The Shipwreck Beach of Praia da Atalanta in Boa Vista, Cape Verde

The wrecked vessel of MS Cabo Santa Maria

photography by: Simo Räsänen/ Wikimedia Commons

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There is probably no better testament to nature's superiority over mankind than the sight of a wrecked vessel, helplessly stranded on a shallow beach. Located at the northern tip of Boa Vista Island, Praia da Atalanta is home to a sliver of smallish dunes, turquoise waters and perhaps most strikingly, the remnants of a sunken Spanish ship that slowly but steadily, being consumed by the formidable Atlantic Ocean.

Stretching along the northern tip of Cape Verde’s third largest island, Boa Vista, the pristine beach of Praia da Atalanta is well dominated by the rusty remains of a once state of the art freighter. Constructed in 1957, the MS Cabo Santa Maria was a Spanish cargo ship equipped with the finest navigation system of its time, capable of reaching a speed of 17 nautical miles.


However, even with all of its cutting-edge technology, it stood no chance against the notorious shores of Boa Vista as it made its way back from South America to Spain, loaded with gifts and luxury food items for the then Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco. In 1968, the freighter went aground near the island’s coast when the crew miscalculated their capacity to maneuver over the area’s shallow water. Luckily, both the ship’s passengers and its precious cargo escaped unscathed, with the latter being salvaged by an army of locals and donkeys.


As the saying goes, one person’s loss is another person’s gain. Decades after the vessel was wrecked, its corroded skeleton became the undisputed icon of Praia da Atalanta, inspiring an entire generation of Cape-Verdean painters and writers. As of today, the rusty ship is still well-visible to a nearby onlooker. Nevertheless, with every day that passes, the vessel’s impending and inevitable defeat to the elements gets closer and closer.