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21)ITAPAGE U-161

Photo. New South Wales Library

Built: 1926

Tonnage: 4,998 tons

Cargo: 600 tons of general cargo, including barrels with diesel oil and muriatic acid, 2000 boxes of beer bottles, 30,000 panels and two trucks 

Route. Rio de Janeiro - Bahia - Pernambuco - Belem

Sunk 26 SEP 43 by U-161 on pos. 10º05"S 35º54"W

22 Dead

85 Survivors

Merchant Itapage was the last but one Brazilian merchant sunk in the war. Owned by Companhia de Navegação Costeira, (Coastal Shipping Company), she was a passenger ship and had a displacement of 4998 tons. Built in France 1926, she sailed under master Antonio Barra.

In Sep. 26th 1943, when sailing 7 miles off the coast of the state of Alagoas, she was torpedoed and sunk little far southerly of Maceio, the capital. She was plying the waters as an independent one and had departed Salvador-Bahia outbound for Recife when at 01:50PM, at position 10º03’S 35º50’W, she was hit by one torpedo amidships at starboard side at the #2 hold. The explosion made a big hole in the hull and the ship began listing and sank within 4 minutes. The salvage task was made in perfect order despite the urgency and swiftness in sinking which could drag all men during the plunge.

Only two lifeboats and two rafts became available once the sea washed over the foredeck and bridge in great amounts. No S.O.S. could be sent once the telegraphic room was hit. The Chief mate was caught by the explosion and died when ran to his quarter. Sea washed over the foredeck and when the captain ordered to abandon ship. Trudging his way, Master Antonio Barra reached one lifeboat as his ship began to heel over. In the water he was aided by some crewmen and jumped into one lifeboat. The ship sank slowly, crunching, hissing, rolled over and plummeted. 

As soon as the ship sank, one U-Boat surfaced a hundred yards away, and close to the lifeboats showed some men at the tower taking a few pictures, and with no signs of hostilities dived to resurface once again past 500 hundred yards and steering easterly soon disappeared. With the aid of the 2 available lifeboats, all survivors scattered in the water were fished out. Their tiny crafts swayed about among the waves and finally headed the land whose proximity could be noticed by signs of smoke.

As the sea was rolling strong, when they saw land, some fishermen came in assistance and helped them to get ashore. 27 out of 106 persons aboard perished in the tragedy, being 18 crewmembers and 9 passengers. Merchant Itapage was sunk by famous Albrecht Achilles U-161. The same had no time to celebrate one more victory, once he was sent to the bottom with all hands in the following day on Sep. 27 1943 by one PBM Mariner from VP 74 Squadron which caught the sub by surprise when sailing with decks awash.

Photo above from one lifeboat used by survivors from Merchant Itapage which came ashore 


Above in detail some items of China found among the wreckage of the merchant Itapage a few years ago. Pictures kindly sent by the sea explorer Guilherme Araujo.



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