A closer look at the Jane Sea

Aruba is well known for its wrecks, more in particular the World War II wrecks of the German freighter Antilla and the Lake tanker Pedernales. Another illusive wreck however is the wreck of the coaster Jane Sea. When divers approach the wreck her almost sinister shape is rising above the divers and a comparison with the bow of the Titanic is often made. Her location and date of sinking are well known but her previous history is a mystery to many. Did you know the Jane Sea (sometimes referred to as “Jane C.”) was built in Holland and wasn’t named Jane Sea from the beginning? Time to take a closer look.

From Blackthorn to Jane Sea

(Jane Sea, photo:  courtesy of chemicalmankingsdown)
(Jane Sea, photo: courtesy of chemicalmankingsdown)

The 749 tons and 57 mtrs/190 ft long cargo ship was launched on December 30, 1959, from Westerbroek SW shipyard in Westerbroek in the North of Holland and was named Blackthorn. Her date of completion was March 1960. The Blackthorn sailed in British waters under the UK flag  and was owned by the firm S. William Coe. & Co. Ltd. . The Blackthorn was later renamed Rudyard and in 1976 she was converted into a aggregates carrier. In 1980 the Rudyard was sold to S&D Shipping Ltd. in Bembridge, registered in Shoreham (UK) and renamed Jane Sea.

Cement or cocaine ?:

Between 1980 and her sinking by local dive operators in 1988 her whereabouts were a kind of a mystery. The story is that in her final days Jane Sea was owned by a Venezuelan company transporting cement between Venezuela and Aruba. It turned out that one day besides cement the Jane Sea transported some other white powder also known to the general public as cocaine. As a result of this drugs bust the ship was confiscated by authorities. When the owners did not reclaim the ship local dive operators took the initiative to make the vessel easily accessible for divers and scuttled it in September 1988 turning it into one of the most spectacular wrecks in Aruba. The rest is history …… but is it really?

After being abandoned by the crew:

 (notice public auction. Source: Amigoe 4 May 1985)
(notice public auction. Source: Amigoe 4 May 1985)

The files in the archives of the Aruba Ports Authority (APA) tell a different story ……. The Jane Sea (call sign GGCH) arrived in September 1984 in Barcadera Harbor (Aruba) carrying a load of cement from Costa Rica. She was still registered in Shoreham (UK) but now owned by Deroche Enterprises Ltd. seated in Trinidad. During berthing in Barcadera harbor she experienced major engine trouble and shortly after she was abandoned by her entire crew. When harbor dues weren’t paid an embargo was laid on the ship and when attempts to get in contact with the owner, and two attempts to auction the vessel in 1985 failed, the decision was made to lift the embargo in December 1987 and prepare the ship to become a dive object. She was scuttled on September 4, 1988 just south of Barcadera harbor.

It’s obvious the truth is not as exciting as the story that has been told for many years now and it’s maybe even somewhat disappointing. Therefore, and because every wreck deserves a bit of mystery or an exciting story, it’s up to the readers what story they prefer to remember.

(More background information on other (WW II) wrecks in Aruba can be found at  https://willemsubmerged.wordpress.com/)

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