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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsHow the Iconic Shipwreck of Greece's Zakynthos Was Created

How the Iconic Shipwreck of Greece’s Zakynthos Was Created

Shipwreck Zakynthos Greece
Millions of tourists visit the “Panagiotis” wreck, which has become the symbol of the Greek island. Credit: dronepicr, CC BY 2.0/Wikipedia

Lying on a sandy beach on the northwestern coast of Greece’s island of Zakynthos since October 1980, the island’s shipwreck is perhaps the most photographed one in the world.  Millions of tourists visit the “Panagiotis” wreck, which has become the symbol of the Greek island.

It has been rumored the ship was smuggling contraband such as cigarettes and alcohol when it ran aground, on what was originally known as Agios Georgios beach, during stormy weather and bad visibility.

The ship was abandoned, and some of the crew, mostly Greek sailors and the captain, were arrested but later cleared by the court for smuggling.

Shipwreck Zakynthos Greece
Initially, the people of Zakynthos were concerned that the wreck could damage the image of the island. Credit: Kell Kell, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

How the shipwreck was created

Rumour has it that locals stripped the cargo of contraband cigarettes and alcohol. It is said that the island did not import cigarettes for months after the incident.

Initially, the people of Zakynthos were concerned the wreck could damage the image of the island and deter tourism. How ironic that Navagio Beach or Shipwreck Beach became the most popular tourist destination in Zakynthos.

The captain of the ship, Kefalonia-born Charalambos Kompothekras–Kotsoros, released his account of what happened. He insisted that there was no illegal activity.

According to his recollection, the ship ran aground returning from Albania to Greece during the evening hours of October 2, 1980. This was due to bad weather conditions and mechanical failure.

“I reported the accident to the authorities, but due to the fact that the beach was not accessible on foot by land, we were not able to protect the ship from thieves and other dangers,” he revealed. “As a result, part of the shipment was stolen along with various vessel equipment (radar, VHF radio, etc).

“I went back to the authorities to report that my property was stolen and the General Prosecutor of the area, in my presence, organized a formal on-site investigation with the local police.

“The outcome was outstanding as during the first days of the operation, all stolen items, as well as the stolen part of the shipment, were found in local villages nearby, and 29 persons in total were persecuted and jailed during the following months after the trials were completed,” he concluded.

After being cleared of all accusations by the court, Kompothekras–Kotsoros was later requested by authorities to remove the vessel on his own. When he visited the site to see how he could maneuver it, he was so astonished by the beauty of the rusting carcass that he decided to leave it as is.

Shipwreck on Greece’s Zakynthos under threat

Thus, Navagio Beach or Shipwreck Beach came to be. However, without proper measures to protect it, the icon of Zakynthos is under threat.

Questions have been raised over the responsibility of the famous shipwreck after a surge of bad weather this winter further destroyed it.

Fears are growing over the condition of the tourism-driving shipwreck, with academics and local politicians calling for urgent measures to help retain the site.

Navagio Beach and the shipwreck were temporarily closed to visitors in 2018 following a cliff collapse from above after a 6.8 Richter earthquake. In September 2022, a landslide occurred after a 5.4 Richter earthquake between Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

Professor Efthymios Lekkas, the president of Geology and Geoenvironment of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, has concerns about the salvaging of the beach itself.

“The ship created a jetty that prevented the sand from going to the bottom,” he stated in a recent interview. “Thus, within four to five years the beach grew, and what has been preserved until today was created. If the ship now disappears, the area will acquire the conditions that existed before and there will be no beach.”

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