On the night of April 27, 1883, a strong eastern storm with wind, rain and intense fog caused the French steam known as George O Georgia, loaded with flour and fabrics, it will run aground in Punta Espinuda, between the beaches of Sa Riera and Illa Roja, on the coast of Begur (Girona). Thanks to the bravery and diligence of the local sailors, the crew and passengers survived. The cargo, however, ended up strewn across the water, rocks and nearby beaches. It was robbed.
The following summer, the owners of the shipping company returned to retrieve the iron parts of the steamship and in 1888 its spoils were auctioned. However, several pieces were submerged and buried under the sand of the coast. The Gloria storm of last January exposed the anchor and the four boilers of this French steam that had left Marseille and was heading to North Africa, to the old Mogador.
The force of the Gloria, which removed the seabed at 40 meters and uncovered unpublished underwater sites buried for centuries, also uncovered bibliographically documented archaeological remains but never seen before. And it made others already studied disappear under the sand. Among them is the Georgia, as it has been cataloged by the Center for Underwater Archeology of Catalonia (CASC), a research unit of the Museum of Archeology of Catalonia. This shipwreck had a great impact on the entire region.
In mid-September, Txema Arrabal, a diving instructor and freediver based in Begur, was swimming in the area and saw, between four and seven meters deep, some large metal pieces, and an anchor and a stocks, both of about two meters. He informed the CASC and the underwater archaeologists confirmed that it was the remains of the Georgia, specifically four iron boilers about three meters long by three meters wide. They suspect that at some point some fishing boat dragged them and moved them.
The main interest of the anchor lies in its wooden stocks – the piece that adapts to the shank of the anchor near the arganeum, perpendicular to it and the plane of the arms -, strangely well preserved. For the head of the CASC, Rut Geli, this means that “it has always been buried under the sand, because if the teredo navalis (marine woodworm) would have eaten it ”. “Normally, they are not preserved, hence to protect it we have moved it to another nearby point and we have covered it with sand”, explains Geli, who details that thanks to the GPS they will know its location and in one or two months they will check its location again. state. If they see that you are in danger, they will pull the anchor out of the water and keep it. “It is a museum piece because it is beautiful and rare, but for the moment it has been protected and the idea is that it remains submerged.”
Several articles published in newspapers of the time such as The struggle or the Palafrugellense They recorded the end of the story of the steamer, owned by the great shipping company Paquet de Marseille, which had only made two trips. On the morning of April 27, he left in the direction of Gibraltar, the Canary Islands and North Africa loaded with sacks of flour, cloth, hats, tobacco, matchboxes, liquors, pipes, candles, French costume jewelery and other high-value merchandise. commercial. It was carrying 36 crew members and 15 passengers, including two women and a girl.
The storm, added to the malfunction of the compass that caused it to navigate in the wrong direction, made it run aground at about ten o’clock at night near the beach then called La Rierita, now Sa Riera, and split in two. The sailors who were on the beach waiting for the storm to subside to go out to fish heard the whistles, the bell and the shouts of alarm. Although they tried to get there by sea, it was impossible, and they did it by the cliff dodging the waves that beat hard against the rocks. The castaways, including a German family that carried almost their entire fortune, were rescued and housed by the residents of Begur. In a few days they returned to Marseille.
The economic loss from the sinking was calculated (between the ship and the cargo) at about three million pesetas. The Begurenses and residents of other towns, collected items that were left in the water and on the beaches, including bags of flour, which (except for a crust on the top) remained in good condition and were used to make bread in the houses . They also collected a large number of hats of different shapes and styles that they wore for years. Everyone learned to smoke a pipe.
The City Council congratulated the heroes of the rescue and the French government rewarded Begur for its courageous rescue action. Its steep coasts, the scene of numerous shipwrecks, hide 28 sites including 13 wrecks from different periods.