In a sleepy harbor off Norfolk’s idyllic coast, three barnacle-coated hunks of metal appear at low tide. The ghostly remains of the SS Vina are enticing to the curious, but pose a real threat to anyone who gets too close.
The ship was built in 1894 and carried cargo between England’s east coast and the Baltic states for decades. In the 1940s the ship was requisitioned as a naval vessel. It was filled with concrete and wired with explosives, and manned by a crew of 12 at the port of Great Yarmouth. Had the Nazis attempted to invade utilizing that route, the SS Vina would have been detonated in the harbor to block the passageway.
The Royal Air Force used it for target practice leading up to the invasion of Normandy, and in 1944 a gale carried the SS Vina to a sandbar where the hole-covered boat took on water and stayed.
The wreckage can make navigating through one of the harbor’s channels difficult, but any efforts to remove it have been thwarted by the wild tide in the area. In 1957 a merchant bought it for scrap and cut it into three pieces with an oxyacetylene torch, but he couldn’t safely remove it. Since then, people have scrapped bits for themselves, and the brass propellor blew off in the ‘60s, but it still rests on the sandbar it sank to in 1944.
The tide also creates a hidden danger for those getting too close to the ship. Visitors have been cut off by the rising tide, and though some were rescued by lifeboats, and even helicopters, some have drowned in the harbor trying to make their way back.