The sinking of the 'Luigina gi' off punta de s'Àguila

The coast of the Serra de Tramuntana is very dangerous for numerous reasons, but two stand out particularly: the lack of places for boats to shelter between Port d'Andratx and Port de Pollença (the only possibility is Port de Sóller) and the strength of the northerly and northwest winds, which come gusting toward the shore with gale-like force.

Given the above, it is not unusual for the area to have a particularly tragic history of shipwrecks. Today we will recall one such example, that of the 'Luigina Gi', which sank on February 7th 1917 off a headland known as Punta de s'Àguila, close to Port des Canonge, with the dramatic outcome of 10 deaths out of the 15 crewmembers on board the Italian sailing ship.

This three-masted sailing ship had left Marseille on route to Cuba with a cargo of roof, wall and floor tiles. Northerly gales that had been blowing in the Gulf of Lion and Balearic Sea for days caused the helm to break, and for hours the ship was gradually tossed toward the coast of Mallorca, where it hit the western side of Punta de s'Aguila.

Naufragi © Foto: Gabriel Lacomba
Naufragi © Foto: Gabriel Lacomba

The Italian sailing ship, the 'Luigina Gi', sank in 1917 when it hit the rocks off Punta de s'Àguila, near Port des Canonge

Two customs guards who were patrolling the area set off to Son Bunyola estate to alert the authorities. A rescue team was immediately formed and it left Port des Canonge by boat, led by skippers Llorenç Picornell and Llorenç Sastre. It was no easy task and they were risking their lives merely by setting sail in a small Mallorcan boat in a storm, but courage and solidarity are never lacking among sailors when some of their kind are in peril.

One of the crewmembers (most were from Banyalbufar, but there were also some fishermen from Esporles, based at Port des Canonge) was Rafel Vila 'Boscana', who was 17 at the time. Rafel, who is no longer alive, was a fisherman and sailor all his life. During the final years of his life, he still looked back on that tragic day. "The cowards were saved," he explained. The ones who tried to swim to the coast all died, while the five who stayed on deck, waiting to be rescued, were finally saved. We threw ropes to them from the rescue boat so that they could tie the rope round themselves and we could haul them across from the 'Luigina Gi'. At 2.30 pm the last crewmember of the Italian ship was rescued.

The survivors of the shipwreck (four Italians and one North American) were taken to Son Bunyola rural estate, where they were examined by the doctor from Valldemossa, and given clothes and rope-soled shoes. They spent a few days in the hayloft there.

The 'Luigina Gi' remained aground on the rocks for several more days until another storm destroyed it completely. The sea returned the bodies of three of the other sailors and a fourth, the cook, was found at the foot of some cliff close by Els Guixos caves. It is assumed that he managed to reach dry land, tried to climb the side of the mountain, but became exhausted and ended up by falling down a ravine.

A year later, the Naval Adjutant's Office in Andratx rewarded the brave fishermen who had taken part in the rescue operation for their courage, notifying the Mayor of Banyalbufar that it was awarding the heroes five certificates to this effect.

Most of the sailing ship and its cargo were salvaged years later in an operation with divers. The ship's iron and everything of any value was taken advantage of. The ship's bell was also rescued and given to Son Bunyola rural estate. It is said to have been hung in the building's tower known as the Torre des Moro.

The above events were much commented on throughout the area, although there is hardly anyone alive today with direct memories of the episode. Nonetheless, the tale spread from mouth to mouth and was handed down from one generation to another and, many decades later, divers swimming close to the headland still sometimes try to find remains of the 'Luigina Gi'.


Text by Bartomeu Homar

Translated by Rachel Waters

Did you know that...

There is a path from Port des Canonge to Banyalbufar where you can go on a lovely walk. It runs through spots close to where the 'Luigina Gi' sank. The path is called Camí de Baix de Son Bunyola, although it has recently become popularly known as Camí de la Volta del General, because it is from this point that the path begins if you start out from Banyalbufar. It takes more or less one hour and it is easy to follow, with not too much uneven terrain, making it perfect for a family walk.



Son Bunyola, una mar de noms

Acurat estudi sobre la possessió de Son Bunyola des dels més diversos punts de vista. La història, la toponímia, l'etnologia, la geografia o determinats episodis com el del naufragi del "Luigina Gi" a la punta de s'Àguila es tracten en aquest volum fet amb vocació divulgativa però amb tot el rigor dels treballs científics.

Autor: Tomàs Vibot
Editorial: Associació Cultural Bany-al-bahar
Any de publicació: 1999

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