The Bianca C
World Famous Grenada Shipwreck
The Bianca C is a key site to visit when scuba diving in Grenada. She is justifiably known as the ‘Titanic of the Caribbean’ due to her sheer size and presence. She has few rivals in the realms of warm water wreck diving. The Bianca C has been listed as one of the ‘top ten’ worldwide wreck sites by several diving magazines and international experts. This enormous 180 (600′) metre long cruise liner sank in 1961 and sits upright on her keel in 50 metres (‘165’) of water. The diving on this awesome Grenada wreck never fails to impress and amaze divers. We normally begin our dive at the ‘swimming pool’ before working along towards her funnel and impressive foremast. During this swim towards the bow, keep your eyes open for spotted eagle rays (seen regularly), reef and nurse sharks, schools of Atlantic spadefish, large moray eels and barracuda. The Bianca C is ideally located between an expansive reef system and the great blue which means that we enjoy some fantastic pelagic marine life during this dive. This dive is restricted to ‘Advanced’ level divers only due to its depth.
Construction of the Bianca C began in 1939 at Construction Navales, La Ciotat; a yard situated on the South French Coast between Marseille and Toulon. The incomplete ship was launched as the “Marechal Petain” on June 1944 and then towed to Port Bouc. She was unfortunately then sunk by German Forces in August 1944 during their retreat from France. The sunken hull was raised and towed back to the yard at La Coitat in 1946 and renamed “La Marseillaise”. She was refitted as a cruise ship for Messageries Maritimes of Marseilleise. Her refit was completed in July 1949 with an original capacity of 736 passengers; 344 1st class, 74 2nd class and 318 3rd class. Her maiden voyage was from Marseilles to Yokohama.
The Bianca C was sold to AROSA LINE Inc of Panama in 1957. She was renamed as the ‘Arosa Sky’ and refitted to accommodate 202 1st class & 1030 2nd class passengers. Her first voyage in this guise was from Bremerhaven to New York. Within two years, the Arosa Line hit financial straits and the ship was sold in 1959 to G.COSTA du GENOA, an Italian family firm known as the “Linea C”. She underwent refurbishment and an increase in tonnage from 17,321 GT to 18,427 GT and was renamed the “Bianca C” after a daughter. Under her new name the Bianca C, made the Naples to Guaira (Venezuela) run. This voyage included stops in the Caribbean with Grenada being the last stop of the return leg.
On October 12th 1961 the Bianca C left Italy on her final voyage. Ten days later, whilst anchored off St. George’s, the capital of Grenada, she caught fire. The fire followed an explosion in her boiler room with the flames spreading rapidly throughout the rear of the ship. Of those on board, 672 of 673 people were saved by the prompt action of both the crew and of numerous local small boats launched from St. George’s harbour in Grenada. Unfortunately, there was insufficient marine fire fighting equipment available to stem the blaze or indeed to facilitate rescue of the body of the only person lost on board. Of those rescued, twelve badly burnt crew were taken to the local hospital for treatment and fortunately only one further crew member subsequently died, a man named Rodizza Napale.
On hearing the bad news, a British Frigate the “Londonderry” sailed from Puerto Rico to offer assistance. They arrived on October 24th to find the ship still burning. They succeeded in severing the anchor chain and securing a towing line with a view to removing her from the local shipping lanes and beaching her in the shallows off from Point Salines. The tow proved difficult partly because the Bianca C’s large rudders had become jammed by the extreme heat of the fire. The tow line was severed and she sank to the ocean floor where she rests today. This really is a fantastic wreck dive for Advanced divers when they visit Grenada.