INAH & SEMAR Locate Shipwreck of Mexican Revolution Gunboat, Tampico

November 25, 2019 (Google Translation) – Although little is known, the Mexican Revolution was also fought at sea. The most iconic naval contests of that war occurred between March and June 1914, in Topolobampo, Sinaloa; geography in which experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Secretary of the Navy (SEMAR), have located a key piece of what was one of the first aircraft clashes in the history of the West: the Cañonero wreck “ Tampico. ”

Product of two recent field seasons, specialists of the Underwater Archeology Subdirectorate (SAS) of INAH, located together with SEMAR personnel, “a ‘tomb of war’ that will allow us to learn more about an important naval combat of Mexico, and about the story of the legendary Commander of the Tampico, Captain of Ship, Hilario Rodríguez Malpica. ”

The words are from Dr. Roberto Junco Sánchez, head of the SAS, who comments that, in the first season, held from March 30 to April 2 of this year aboard the ARM Oceanographic Research Ship “Río Tecolutla” of the SEMAR , three-dimensional images of the seabed were obtained by means of a multibeam probe that revealed the presence of an ‘anomaly’ that seemed to correspond to the dimensions of the revolutionary gunman: 60 meters of length by 10 of beam.

Thus, in the said second stage, carried out from September 8 to 12 with the support of an interceptor ship and a Navy magnetometer, the archaeologists undertook a couple of deep dives “more than 40 meters deep” that confirmed the identity of the “Tampico.”

In this first visual record, made 105 years after the last sighting of the boat, it was found that it is in considerable deterioration, so future dives are planned in order to make 3D models that help its monitoring.

It should be noted, as stated by Roberto Junco, that the work to recover this episode of the Revolution is based on more than a decade of research in literature and naval archives of Mexico and the United States, by a team composed of the historian Raúl Tapia Rosas, photographer Alberto Soto Villalpando and also archaeologist Josué Guzmán Torres.

The conjunction of such documentary sources, with testimonies from Topolobampo fishermen, defined a series of search coordinates that were then combed with the ARM multi-beam probe “Tecolutla River”.

Unlike other SAS expeditions, such as the one he drives in Veracruz to search for the ships of the conqueror Hernán Cortés and who uses a side-scan sonar, in the case of the “Tampico”, Junco continues, multibeam technology was used that, for In the middle of an acoustic pin, it emits sounds that bounce at great marine depths and generates detailed readings of the objects that lie in them.

They reconstruct the history of the battles of Topolobampo

Both the Tampico and its executioner in combat: the Guerrero Gunship-Transport, were built – the first in shipyards in New Jersey, USA. UU., And the second in Liverpool, England– within a project of Bernardo Reyes, Minister of War and Navy of Porfirio Díaz, who at the beginning of the 20th century modernized the naval fleet of Mexico.

The historian Raúl Tapia details that, in 1913, when Victoriano Huerta rose to power after deposing President Francisco I. Madero, a large part of the federal forces remained faithful to him by ordinance, which included the fleet of cannons and cannons-transports ; the latter, with greater military capacity.

However, on February 22, 1914, the First Lieutenant of the Tampico, Hilario Rodríguez Malpica – with 25 years to that date – rebelled in Guaymas, Sonora, and along with other officers, took the captain of the ship, Manuel Castellanos, imprisoned . Later, after releasing those who did not accept the support he gave to Constitutionalism, the new captain went to Topolobampo, the port controlled by Venustiano Carranza’s troops.

The battlefield was thus defined. The central government ordered to punish the betrayal of Rodríguez Malpica, so the “Guerrero” began, on March 3, a blockade of the Sinaloa port and, a day later, together with the “Morelos” gunman, opened fire on the “Tampico” .

A second meeting occurred on March 13 when the “Tampico” tried to leave Topolobampo. The war actions resumed on the last day of that month: the federal force had placed two obsolete ships, the “Democrat” and the “Oaxaca”, to hinder the eventual flight of the revolutionaries. “You have to remember that Topolobampo is a very wide bay, but only navigable through a narrow underwater channel,” says Tapia.

From March 31 until April 22, the cannons continued only between the “Guerrero” and the “Tampico”, with an almost fatal balance for the latter if it had not been for the help of the “Sonora” biplane, from which were thrown bombs that failed to harm, but away the “Warrior”; ship that, along with the “Oaxaca” and the “Democrat”, returned to Guaymas.

“From April 22 to June 10 everything possible was done to refloat the” Tampico, “Tapia explains, recalling how the gunman left the port on June 14 in the direction of Mazatlan, where his repair would continue as one of his two boilers. It was broken. However, at 30 nautical miles, the boiler that kept it running also failed and left it adrift.

Two US destroyers: the USS “Preble” and the USS “Perry”, witnessed these battles, so their records were key to defining the coordinates of the find. “These ships were in Mexican waters to protect the interests of their fellow citizens in the region, due to the political instability created by the Revolution; the same were German ships and the Japanese imperial navy, ”explains the historian.

The Captain of the Ship, Rodríguez Malpica requested the help of the USS “Preble”, but was denied for neutrality reasons. Thus, motionless, his men spotted the “Warrior” at 05:00 on June 16, 1914. Similarly, the cannon-transport was followed by the USS “New Orleans.”

It was the final battle. The three American ships departed to be eyewitnesses and, at 07:48, began the cannon with a clear advantage for the “Warrior” because, unlike the “Tampico”, could move to avoid impacts.

A fire started on the revolutionary ship and, at 09:50, the captain gave a double order: to leave the ship and open its bottom valves to take it to the seabed.

Already in lifeboats, the men tried to reach land, but were intercepted by the “Warrior.” It was in that extreme situation that Hilario Rodríguez Malpica took his gun, took it to his mouth and pulled the trigger.

“In addition to a sense of honor as for the captain who sinks with his ship, Malpica may have committed suicide by anticipating that because of the betrayal he had committed, he would be in any way passed by the weapons,” concludes Raúl Tapia.

The SAS team led by Roberto Junco, concludes that finding the “Tampico” is the first step to investigate and make visible an episode of the Revolution that has not been given the attention it deserves. It is even known that on June 16, just finished the conflagration, the “Warrior”, the “Preble”, the “Perry” and the “New Orleans”, they lowered their pavilions at half-mast in honor of the Captain of the Ship, Rodríguez Malpica and his fallen men.