SS Valbanera

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SS Valbanera
Owner: Pinillos Line (1905–1919)
Identification: Call sign: ECV
Fate: Sank 1919
General characteristics
Type: Steamship
Tonnage: 4,999 tons
Length: 400 ft (120 m)
Capacity: c.1,200 passengers

SS Valbanera was a steamship operated by the Pinillos Line of Spain from 1905 until 1919, when it sank in a hurricane with the loss of all 488 crew and passengers aboard. Valbanera was a 400-foot-long (120 m) steamer capable of carrying close to 1,200 passengers. It sailed a regular route between Spain and Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Gulf coast of the United States. In the summer of 1919 the ship left the Canary Islands after earlier calling at several ports in Spain, loaded with cargo and 1,142 passengers, mostly immigrants to Cuba, and 88 crew members.

Although most of the passengers were booked for Havana, 749 left the ship when it called at Santiago de Cuba on September 5. The 1919 Florida Keys Hurricane hit Havana on September 8, before Valbanera reached the port. While the storm was raging an unidentified ship was seen off the harbor entrance signaling for a pilot, but the harbor was closed and the ship was notified it could not enter. The ship acknowledged, and signaled it would move away from shore to ride out the storm.

On September 13, the Cuban Consul in Key West contacted the Commandant of the United States Navy Base in Key West concerning rumors that Valbanera had sunk. Radio operators at the base reported hearing Valbanera in contact with the Morro Castle radio station in Tampa on September 12, but further investigation indicated that they had probably mistaken the call letters for Infante Isabel, ECY, which had been in contact with Morro Castle, for the call letters for Valbanera, ECV. The last confirmed radio communication with Valbanera had been on September 9. The U.S. sub chaser 320 spotted a submerged wreck with just the masts above water in the vicinity of Rebecca Shoal (about 45 miles (72 km) west of Key West) on September 12, but identified it as a two-masted schooner. Two other Navy ships passing the area on September 13 did not notice anything of a wreck. Another sub chaser sent out on September 16 returned the next day with confirmation that a large ship was wrecked on Half Moon Shoal. On September 19 Coast Guard cutter Tuscarora and sub chaser 203 were able to see the name Valbanera on the wreck. The next day the officer who had reported the wrecked schooner on September 12 confirmed that he had seen Valbanera. The wreck was 6 miles (9.7 km) east of Rebecca Shoal, with just the masts. There were 488 passengers and crew on Valbanera when it sank. No bodies were seen or recovered.[1][2]


  1. ^ Decker, Benton C. (Spring 2005). "Loss of the Spanish Steamship Valbanera" (pdf). Florida Keys Sea Heritage Journal. 15 (3): 14–15. 
  2. ^ "Decker is Convinced Wreck is Valbanera" (pdf). The New York Times. 21 September 1919.