The whole coastline that we contemplate from Fisterra, makes up A Costa da Morte, abrupt, rocky and full of dangerous cliffs, witness of numerous shipwrecks, which claimed many human lives, not being greater this figure thanks to the generosity and heroism of the people of these lands, some of which came to endanger their lives to save those of others.
The reason for these shipwrecks is simple: strong ocean currents, a large number of cliffs, rocks submerged a few metres deep, frequent storms, sudden fogs and a wind that can sometimes exceed 120 kilometres per hour.
From the year 1345 to the present day, 633 shipwrecks have been documented on the Costa da Morte and as a result many stories have emerged, such as those of the Raqueiros, the local version of the sea pirates, who would cause shipwrecks by confusing the ships and making them run aground, obtaining valuable booty.
These ships that today are found shipwrecked on our coasts are living examples of very specific moments in history when, in the middle of the Spanish Golden Age, Spain established an almost universal dominion over the seas. The shipwrecks of the ships that crossed this route are well represented on this coast, such as the 20 ships of the fleet of the Spanish armada led by Martín de Padilla in 1596, sunk in Fisterra, just at the foot of the lighthouse.
In the Victorian era, when England first exercised world hegemony, it is worth mentioning the shipwreck of the British mail steamer Great Liverpool in February 1846 due to a storm, where two women and a child died, or the great British battleship HMS Captain that crashed against the rock O Centolo, a rock that can be seen from here, and later sank due to a squall in 1870. In this catastrophe, 482 crew members lost their lives.
In the 19th century, with European, and above all Spanish, immigration to America, the Great German transatlantic steamship Salier sank and disappeared without trace on these shores with more than 400 people on board, one night in December 1846.
Another notable shipwreck is that of the corvette Bayonnaise, one of the most famous ships that France has ever had in its navy, in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, was sunk on the beach of Langosteira de Fisterra in 1803. The ship was covering the route from Havana to Ferrol when it was pursued by the English ship HMS Arden. The Bayonnaise was run aground by its own crew, who abandoned it after having set fire to it. The ship exploded in the middle of the night.
However, the shipwreck that deserves special mention due to its proximity in time and the damage caused to our coasts is the Prestige. On 13 November 2002, the single-hulled tanker Prestige crashed in a storm while loaded with 77,000 tonnes of fuel oil off the Death Coast, and after several days of manoeuvring to get it away from the Galician coast, it sank some 250 km from the coast. The cargo spill caused one of the largest environmental disasters in the history of shipping, both in terms of the quantity of pollutants released and the extent of the area affected. The episode had a particular impact in Galicia, where it also caused a political crisis and major controversy in public opinion.
With the shipwrecks that occurred on the Costa da Morte, we could write the history of humanity, simply through the sunken material remains found, thanks to this great maritime traffic and trade route, one of the most important in history.