18-Sep-2003 -- After our yesterday's visit to the confluence North of Mallorca today we
arrived in the Alboran Sea, the westernmost part of the Mediterranean. It is
still six hours to go to Ceuta, the port where the ship will take fuel for
her intended voyage to Ecuador - and where I will sign off. Therefore I am
already preparing the necessary papers for the handover to the next captain.
Close to 36N 3W, between Morocco and Spain, there is the
small island of Alborán, belonging to Spain. The island is
flat, reddish in color and about 20 m high.
The island of Alborán is the peak of a mountain which existed prior to the birth of
the Mediterranean Sea, a five million years ago. It is 550 m long
and 290 m wide. The red color comes from iron ore. To the passing mariner
Alborán's shape resembles a little bit to a submarine. Alborán is separated
a narrow channel from a small islet, rather just a small rock, - Islote de
Due to the steep-to coast surrounding almost the entire island, landing is
difficult there and only possible at two points. There is a pier in the SW,
built in 1870 together with the lighthouse. Another pier exists in the SE
and was built in 1960 during the construction of the radio beacon for air
navigation (ALB - 419 kilocycles).
The beacon, however, has been discontinued in 1984.
There is a landing place for helicopters as well, which can be well seen on
the aerial view.
Already in 1456 a navigational mark has been erected on Alborán, being
permanently maintained by a warden, living there with his family. According
some historical sources, a lighthouse has been built already in 1490 by the
Venetians, but being demolished shortly after. In 1897 a modern lighthouse has
been built on the highest elevation of the island, and working automatically
The abandoned warden's house today is occasionally used as a shelter by
shipwrecked crews. Once a year emergency food rations are exchanged and
replenished there by the Spanish Navy.
No endemic fauna had developed on Alborán. There live, however, lots of
several species of spiders and lizards. Fish is quite plentiful around
Alborán. During our visit a few Spanish fishermen were around. There are only a few bushes
grasses, but no trees. Since 1967 Alborán is a protected nature reserve.
Although a special permit is required from the Spanish Government for
landing, a lot of divers visit Alborán without holding such a
permission. Therefore the Spanish Navy is carrying out patrols on the island
in regular intervals. This patrols, however, are obviously not sufficient to
keep the diving sportsmen away.
Alborán was known already to the Phoenicians and later to the Greeks and
Romans. But as there is no water, the island had never had
any importance to shipping. Close to Islote de la Nuba archeologists found
fragments of ancient amphoras, proving that a Greek ship had stranded here
It is believed that the ancient Greeks have maintained a light about 900
B.C. on the island, enabling ships to pass it without danger on their way to
the Strait of Gibraltar. A proof for that assumption, however, has not been
found by the archeologists, yet.
About 1520 a small chapel has been built on the island by Jesuit monks.
Later, probably in the 16th century, it had been abandoned and subsequently
it decayed. Today only a few derelicts give evidence of this building.
During the time of the attacks of the Moors on Spanish towns the island was
a meeting point for ships.
In these times a huge house has been built, whose base walls are still
visible. In the late Middle Ages Alborán became a hideaway for pirates. From
here they chased ships bound to the Strait of Gibraltar. During WWII the
island enjoyed a certain significance, when British elite troops built a
radiogoniometric and radar station, in order to spot German submarines.
In recent times the island has obviously become again a hideaway for
pirates. In 1981 an American yacht had been attacked off Alborán and
subsequently sunk, and in 1983 an Italian yacht was attacked and robbed.
This time the visit of the confluence fell into the navigational watch of my
deputy, Chief Officer Edilberto Beniga from the
Philippines. Here we see him standing close to the Engine telegraph.
The detailed historical information and the aerial view I obtained from Mr.
Wolfgang Schippke from Germany (amateur radio call DC3MF). Thanks!