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Italy: the wreck of a steamer from 1858 found near Messina has been identified

Italy – the wreck of a Swedish steamer that divers found off the coast of Messina in 2019 has been identified in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Nearly three years after being found by diver Carmelo La Monica, the mysterious wreck has been identified and we learned its history. The vessel is the Swedish steamer “Cambria” (ex
Published: July 26, 2022 - 09:00
Updated: July 23, 2023 - 01:05
Italy: the wreck of a steamer from 1858 found near Messina has been identified

Italy – the wreck of a Swedish steamer that divers found off the coast of Messina in 2019 has been identified in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

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Nearly three years after being found by diver Carmelo La Monica, the mysterious wreck has been identified and we learned its history. The vessel is the Swedish steamer “Cambria” (ex “Ernst Merck”), built in Nykoping in 1858.

Working at the grass roots

Once again, painstaking work using archival historical materials proved crucial in identifying the wreck. All thanks to the involvement of Giuseppe Condipodero Marchetta and the Honorary Inspector of Maritime Surveillance(Soprintendenza del Mare) for Underwater Cultural Heritage of the Province of Messina.

Conscientious work in the archives combined with numerous studies of the wreck helped uncover the vessel’s true identity. Although divers initially identified the wreck as a Royal Navy motor raft. Fortunately, once again, the passionate divers did not disappoint, and like a drop of water, they scrambled like a rock to find out the truth.

Wreck of a Swedish steamer

The story of the wreck found off the coast of Messina

The Swedish steamship “Cambria” built at the beginning of the second half of the XIW century is made entirely of iron. The vessel has a mixed steam and sail propulsion and measures 69.9 meters in length and 10.4 meters in width. The owners named the steamship after banker Ernst Merck, the Austrian consul general in Hamburg, who financed its construction.

It is worth noting that the wreck, which has been found and identified, belongs to a vessel that is extremely interesting from a historical point of view. Found off the coast of Messina, the ship was built on the back of profound changes in the navy and merchant marine. It was not only innovative by design, but also the largest in terms of size at the time. The vessel was also the first Swedish steamer to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the equator. Then, in the fall of 1861, the ship returned to Sweden, where it was enlarged and converted into a passenger ship.

In 1864, the steamer made its last voyage, carrying Swedish emigrants to North America. Then, as a result of the bankruptcy of shipowner Johan Holm, the ship was sold to J. Tomson, T. Bonar & Co. in London. In December 1868, the name of the vessel was changed to “Cambria.” Unfortunately, not much time passed from that moment and already in 1869, facing a storm, the steamer sank.

The wreck of the SS “Cambria” rests today on a sandy bottom, at a depth of 6 to 10 meters. The most characteristic elements of the vessel are still clearly visible, including the four-bladed propeller, the steam boiler and the stern part of the steel hull with a double bottom.

Photo: Soprintendenza del Mare


Without a doubt, the area around England’s Dover is famous for the shipwrecks sunk there. One of those worth exploring is without a doubt the Mindoro shipwreck. You can read more about it in Stefan Panis’ article, which we published in the 20th issue. DIVERS24 quarterly! The digital version of the magazine is available free of charge, while you can purchase the printed version in our online store.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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