Nowadays, it’s quite hard to imagine a time before the Gozo Channel – probably what is the islands’ most popular ferry service. However, the company was not set up in the Maltese Islands until 1979 and locals travelled between the islands on different boats before then.
In a Facebook group, a local shared some awesome shots of different versions of what is now the Gozo ferry throughout history, sprinkling some massive nostalgia! Here are just some examples of the efficient, convenient and possibly a little rackety boats that serviced thousands of locals and visitors.
The first ‘official’ ferry service was called ‘id-dghajsa tal-mghodija’, which translates to English as ‘the boat of the passage’. This was first launched in 1241. However, a daily service for passengers was not set up until 1885, with a ferry called the Gleneagles. The fare only cost eight pence for a single ticket, or one shilling for a return, but passengers arriving in Gozo were also asked to pay an extra penny for a mass in return for their safe arrival.
Since then a variety of ferries have serviced passengers at the Mgarr Harbour. The Calypso, for example, was used in the early 1900s. Judging by the size of this boat, it is clear that the number of passengers crossing the water wasn't as high as it is nowadays, with the Gozo Channel making multiple trips with their boats each day. The Calypso was then sold and turned into an Oceanographic Research Vessel. It is now famously known as Jaques Cousteau’s Calypso.
Another example is the Imperial Eagle. Previously known as the Crested Eagle, the ferry was used until 1968. Seemingly more elegant than the Calypso, this ferry also serviced many locals crossing between the islands. Interestingly, the Imperial Eagle now lays 40m underwater off Qawra point, and acts as an attraction for divers, whilst also encouraging the growth of marine life in the area. Look out for it if you're heading down there any time soon!
Antonio Sammut via Malta Lura Fil Passat / Facebook