The Itapage

During a dive trip to Recife, I and Massud were invited by Edísio and Léo of Aquáticos dive shop to dive in the wreck of the passenger ship Itapagé in Alagoas.

The ship history

The Itapagé was a packet ship use to transport cargo and passengers. It was built in 1927 in Chantiers de Normandie shipyard in the city of Rouen in France. The owner of Itapagé was Companhia Nacional de Navegação Costeira.

In September 26th of 1943, the Itapagé was sailing off Alagoas, comingo from Rio de Janeiro bound to Belém do Pará when at 13:50 hs the ship was shaken by explosions and start to sink.

The passengers and crew was astonished to see that huge ship dissapear in only five minutes. From 70 crewman, 18 died and of the 52 passengers, nine was never seeing again.

A U-boat was the responsible for the sinking of Itapagé. According to records, the attack could have be done by U-161 or U-504.

After 60 years of the day of this tragedy, it is hard to find hard evidence to declare with no doubt wich U-boat was the responsible for this.For the brazilian people, what matters is the size of the agression caused by the germans.

The sinking of Itapagé show very whell the conditions that the brazilian navy faced day by day while sailing in brazilian waters. The lack of protection given by the armed forces to the ships that sail in our waters, make this ships easy targets to the u-boats.

The dive

We left Recife in the end of the day bound to a small fishermen village named Lagoa Azeda. This village is 60 km far from Maceio and 320 km from Recife.

In the next day, we started the dive operations as the sun rises. From the beach to the wreckage of Itapagé we use a fishing boat. The Lagoa Azeda village is the nearest point to the Itapagé: 8 nautical miles. With the boat we used we spend 1:30 hs of voyage. After the localization of the wreck we begin our dive.

Thanks to the great visibility, it was possible to see the shipwreck at 25 meters down. The ship is enourmous and the diving conditions was perfect !

While diving over the bow, part of the cargo of the ship called our attention: By the sand, thousands of beer bottles, medicine glasses e parfums and some tires. According to the cargo manifest, the Itapagé was carrying two thousand boxes of beer,  30 thousand pans, two trucks and others itens. As we passed over the bow mast, Massud make the identification of one truck. For all over the wreckage, there are a large quantidity of sealife, many big fishes, barracudas and rays.

But without any doubt, the best part of the wreckage is the engines !

Standing side by side, the huge engines was built in the Chantiers de Látlantique and was responsible to the propulsion of the 113 meters, 5000 tons ship.

We stay a few minutes staring at that beautiful structure. The incredible visibility of the water and a huge fishe that was swiming between the engines was a good vision !   At this very moment a huge ray flew over us heading to the stern of the ship. So, we decided to do the same and we slowly swim between the engines and arrive in the stern.

At the end of diving, when we are back to the bow, we saw a big piece of the hull on the sand.It was full of portholes !  So I decided to named this part of the shipwreck as “The Porthole Alley” !

Back to the surface, we figured that the history of the shipwreck and the rescue of survivors was quite familiar to the fisherman that took us there: His father help to save the survivors using jangada (local smal sailing boat).

All the diving operation on the Itapagé was sensational. The dive is amazing and all wreckdiver must visit this shipwreck. Many thanks to Edísio and Léo of the dive shop Aquáticos who took us there.

Colaboration: Aldemar Araújo Castro

Rodrigo Coluccini
Criador e proprietário da Revista Deco Stop, foi um dos responsáveis pela divulgação em larga escala das informações sobre naufrágios no litoral brasileiro, fato antes restrito a poucos. É co-autor do manual de naufrágios da certificadora PDIC. Seu trabalho é citado em vários livros atuais sobre história maritima brasileira confirmando a importância de seu trabalho.