Aruba – The Antilla Wreck

The Antilla Shipwreck is a popular dive site, and has been popular for penetration diving. CaribbeanDays can book your dive experience to see this wreck!

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The Antilla is one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks. The ship lies on its port side in Malmok Bay, Aruba in up to 60 feet (18 m) of water; but, with a small part of its starboard side exposed above water. A storm in 1953 damaged and broke the wreck in two.

Corals and tube sponges have colonised the wreck, which attracts lobsters, hawksbill sea turtles and many species of fish, including moray eels and blue tang. In 2010 a large Atlantic goliath grouper was reported living in the forward section.

The Antilla has a fascinating history. It was called the SS Antilla (or “ES Antilla”, with “ES” standing for “Elektroschiff” German: electric ship) and was a Hamburg America Line (HAPAG) cargo ship that was launched in 1939.

The SS Antilla was built for trade between Germany and the Caribbean. It was called the Antilla after a city in Holguín Province in eastern Cuba.

The SS Antilla had it’s maiden voyage in July 1939. It left Hamburg for the Caribbean and reached Curacao in the Antilles.

From the Antilles, It went onto Galveston, Texas where it loaded 3,000 tons of sulphur for delivery back to Europe.

While in Gaveston Texas in August of 1939; the SS Antilla received a radio message from Germany with the code word, “Essberger”. This code word was a signal for the captain, Captain Ferdinand Schmidt, to open sealed orders. The sealed order directed them to alter their route and communicate in code only.

Their route, if they could not return to Germany, directed them to arrive immediately to a neutral port for refuge; because, Germany had just invaded Poland.

The SS Antilla discharged it’s cargo at San Nicolaas, Aruba and anchored in Malmok Bay. It was blocked from leaving the bay by the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy intercepted the crew and scuttled the ship.

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