Expedition by UCN and Oceana finds the remains of the Chilean “Titanic” off the coast of La Higuera | Oceana

Expedition by UCN and Oceana finds the remains of the Chilean “Titanic” off the coast of La Higuera

Press Release Date: November 9, 2017

Location: Coquimbo, Chile


Anna Baxter | email: abaxter@oceana.org
Anna Baxter

After many years searching, a group of explorers finally found the remains of the Itata shipwreck, also known as the Chilean “Titanic”. The famous steamship sank during a fierce storm 95 years ago, with over 400 people on board, off the coast of La Higuera, in the Coquimbo region.

A few weeks ago, a group of researchers from the Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN) and Oceana’s Science Director Matthias Gorny, Ph.D., expert ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) handler, located the sinking point but no remains were found. The story changed a few days later, when the underwater robot conveyed images from a depth of 200 meters, confirming that the expedition was right above the shipwreck.

“We can say that finding the Itata is the greatest discovery in terms of underwater heritage in Chile. It’s been years of searching and investigating, which is why this is such an accomplishment. The next step is to launch our documentary, finish processing national monument permits to perform an archeological survey and raise funds for our fictional movie”, said Carlos Cortés, moviemaker and UCN marine biologist, and one of the people in charge of the expedition.

Javier Sellanes, Research Secretary of the Faculty of Marine Sciences of UCN, which will be receiving a ROV in upcoming months to continue to monitor the shipwreck, said that this finding also opens a large range of possibilities for research in areas such as underwater archaeology, anthropology, and history; even chemistry and marine biology. “All of this will continue to be carried out with the required permits and with due respect for the people who lost their lives during this tragic event, and their families”, he added.

Cortés and producer Ricardo Bordones started their investigation seven years ago. “First we re-edited a book written by one of the Itata shipwreck survivors, and in time we gathered more information and were joined in our effort by UCN, the Chilean Navy, NGO Oceana, the Culture Council, the municipality of La Higuera, and company’s Sacyr and TPC. All their support has been essential to attain our research objectives”, said Cortés.

Finding the Itata was crucial for this story’s closure, so Oceana joined the exploratory work. It was a known fact that the ship was located between Punta de Choros and Caleta Chungungo, an area familiar to this marine conservation NGO.

“At Oceana we’ve conducted a number of scientific expeditions off the coast of La Higuera because of this area’s environmental significance. This is why we wanted to cooperate in the search for the Itata using our technology, and thanks to the images collected by our underwater robot, we were able to find the ship”, said Matthias Gorny, Oceana Chile’s Science Director.

The discovery of the Itata adds a new tourist attraction to a region that is internationally recognized for its natural abundance. The ship is located off the coast of one of the most visited areas in Coquimbo region, near the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, an exceptional place for whale watching and sea bird sightings.