SANTIAGO – Explorers have found the remains of the steamship Itata, dubbed as the “Chilean Titanic,” which sank 95 years ago off the South American country’s northern Pacific coast.
The ship sank in 1922 with more than 400 people on board, after running into a storm during a journey between the U.S. and Chile. The greatest marine disaster in the country’s history left 374 people dead.
For the last seven years, experts have been searching for the wreckage, and have finally pinpointed it off the port of Coquimbo, in Elqui Province, in northern Chile.
The discovery of the Itata is the culmination of years of work, one of the expedition leaders, marine biologist and documentary filmmaker Carlos Cortes told the media.
Researchers hope the discovery will help to complete the story of the infamous ship, and bring more tourists to the area.
Javier Sellanes, the head of research at UCN’s school of marine science, said that the discovery of the Itata opens up possibilities for study in fields ranging from underwater archaeology to history and anthropology, and even to disciplines such as chemistry and marine biology.
“All of this will continue to be carried out with the appropriate permits and due respect both for those who lost their lives in this tragic event and their families,” he said.
The endeavor was started seven years ago by Cortes in partnership with sociologist Ricardo Bordones, who thanked UCN, the Chilean navy, Oceana, Chile’s Culture Council, the town of La Higuera and the Sacyr and TPC companies for supporting the project.
The Itata ship participated in the War of the Pacific and the Revolution of 1891, before being sold to the Compania Nacional de Vaporeso in 1922.
It was then used to transport supplies and passengers between the U.S. and Chile.
One of its many journeys took place on August 28, 1922 – but this would end up being its last.
At around 11:00am, the Itata headed for Antofagasta from the port of Coquimbo, but in a matter of a few hours, the ship ran into a raging storm, which sank the Itata.
Of the 400 people on board, only 26 survived and made it back to the coast.
Until now, the precise location of the wreckage has remained a mystery.