Discovery of Fishing Boat Atlantis Wreckage Draws Mixed Response

By Natalie White
The Standard-Times

NEW BEDFORD – The day before the Atlantis was due in port, Fatima Barros was plagued by apprehension and a sick feeling in her stomach. She had a nightmare and worried it was a negative omen about her parents in Cape Verde or her husband John, who was a cook aboard the New Bedford-based stern trawler.

“In the dream, her bed was filled with blood. She woke up frightened. She felt something bad had happened to John or to her parents,” said Gabriel Rosa, a friend who translated for Mrs. Barros during a recent interview. That sick feeling had never really left her, and has come back to her full force by recent news that the Atlantis may have been found lying 300 feet underwater on the ocean floor off Nantucket.

“I cry every day,” said the 29-year-old woman who emigrated from Cape Verde a few years ago. Fatima and John Barros had been married just six months before the Atlantis disappeared.

The 72-foot dragger was due back in port on Oct. 29. A week-long U.S. Coast Guard search turned up nothing, and the five man crew was presumed drowned. Aboard were five local men – Francis Barroqueiro, 32, Edgar Lobo, 34, Joaquin Caseiro, 59, Mr. Barros, 43, and Antonio Pinho, 46. The boat stopped in Nantucket for repairs, left the island to finish its fishing trip and was never heard from again.

A few weeks ago, another New Bedford boat pulled up some debris thought to be from the Atlantis. Using a remotely operated vehicle, a wreck was discovered and photographed listing on its side on the ocean bottom beneath the shipping lanes off Nantucket, about 95 miles from New Bedford. It is believed to be the Atlantis.

The find dredges up the grief that had begun to fade. Now, the families are agonizing over whether the Atlantis should be raised and bodies removed for burial. It is not a job the U.S. Coast Guard would do, since the agency’s policy is to save lives, not retrieve wrecks or bodies. The insurance company likely will not agree to it either, since it is a very expensive proposition.

But many of the family members want the Atlantis and its crew brought up. “I think that is the thing to do, yes. The only solution is to do that, then there could be some easing in the mind,” Mrs. Barros said. Perhaps, she said, investigators could discover why the boat sank.

The lawyer for the family of the missing crew, who are suing the boat owner claiming the Atlantis was not seaworthy, said he has little doubt that the wreck is the missing Atlantis.

At U.S. District Court earlier this week, Michael Latti told a judge that the wreck is intact – a sign, he says, that it was not run down by a freighter or some other ship as the insurance company has argued. If the boat was unseaworthy, the insurance company may be liable for an undetermined amount of damages. Mr. Latti believes that renovations to the wheelhouse made the boat top heavy, and the boat capsized in choppy seas. He said Judge Douglas Woodlock suggested the insurance company investigate the cause of the accident. A trial date was set for Dec. 10.

“He urged them to go out there. They said they had not decided what to do,” Mr. Latti said. In the meantime, Mrs. Barros and other family members and friends of the Atlantis crew try to remember to cherish the memories of their loved ones while trying to forget the tragedy. “John was the life of the party. He always made us laugh. I try to remember him that way,” said Mr. DaRosa, a merchant marine who works on oil tankers and was a good friend of Mr. Barros.

“But when I have time to myself, when I am out at sea, I think of him and tears come. I think about them out there, no time to send out a mayday, no time to do anything. I think about that, and I try not to think about it.”