Galicia Ss221674057 Migel 72

Camino de Santiago


Shipwrecks and Smugglers

The indentations and rocks that abound on Galicia’s coastline provide some spectacular scenery but also have a darker side. 

It is a sobering fact that in the last century some 140 ships have gone down with the loss of over 500 lives. The scandalously mismanaged Prestige oil disaster in 2002 is just one of a long series of shipping incidents on this coast.

Local legend attributes many of these wrecks to the activities of raqueiros (wreckers), who lured ships onto the rocks by attaching lights to the horns of cattle. More likely though, it is the combination of sea-surges and savage rocks that make this coast so hazardous.

Zumaia Ss389939353 Alberto Loyo 72

The natural features of the coast that make it so dangerous for shipping have made it a haven for smugglers down the years. Not long ago, Galicia’s smugglers moved away from more traditional products towards drugs. A large proportion of Europe’s cocaine arrived through Galicia, usually being left well offshore by a smugglers’ ship, then picked up by one of the coast’s fishing fleet. Recently, heavy police activity has seen much of this trade move to other locations, but there are still some big hauls.

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