Written by Paul Crask
The Bianca C began life as the Marechal Petain when it was launched in June 1944 at the La Ciotat yard near Marseilles. Two months later and still incomplete, it was being towed to Port Bouc when it was sunk by the Germans who were in the process of retreating from the south of France. It lay on the bottom until 1946 when it was raised and taken back to its original boatyard at La Ciotat where it was renamed La Marseillaise and refitted as a cruise ship. Its maiden voyage was in 1949 when it sailed with 736 passengers from Marseilles to Yokohama.
In 1957, it was sold to the Arosa Line of Panama and renamed Arosa Sky where it undertook further refitting and made its maiden voyage from Bremerhaven to New York. Two years later it was sold to the Costa family of Genoa who owned a shipping line called the Linea C. Refitted and renamed, this time after the family’s daughter, the cruise ship Bianca C ran between Italy and Venezuela, pausing at the Caribbean en route. In 1961, while anchored in St George’s Harbour, a fire started in its boiler room and quickly spread throughout the ship. With the help of its crew and the small sailing vessels of local Grenadians, all but one of its 673 passengers were evacuated.
Unfortunately, passenger Rodizza Napale did not make it out. Days later, the Bianca C was still burning and the British frigate Londonderry managed to cut its anchor chain and attach a towline. The aim was to tow it away from the entrance of the harbour and beach it somewhere around Point Salines. East of the harbour, the tow rope broke and, having taken on so much water during towing, the Bianca C sank in depths of over 40m, its final resting place.
Read more, including arranging a dive to see the ‘Titanic of the Caribbean’, here:
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