but with deck housings and appurtenances intact unlike today.
Photos from Broward County Historical Commission











If you have a chance to visit the Sapona, do so. Climbing and jumping off of it isn't recommended at all despite appearances. The odds of not getting some type of injury aren't great, including having rotten concrete decking collapse under you to getting impaled on a rebar, to a nasty infection prone cut on exposed steel. It is a fun dive and someday it might decide to move on, into the past.



.
__________________
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by RickI; 04-14-2019 at 10:09 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 01-05-2015, 04:13 PM
RickI's Avatar
RickI RickI is offline
Administrator
Site Admin
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,676
Default



A visit to Bimini with some of the traditional high jinks this time with a drone flying close escort over the wreck of the Sapona. It provides a different look at this famous wreck.
__________________
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-14-2019, 09:45 PM
RickI's Avatar
RickI RickI is offline
Administrator
Site Admin
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,676
Default

I have been back to the Sapona a few times since this account was first written. I even took my young family out there with Bimini Undersea in 2018. Some photos follow:



Going over what the divers can expect to find on the SS Sapona.



My daughter BG swims over the debris field of the stern of the vessel.



The stern has fallen apart at a vastly faster rate than the balance of the ship. That is the aft engine room bulkhead in the distance beyond the debris field.



We were short on time so I did a swan dive off the deck level in 2018. I was 16 the first time I dove of the wreck, tradition!



That is all that remains of the formerly massive stern section.



The single propellor of the vessel lay just underwater in the above photo.



Approaching the engines



Swimming between the boilers



Moving forward towards the hold.



The whole family in the main cargo hold






There are large openings between the frames midships on the port or western side of the Sapona.



Swimming aft from the main hold into the engine room


Moving a bit further west to checkout a similar ferrocement vessel ...


I was able to kite another ferrocement vessel in 2017. This time it was the YO-42, a WWII fuel barge intentionally grounded off Shipwreck Beach, Lanai, HI in the Kalohi Channel. This barge wasn't self-propelled but required a tug. It saw action in the Pacific when a Japanese sub sunk its tug boat about 150 miles from Espiritu Santo on 12 September 1943. It was grounded off Lanai in 1949 to 1950. This barge is sometimes confused with Liberty ships and even the Sapona which isn't the case.






A side view of the barge.


Heading way back east for a look at another Bahamian wreck, with a difference.


The Gallant Lady was a freighter out of Belize City when it blew on to the rocks of North Bimini during Hurricane Mitch in 1997. Compare this to the Sapona which blew on to the flats east of Turtle Rocks in 1925 or 72 years earlier. The above photo was taken in 2004, not 2006 as labeled. The stern of the Sapona sheered off during that hurricane and I have no clue how many have hammered the wreck since that time to the present day. There have been many. Then add in aerial bombing and staffing by the Army Air Corp out of Ft. Lauderdale during WWII. Despite all that, the Sapona has hung on quite well and vastly better than the all steel Gallant Lady as you can see in the following photos.



Shot in 2010, just six years later but more steel plates are missing.



The astonishing deterioration as of a couple of months ago. I have other intervening years which I could dig out from 2010 to slow a slower progression. In short, if you want a ship to last, it is best to make it like a reinforced concrete building!



The Sapona will continue to fall apart and it may go faster as the structure spalls and falls away. Still, in the 45 years I enjoyed visiting the wreck, it has held together astonishingly well.

.
__________________
FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by RickI; 04-15-2019 at 08:52 PM.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:34 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions Inc.

Do not advertise outside of [COM] Forums.
Do not show disrespect for others in your postings.
Users can be denied access to this Site without warning.
FKA, Inc., it’s officers and moderators are not responsible
for the content of the postings and any links or pictures posted.

Report Problems by PM to “administrator” or via email to flkitesurfer@hotmail.com

Copyright FKA, Inc. 2004, All Rights Reserved.