Panama City Beach - Dive The Vamar

Dive The Vamar

The Vamar Shipwreck Panama City Beach

The Vamar Dive Video

The Vamar History

It was built in England as a patrol gunboat, but the steamer became famous for carrying Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s American expedition to Antarctica in 1928.

The Job of The Vamar

She brought supplies to the polar base including the airplanes that made the first aerial flyover of the South Pole. After the expedition, Vamar became a tramp freighter.

The Sinking of The Vamar

She sank under mysterious circumstances while leaving Port St. Joe, carrying lumber to Cuba in 1942,

Second Life of The Vamar

It’s a great shallow water dive! The wreck of Vamar lies in 25 feet of water.

Date of Sinking: March 21, 1942






Early History Of The Vamar, A.KA., “Lumberboat”

The Mexico Beach area is slowly losing the right to call itself, “Florida’s Best Kept Secret”.  This coastal city nestled on Scenic Hwy. 98 between Panama City and Port St. Joe has all the benefits of the Northwest Florida area, without the traffic, and unbearable hordes of tourists.  The city maintained canal limits the size of vessels although all necessary services are available inside the protected canal area.  

For over fifty years fishermen and divers have had a wreck to use a mere 3.7 miles from the canal entrance.  The shallow depth of 25’ means conditions vary greatly depending of seas and tides but over the years this site has produced success for fishermen and enjoyment for divers.  

Built in 1919 and originally named “Kilmarnock” this vessel was 170 feet long with a beam of 30 feet.  With a draft of 16 feet she boasted a 980 horsepower steam engine.  Shortly after launching she was renamed “Chelsea”.  In 1928, Admiral Byrd purchased the “Chelsea” from the British government after she had been confiscated for smuggling liquor.  Admiral Byrd spent around $125,000 in purchasing and refitting her to be used as a supply ship for his coming Antarctic expedition.  Special emphasis was placed on reinforcing the bow as she would be the first metal-hulled vessel to used in Antarctic waters.  He renamed her “Eleanor Bolling” after his mother.

In August of 1928 she left New York en-route to New Zealand but encountered hurricane-force winds, lost her radio and was believed lost until limping into Hampton Roads at only 5 knots.  With a few repairs she continued on to Norfolk, finished loading over 300 Tons of supplies and left for New Zealand with a crew of 28.  After arriving in New Zealand the “Eleanor Bolling” begins shuttling supplies between New Zealand and the Little America Base in the Antarctic.  These trips included delivering the first mail into and out of the Antarctic.  After the project the “Eleanor Bolling” and the City of New York make the long trip home.  In the fall of 1930 Admiral Byrd sells the ship because he believes she is not in good enough shape to make the next expedition.

The vessel was sold to an Arctic sealing company and in 1933 she was purchased by the Vamar Shipping Company and was used to haul supplies along the Gulf Coast.  One of the staples of local shipping during that time was lumber from the many mills along the coast.