Before the Gozo Channel! 7 ships used to bridge the crossing between Malta & Gozo
Before the Gozo Channel Operations Ltd was set up in 1978, there were various methods of connecting the two main islands, Malta and Gozo, and all involved sea travel. Over the years, there were multiple different operators, and we’ve rounded up seven ferries which were used during the 20th century prior to the setting up of the company – how many of these do you remember in operation?
1. Id-dghajsa tal-mghodija
Id-dghajsa tal-mghodija, which literally translates to ‘boat of passage’, was first recorded all the way back in 1241 and lasted well into the 20th century. At the start of this service, the area had already formed into a shallow harbour, but it wasn’t until the 19th century when the port area was developed.
Built in Japan in 1912, it was sold to the Malta Steamship Company Ltd in 1932 and served trips between the two islands for five years, before being sold on. The below picture shows the Golly run aground, which may have been a reason for it being sold in such a short timespan.
3. Royal Lady
Just like the Golly, the Royal Lady only served the area for five years before being sunk at Marfa on 6th May, 1942 by Luftwaffe bombers.
Initially built as a yacht, it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during WWII, before being sold to Gasan in 1947. Its renovation took three years, and the ferry remained in service till 1957 before being sold on. While its fate remains unknown, there is a possibility the Bancinu may have been scrapped in 1970 or sunk with radioactive material on board.
5. Imperial Eagle
Specifically built as a replacement for the sunk Royal Lady, the Imperial Eagle was initially referred to by three different names: New Royal Lady, Royal Lady and Crested Eagle, but by 1958 the Imperial Eagle had been chosen as its name. After it stopped servicing the channel between the two islands, it operated as a cargo ship and spent an extensive period resting half-sunk at the Grand Harbour. Now, its remains can be found off Qawra, where it was scuttled 21 years ago.
The Jylland had quite the start to its life. Built as a Navy ship, it spent long years operating as one before finding its way to Malta. From 1967 it served as a link between the two islands and was later bought by the company Gozo Channel, where it was included as part of the fleet. It stayed in operation till 1984.
The Calypsoland was 36 years old when it was bought by a Maltese operator. Rechristened Calypsoland from its original moniker Prins Hendrik, it entered service in 1969 and just like the Jylland, was purchase by Gozo Channel and included in its fleet until 1984.
The Maltese islands are full of interesting chunks of history!