|Well worth a
day out is a trip to the wreck of the American Star. This towering
ocean-going line was once the pride of its class. Now, it's final resting
place is on a small remote beach on the west coast of Fuerteventura.
The American Star once proudly took thousands of British families to a new life Down Under in the days of £10 assisted passages and many are alive today who remember sailing on her.
Situated on the Playa de Garcey, the American Star now rests tantalisingly just off shore in an isolated cove away from prying eyes.
It is not easy to find but a few intrepid holidaymakers do make the journey and leave impressed by the haunting, eerie sight of this giant ship stranded in the middle of nowhere.
The American Star was wrecked there in
1994. Over the years, the sea has taken its toll. It's stern broke away
years ago. A hurricane which hit Fuerteventura in 2005 caused her to lilt
even more and it won't be much longer before the sea claims her
Just before its final voyage in 1994, The American Star was sold to the Chaophraya Development Transport Company which planned to tow it to Thailand and convert it into a floating hotel.
At the end of 1993 the ship's
propellers were taken off and stored on the deck to prevent drag. The
Ukrainian tug the Neftegaz 67It was commission to tow the American Star on
what was to be its final journey.
That journey began New Years Eve 1993 and the ship passed Gibraltar on January 12 1994 in perfect towing conditions.
But the next day just 100 miles off the coast of Morocco the
weather deteriorated and on Saturday January 15 the tow line snapped.
In a last bid to save the ship, sailors from the tug were sent aboard to connect two ropes to the tug. But these also broke and finally they had to be lifted off the liner by helicopter.
No effort was made to re-float her (it
was said because of disagreements between the insurance company and
salvage crews) and just 48 hours later she broke in two.
During the days following the shipwreck, word spread and local islanders flocked to salvage all they could from the ship – furniture, brass plates, crockery, interior fittings. Indeed, to this day, there is a café in Puerto del Rosario “El Naufragio” which is completely furnished from windows to the bar with items taken from the wreck. You can find the café at the
corner of Avda de Mayor and Jesus y Maria.
During the first few days following the shipwreck, the American Star could be reached by boat. And although the ship appears close to the shore in a peaceful bay, there are strong currents and at lest eight people have died trying to explore the ship.
How to get there
To reach the American Star you have to travel down, and back up, a long dirt track, which you would probably not tackle in your own car. And beware, if you hire a car and have an accident, the insurance will not cover you. Even so, hundreds of holidaymaers take the chance every year!
Start your day with a visit to Ajuy, a small fishing village, and explore the attractive cliff top walk and interesting rock formations. After a snack of local prawns take the only road back out of the village and after about seven kilometres you will come back to the junction of the main Pajara-Costa Calma road.
Follow the track back towards the sea. After 2.7kms you will pass a sign saying you are in a national park and what appears to be a gypsy settlement. Shortly after follow the track left here and past a stone engraved “La Solara”.
Many holidaymakers miss this turning and carry straight on eventually ending up on headland above Playa de Salopas. If that happens to you, you have no choice but t turn back!
But if you took the turning just after the"gypsy encampment" continue along the track and eventually, in the distance, you will glimpse the rising hulk of the American Star.
Unless you have a four wheel drive, walk down to the beach. To the right is a cave and from in this cave, you will probably take the photograph of your holiday.
The many names of the American Star
The American Star was built in 1936 ad was first known as SS America. She was run by United States Lines until 1964 and during that time was also called USS Westpoint.
Under this name she even made her movie debut in the film GI Blues starring Elvis Presley.
In 1964 she was taken over by Chandris Lines and became known as the SS Australis
Then in 1978 Venture Cruises acquired
her and changed her name back to SS America
Between 1980-1993 she was mostly neglected but still underwent two more name changes, SS Noga and SS Alferdoss
Finally in 1994 she was named the SS American Star.