Seeadler (Sea Eagle)
26 November 2020
I've written a lot about the remote atoll, Mopelia. Our last experience there was a surprise snorkeling on the reef, outside the pass.
Atolls usually have a pass or two where water flows into the lagoon and back out with the change of tide. Trade winds also blow water over the eastern side of the reef. When the pass is on the western side of the atoll, that water is almost always flowing out. Sometimes with strong winds and tide the current flowing out can be up to six knots. Sailors try to time the pass so they are not caught in these strong currents. It can be dangerous!
We decided to snorkel through the pass and explore the outer reef on a calm day. The current in the pass was still about two knots. But that can be great for snorkeling. One of us just hangs onto the dinghy line as we drift through the pass. We can always climb back into the dinghy for safety.
Another "adventure" associated with atoll passes are the abundance of sharks. The current brings nutrients that work right up the food chain. As we drifted through the pass, a large, gray shark (nastiest species in FP) came up from the depths to check us out. The minute he saw us, he bolted right back down. Good thing!
Outside the pass we snorkeled south. We saw a rare school of barracuda, jacks and parrot fish. Then we spotted a length of old anchor chain, an anchor and lots of other ship debris. Pretty soon we were looking at cannon and huge, steam engine parts. All of this was in 15 to 20 feet deep and crystal clear water. The wreckage provided a base for beautiful coral and abundant fish too.
At the time, we did not know what we were seeing. There were a lot of long, steel poles among the wreckage. We spent about an hour enjoying the swim.
Back in the village, Henry and Norma explained it was the wreck of the Seeadler, German WWI ghost ship. The internet filled in the rest of the details (much later when we had internet, hence my delay in writing about this, well that and procrastination).
The Seeadler was built in 1888 in the UK, 273 feet and rigged with three masts. She was captured by a German U boat in 1914. She was converted to a warship, disguised as a merchant ship. She carried a variety of flags which allowed her to stealthily capture or sink 15 enemy merchant vessels in the 225 days she was in service for the German navy. She was wrecked on Mopelia where she stopped to clean her hull. She couldn't enter the narrow pass so anchored just outside. A storm and wind shift from the west drove her on the reef. There are local stories how the German soldiers were quite intimidating to the Polynesians living there until they were rescued by another German ship.
The Seeadler provided a bonus to our snorkeling in the beautiful Polynesian reef.
There is more to the fascinating story of the Seeadler on Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS_Seeadler_(1888)