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Massive shipwrecks in Isla Mujeres to be removed after more than 3 decades

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A large shipwrecked iron-framed ship lay on a beach on the Yucatán Peninsula after being washed ashore in 1988 by Hurricane Gilbert. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Authorities in Isla Mujeres are planning to remove several shipwrecked boats in and around the island’s waters since 1988.

The shipwrecked vessels sit for the most part off the island’s western coast and vary in size considerably.

The boats have sat in the Caribbean sea since 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula, creating massive amounts of damage.

“We will be removing at least three of the largest ships. This will be quite the task as parts of the ships have been buried for decades now,” said Mario Martinez of Quintana Roo’s port authority.

The largest of the vessels in question is said to be 165 feet long and calculated to weigh several hundred tons. 

An unknown number of smaller vessels sunk during Hurricane Gilbert also litter the waters of the Yucatán Peninsula, though many have not even been documented.

Earlier: New refuge for whale sharks established where Caribbean meets Gulf

As the boats have been shipwrecked for such a long time, many marine species now inhabit submerged sections off the ship, which have become a popular tourist attraction for visiting scuba divers.

YouTube video of divers exploring one of the many shipwrecks of the coast of Isla Mujeres.

“I don`t remember a time before the shipwreck. It’s hard to imagine that they could suddenly not be there anymore,” said amateur diver and Isla Mujeres resident Julio Medina. 

Just off the coast from the famous beach resort city of Cancún, Isla Mujeres is known for its pristine beaches, scuba diving, and laid back atmosphere. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

The remains of large boats that washed ashore during the powerful category 5 Hurricane can also still be seen at several points across the peninsula, including on beaches in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Gilbert was the second-most intense tropical cyclone on record in the Atlantic basin in terms of barometric pressure, only behind Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

However, unlike Wilma, which mostly affected Quintana Roo, the devastating effects of Gilberto were felt across the entire Yucatán Peninsula and its surrounding area.

Gilbert hovered over the Yucatán Peninsula for nearly nine days, killing 318 people and causing about $3 billion (1988 USD) in damages.

As a result of the extensive damage caused by Gilbert, the World Meteorological Organization retired the name in the spring of 1989, replacing it with Gordon.

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