The Bianca C, known as the 'Titanic of the Caribbean', is a must-see for Scuba Diving enthusiast visiting Grenada. The Bianca C is listed as one of the top ten wreck sites in the world by several diving magazines and international experts. This enormous 180-metre-long (600 feet) cruise liner sank in 1961 and sits upright on her keel in 50 metres (165 feet) of water. Divers visiting the wreckage are always impressed and amazed by her sheer size and are often thrilled to see eagle rays, nurse sharks, schools of Atlantic spadefish, large moray eels and barracuda. The Bianca C is located between an expansive reef system and the great blue, which means that divers will enjoy the marine life. Diving to Bianca C is restricted to advanced level divers due to its depth.
The Bianca C was built 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 sunken 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 in first class, 74 in second class and 318 in third class.
Her maiden voyage was from Marseilles to Yokohama. She was sold to Arosa Line Inc of Panama in 1957, renamed as the 'Arosa Sky' and refitted to accommodate 202 first class and 1030 second 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 ‘Bianca C’ after their daughter. Under her new name, 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 Bianca C left Italy on her final voyage. Ten days later, she caught fire whilst anchored off St Georges, the capital of Grenada. The fire caused an explosion in the boiler room and the flames spread rapidly throughout the rear of the ship. Of the 673 passengers there was only one fatality as the crew and local fishermen helped rescue those on-board. Unfortunately, there was insufficient fire-fighting equipment available to stem the blaze and rescue a male named Rodizza Napale, lost onboard. Of those rescued, twelve were badly burnt and taken to the local hospital for treatment.
On hearing the terrible 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 remove her from the local shipping lanes and beaching her in the shallows waters of Point Salines. The tow proved difficult partly because the extreme heat of the fire had jammed Bianca C’s large rudders. The towline was severed and she sank to the ocean floor where she rests today. A must see for advanced divers visiting Grenada.