Ciudad de Asunción shipwrecked in the River Plate, Argentina
A true story of a shipwreck in the River Plate, Argentina by Roberto Dario Frassinetti
November 25, 2004
It was a cold winter night in 1963, when the Ciudad de Asunción began its last journey. None of the passengers knew this night would change their lives forever.
This important ship was water casked in Scotland in 1929. Together with its twin craft- Ciudad de Corrientes-, these ships arrived to the Rio de la Plata during the months of July-August of 1929. These ships combined perfectly storage space with passenger’s transportation. For this was the cheapest and most common transport across the Rio de la Plata. The Ciudad de Asunción crew’s daily job was to go back an forth from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, transporting valuable goods as well as anxious people who traveled to the brother country to meet their relatives, visit and relax or even to attend a business meeting.
On the night of July 10th 1963, the ship left Montevideo as usual. However this trip would be the last this famous ship would begin. It was a foggy night and the buoys weren’t visually clear. Although the ship’s captain daily navigated through this canal, the lack of clear visual made him deviate the craft out of the navigation canal. A few minutes later, the ship crashed into the remains of a sunken ship. According to the data exposes in the local newspapers at the time, the ship sank at the 34º 45,830 S 57º 27,550 W coordinates.
The flotation line of the Ciudad de Asunción was really damaged. Water began to flood the lower part of the ship. It was the beginning of the end. According to survivor’s testimonies, at that moment the ship’s crew began to alert the passengers about the situation, ordering them to put on their lifesavers, and to walk towards the main deck and wait for instructions.
Unlike the Titanic, at the Ciudad de Asunción there were enough lifesavers for everyone. In spite of having enough lifeboats, these could not be used all; because of inexperience or clumsiness many of them were downloaded incorrectly. The critical situation that should have been controlled was worsening minute by minute.
Although the captain and his crew counted on the fact that the depth of the Rio de la Plata wasn’t too much in relation to the ship’s dimensions, they didn’t bare in mind the fire that began soon after the ship began to sink due to the flooding in the power generation room. As the fire began to spread down, everybody had to jump into the freezing waters of the Rio de la Plata. According to Roberto Escardó, son of two of the Ciudad de Asunción survivors, his parents, priest and a young girl survived thanks to the strong direction of his father, who talked them throughout the whole tragedy, comforting them, telling them to move in order to keep their bodies functioning until someone came to rescue them.
It took over 4 hours after the last sinking for Prefecture to find and rescue them. Casualties were count by the dozen. It was a terrible tragedy. The craft had sunk almost completely, 9 meters in the bow and 6,50 meters in the stern. The remaining deck, which might have saved many people lives, was completely destroyed by the fire. The captain and his crew were sent to jail for negligence. Sadly, the captain died in jail without knowing that not many years later some scientists invented the GPS service, a navigation system that has saved millions of lives ever since.