The 80th anniversary of the sinking of Empire Mica

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A popular dive site off the coast of Apalachicola has a story dating back 80 years. Wednesday marks the anniversary of when Empire Mica was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat, right in our backyard.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the story behind this 80-year-old photo sitting inside Captain Anderson’s Restaurant still has people talking.

“The Empire Mica is older than we are. it is a British tanker that was navigating through the Gulf of Mexico during World War II,” Yonnie Patronis, co-owner of Captain Anderson’s Restaurant, said.

On June 29, 1942, Empire Mica was sailing through the Gulf, hugged tight to the coastline and moving east back to her British home port.

“Unknown to many people, there were German subs in the area. and the Empire Mica was struck twice by a German sub shooting torpedos at it,” Patronis said.

An explosion rumored to be heard for miles killed 33 people.

Empire Mica burned more than 24 hours before sinking just 60 miles from Panama City.

“It sunk in about 120 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico in our backyard,” Patronis said.

She became what is now one of the most popular dive sites in Northwest Florida. You can still see boilers where the ship once stored nearly 12,000 tons of fuel when it left for the British Isles.

While one propeller is still intact at the bottom of the Gulf, its twin was salvaged by local divers and is now mounted outside Captain Anderson’s in Panama City Beach. The massive cast bronze prop weighs roughly 32,000 pounds and definitely makes a statement.

“There’s no telling. That prop is a Facebook celebrity. I mean photos have been taken nonstop of it,” Patronis said.

On the side of a nearby pillar, you can read the story behind what many assumed to have been just a statue, but is actually a large piece of history salvaged and sitting for everyone to see.

Copyright 2022 WJHG. All rights reserved.