We owe the discovery of the Faro Gunboat to our diving colleagues Tiago Fraga and Felizardo Pinto. When working on the Bay de Lagos archaeological prospecting project, they found the remains of a steam-powered iron vessel.
Subsequent investigation allowed the wreck to be identified as the Portuguese Navy warship the Faro.
Moved by their curiosity and by the desire to provide our diving companions with the largest possible amount of information about the diving spots we have visited, we decided to look for further information on the gunboat as well as the sad events that led to the tragedy of its sinking.
The Faro gunboat was built in England The Faro gunboat was built in England, at shipyards in London in 1878, to form part of the coastguard, at a cost of 6,000 Pounds.
She was 27 metres long, 4.7 metres wide and weighed 136 tons.. Its steam boiler provided 200 horsepower with a maximum velocity of 10.4 knots.
She also had a 47mm Canet artillery gun . The crew was made up of two officers and 28 sailors.
On February 27th 1912, the Faro gunboat took a committee formed by, among others, a British minister and the British Consul to Sagres.
After delivering the visiting dignitaries to Lagos, the gunboat set off for Faro, and when close to Alvor, at around 7pm, it was sunk by the tugboat Josefine that was coming from Portimão and which opened up a large gash in the port side.
The gunboat crew only had time to ready two lifeboats and head towards land with the survivors. At this point, Commander Henrique Matzner was on board one of the boats following the gunboat; he died of congestion on reaching dry land.
In all, eight men perished in this accident. The Faro gunboat lost its commander, its second mate, an engineer, the first master and a cabin boy.
The Josefine tugboat also lost two crewmembers, who died of burns. The gunboat only remained afloat for 10 minutes after the confrontation, having sunk nine fathoms, with half its mast under water. The Josefine, despite the damage to its bow, due to its watertight compartments, did not sink, having been towed by the Colombo steamboat.
100 years later ... After reaching the 100th anniversary and receiving a plaque from the Navy and Subnauta to commemorate the event, the status of the Faro Gunboat was raised to the category of a shipwreck of historical-archaeological interest.
When diving, the hull stands out immediately. It compensates for its size, which is small when compared to the Wilhelm Krag or the Torvore, with the depth of life inside and on deck. Inside we are frequently greeted by the presence of spider crabs, razor clams and shrimps that keep the company of two or three medium to large sized eels
Two of these, the largest ones, have already been named by Subnauta. They are known as the Anzol and the Amostra and they have impressed all of the divers that have seen them.
The first one due to its size and the second because, as well as being quite large, it is friendly and does not shy away from having its picture taken and a caress in its head.
On the deck of the hull, planted with gorgonians of various colours, we often find schools of eels and sea bream and sometimes a large redfish or even an octopus or cuttlefish.
From the hull onwards, the ship is split into two parts. Towards the stern, you can then follow the remains of the hull in a line up to the rudder, still intact and attached to the structure.
NIn the "frame" that the stern and the rudder form is one single space and we find nests of gigantic spider crabs, normally accompanied by razor clams. Between the hull and the stern, in pipelines and furrows, we find anything from octopus and razor clams, sea slugs, small eels, morays, redfish and countless species of gudgeon. From the hull to the bow, the hull is split apart into separate sections. Under the sections, we find eels, morays, shrimp, razor clams and sometimes hogfish
Between the sections there are frequent sightings of plaice, red mullet and gigantic needlefish seeking refuge or feeding off the seabed.
In summary, she is a mini-shipwreck in itself, partly eroded, without being the imposing size of large ships but with a profusion of species that make the sea bed a burst of colour and is a kind of oasis. Without doubt one of the best locations for diving that many divers have had the chance to get to know and to return to frequently, always to be pleasantly surprised.