SS Yarmouth Castle
Yarmouth Castle lies on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean west of Castaway Cay and northwest of Great Harbour Cay on the edge of the Grand Bahama Basin. The wreck site is over 10,800 feet deep. There are no online records of the wreck ever being explored, meaning it is likely untouched and undiscovered. Cruise ships out of Miami still use the sea lane the Yarmouth Castle sank in today. Due to the great depth, any diving on the wreck would have to be ROV or manned submersible.
~ GPS Shipwreck Location ~
Latitude: 25° 55' 0.12" N Longitude: -78° 5' 60" W
Sometime after midnight on November 13, 1965, smoke began appearing within the engine room of Yarmouth Castle. The engine room personnel notified the bridge. A senior crewmember began frantically running through the ship looking for the origin of the smoke. Not long afterwards, a passenger was found by another crewmember limping on deck with third degree burns. The origin of the fire was found at 1:00 AM in Room 610 being used as a utility supply and storage closet. The fire was too intense to be extinguished. The fire spread through the ship very quickly. The radio room and bridge went up in flames before any distress signal could be issued and before Captain Byron Voutsinas could sound the general alarm. Captain Voutsinas and his senior crew members launched a single life boat and abandoned ship leaving behind all the passengers to certain doom.
Left on their own on a burning ship in shark infested waters, Yarmouth Castle's passengers were unable to escape on their own with the life boats as the boats had also caught fire. Some passengers were hauled out of the inner hull by human ladders reaching down to the ship's portholes. Captain Brown of the cruise ship Bahama Star noticed the fire on the horizon and the lack of movement from Yarmouth Castle. Bahama Star was turned around and arrived at the site of the inferno, alerting the Coast Guard. Captain Voutsinas arrived with his crew and only four passengers to the freighter Finnpulp. Captain Lehto of the Finnpulp took aboard only the four passengers and forced Voutsinas back to the Yarmouth Castle. Finnpulp followed Voutsinas back to the Yarmouth Castle to help rescue her passengers.
At the scene, Captain Brown and Captain Lehto lead a rescue effort to remove the last remaining passengers off the Yarmouth Castle. Other passengers aboard the Yarmouth Castle threw any easiy movable buoyant items left aboard the ship into the water for survivors in the water to hold onto. Lifeboats lead by Captain Brown of the Bahama Star pulled the survivors out of the water and caught survivors jumping off the ship. Captain Lehto of the Finnpulp pulled his freighter alongside the Yarmouth Castle allowing survivors to jump off the burning wreck onto the freighter. Eventually, the entire ship was fully engulfed in flames and all the survivors had been rescued. Of the 550 people total, 87 people were still aboard the ship either having already perished or having no way to escape.
Yarmouth Castle burned furiously throughout the night. The flames brightly illuminated the wreck from miles away. The hundreds of layers of oil and led based paint only added to fuel her flames. All the wooden areas of her superstructure were burned away, collapsing the wheelhouse. The intensity of the flames could be felt from the Bahama Star, the heat of the flames causing the paint on the Bahama Star's funnel to burn lightly. The hull, now bright red, boiled the water around it, releasing a screaming sound. Two hours after the last survivors had been rescued, Yarmouth Castle rolled over and sank. The survivors were brought to Nassau in the Bahamas.
The shape of the wreck is unknown as the Yarmouth Castle has never been discovered. What is known however is that the superstructure is gone, as the fire destroyed it completely before the ship sank. Massive amounts of the hull are probably very brittle and warped from the heat of the on board fire. As the ship capsized when she sank, Yarmouth Castle likely lies on her side.
Further information and photographs of Yarmouth Castle.
She was constructed as the SS Evangeline by William Cramp and Sons in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1927 for the Eastern Steamship Company. Her sister ship was the SS Yarmouth. Both ships were American owned and registered. Evangeline and Yarmouth sailed between New York City and Nova Scotia. During World War II, both ships became troopships, Evangeline being based in the Pacific. Evangeline and Yarmouth returned to passenger service in 1947, Evangeline being moved to the New York City to the Bahamas run. In 1948, she was laid up, breifly returning to service in 1950. In 1953, Evangeline and Yarmouth were sold together and operated as cruise ships based out of Miami. Ownership and marketing changed several times. In 1963, she was renamed Yarmouth Castle and owned by the Chadade Steamship Company.