Historic Shipwreck Transformed Into Thriving Marine Refuge

Nearly 100 years after the SS Cuba sank to the bottom of the ocean, video shows how marine life have made the shipwreck their home.

While sailing to San Francisco on a foggy night in September 1923, the SS Cuba sank to the bottom of the ocean near San Miguel Island, a small landform lying just southwest of Santa Barbara, California.

Though all the ship's passengers and crew members were saved, the ship has remained at the bottom of the ocean for the past 94 years. The waters are now part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and a protected U.S. national park.

A new video from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Marine Sanctuaries offers a glimpse into the SS Cuba's submerged ruins. The ship's outer skeleton and steam-engine parts have since been reclaimed by the Channel Island's underwater inhabitants. Ocean flora has grown onto most of the ship's remains, and marine life in the area use the boat as a habitat.

See life thriving inside a century-old shipwreck

Multitudes of different colourful fish species make their home in the Channel Islands, as well as a variety of marine mammals such as dolphins and seals. During the winter, gray whales swim through the region during their migratory journey from Mexico to Alaska.

California's late 19th century goldrush spurred a demand for travel up and down the state's coastline. According to the National Park Service's website, maritime activity increased dramatically during this time period.

The SS Cuba was originally used to carry passengers and cargo from Havana, Cuba to California. It was later acquired by the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. that used the ship to transport mail along the coast of California and Panama.

At least 33 ships wrecked in the Santa Barbara Channel lying in between the island and the mainland from 1850 to 1900. Over 100 shipwrecks have been documented in the region.

Divers and snorkelers are allowed to visit and swim through the remains of shipwrecks, but altering the structure in any way is illegal.

The video was produced as a part of NOAA's "Your Earth Is Blue" YouTube series that shows the shipwrecked ruins and marine life lying in America's underwater national parks.

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