SS Sapona

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File:Sapona Panoramic.jpg
The port side, as it looked in Aug, 2009
File:SS Sapona starboard.jpg
The starboard side, as it looked in June, 2010

SS Sapona was a concrete-hulled cargo steamer that ran aground near Bimini during a hurricane in 1926. The wreck of the ship is easily visible above the water, and is both a navigational landmark for boaters and a popular dive site.

The Sapona was built by the Liberty Ship Building Company of Wilmington, North Carolina as part of a fleet of concrete ships authorized by Woodrow Wilson during World War I, because steel was in short supply. Like many others in the fleet, the war was over before the ship was completed, and the Sapona was sold for scrap. Rather than being destroyed, however, it was used for oil storage, and was purchased in 1924 by Bruce Bethel.

Bethel moved the ship to Bimini, using it as a warehouse for alcohol during the era of Prohibition. Bethel also intended to use the ship as a floating nightclub, although this plan never came to fruition. In 1926, the ship ran aground in a hurricane and broke apart.

During World War II, the wreck was used for target practice by the U.S. Army Air Force and U.S. Navy. Flight 19 vanished while returning from a bombing run to the Sapona and the nearby Hens and Chickens shoals.

The wreck lies in about 15 feet of water, the stern broken off and partially submerged by hurricanes that struck in 2004. Little concrete is left on the hull because of the effects of bombing and weathering. The wreck itself and the surrounding area is a popular site for scuba divers and snorkelers.

The ship was used as a backdrop in the 1977 horror film "Shock Waves" directed by Ken Wiederhorn.


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