Posts Tagged ‘Dive Locations’

The Willaurie, New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

In 1988, the Willaurie, a 130-foot (45m) long inter-island mail and freight boat was being towed during a storm from the northern side of New Providence to Sea Breeze Marina on Nassau’s southeastern coast. The ship broke free of its towlines and sank between the Clifton Bay caves and dock area. During the incident, the boat cut through the Shell and Texaco fuel lines, which lay it its path. On Christmas Day, Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas took boats, pumps and welding equipment out at low tide and started patching the Willaurie’s hull, in an attempt to float the ship. As the tide rose, the seawater was gradually pumped out and they managed to slowly pull it out into deeper water. However, it did not take long until the ship began to take on water again and finally sank for good, this time landing on keel in its current southwestern location.


The Willaurie has grown into a truly remarkable dive site. On its deck there’s a cage structure that has an amazing display of coral growth. Over the years the soft corals have created a dense display of color and intricate formations, delicately hanging off the incredible framework. In fact the whole wreck offers divers the opportunity to see a large diversity of bright coral life. The prop area at the stern offers a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, purples and greens that’s a must-see on your dive.

Off the starboard side of the wreck are the scattered remnants of a Haitian sloop that sank several years ago. Although the wreckage has disintegrated significantly over time, it does add another point of interest to this dive site. Work your way over to the engine blocks and have a look for the spotted drum who has made his home here.


The Willaurie has graced both the silver screen and television, as well as featuring in many a dive magazine and article about the Bahamas. The wreck’s latest star turn is in the “Wreckage” episode of the web series Water Born. Its structure has maintained integrity over time, and nestled as it is a safe distance from the formidable Tongue of the Ocean drop off, the Willaurie will continue to offer divers, from beginner to advanced, a good dive for many years to come.


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Famous Bermuda Wrecks: The Mary Celestina

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

By Mark Diel

Bermuda is famous for more than golf courses, pink-sand beaches and Bermuda shorts. Sitting 650 miles east of North Carolina, the small island has been designated by more than one media source as the “Shipwreck Capital of the Atlantic,” with well over 200 wrecks between 20 and 100 feet. And with flight times of only 90 minutes from New York and 2 hours from Boston, those on the east coast of the United States can leave in the morning and be diving by lunchtime. In this first in a series of articles about Bermuda’s most popular shipwrecks, we’ll cover the Mary Celestia.

During the height of the American Civil War, the North executed a naval blockade of many Southern ports, hoping to starve the South of much needed war materials. Bermuda, which was officially neutral as a colony of the United Kingdom, nevertheless saw and seized the chance to make large sums of money by provisioning fast, shallow-draft, purpose-built blockade runners. Loaded with rifles, cannons, shells and other war materiels, these ships (sometimes) slipped past the North’s naval ships the North and were paid in cotton for their wares. Loaded with this valuable cargo, the ships (hopefully) slipped past the blockade bound back to Bermuda. The cotton ended up in the U.K. where, at that time, it was worth more than its weight in gold.

The Mary Celestia had made four successful round trips when, on September 26th, 1864, it slipped out of St. George’s Harbour bound for Charleston. The ship was about to drop off its Bermudian pilot on the south shore when a sailor shouted, “Sir, there are some breakers ahead of us.” The reply from the pilot, as noted by the crew, was “Don’t worry about the rocks around here, my boy, I know them all like I know my own house!” As was much later wryly commented on by one of Bermuda most famous divers, Dave McLeod, “He couldn’t have been spending a lot of time home lately,” as one minute later the ship hit a reef and sank with the loss of the ship’s cook.

The wreck lies in 55 feet of water in a large sand hole just some 300 yards offshore. Much of its valuable cargo of rifles and corned beef was “recovered” by locals who rowed out to it before it sank. The Mary Celestia is arguably one of the island’s most popular wrecks and, in fact, in 2011 it regained the headlines with the discovery and recovery of a batch of contraband (mainly wine and perfume) that was found hidden in its chain locker in the bow section, where it had remained undisturbed for almost 150 years.

The wreck itself is essentially in three parts. The stern section is against the reef; moving south, one of its retractable funnels lies half covered in the sand; and finally the boilers and paddlewheels, as well as more plating and decking, lead you to the bow section where the contraband was found. Coal from its bunkers still litters the site. The reef area surrounding the wreck can be as shallow as five feet with a number of gorges and tunnels, as well as marine life, making this an excellent dive for both the historical and marine enthusiast.

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Dive Site: The RMS Rhone, British Virgin Islands

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Image by Gareth Richards

Story by Kieran Brown

If you’re planning a visit to the British Virgin Islands, whether for a dedicated dive trip or a sailing charter, your experience won’t be complete without checking out one of the most iconic dive spots in the BVI, the wreck of the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Rhone at Salt Island.

History and sinking

The RMS Rhone was built in London in 1863 for the Royal Mail Steam Packet (RMSP) Company, and was, at that point, one of the most advanced vessels in the world. Only the second vessel in the world to be fitted with a bronze propeller, the ship measured 310 feet long.

From 1865 to1867 the Rhone completed six voyages to Brazil, but in 1867 the ship’s route was altered and it began to run from Southampton to the Caribbean. Steamers in the Virgin Islands typically got their coal provisions from St. Thomas, but due to a yellow-fever outbreak there, the coaling station had been moved and the RMS Rhone and RMS Conway were in Great Harbour, Peter Island as a storm approached. Both vessels had dropped anchor and as the winds grew, they began to drag, forcing the ships ever closer to the shoreline of Peter Island. The captain of the RMS Conway made the decision to unload all of that ship’s passengers to the “unsinkable” RMS Rhone and make a hasty escape to Road Town, Tortola.

As Rhone Captain Robert F. Wooley saw what he believed to be a break in the storm, he gave the orders to cut the anchor loose. Having dragged around a coral head and impossible to raise, the anchor is still in the same spot and can be seen to this day.

Wooley believed that October was too late in the year for a hurricane and made the decision to ride out the weather in open water south of Peter Island. As he made his way out of Great Harbour, however, the winds changed. He realized that what he thought was the end of the storm was, in fact, the eye of what was later to be known as the San Narciso hurricane, a Category 3 storm.

The Rhone attempted to slip through the islands of Dead Chest and Salt Island to make it to open water, but one final obstacle was in the way: Blonde Rock, a reef that pops up to as little as 15 feet below the surface, sits half way between the two islands. In an effort to avoid it, Wooley gave the reef a wide birth and passed close to Salt Island. The ever-strengthening wind pushed the ship too close to the shore, however, and straight into Black Rock Point sometime after dark on October 19, 1867. The midship was pierced, and as the cool Caribbean water rushed into the engine room, the hot boilers exploded, splitting the ship in half. The ship sank quickly, and of the 146 people originally aboard — plus an unknown number of passengers from the Conway — only 23 survived.

Diving the Rhone

The wreck of the Rhone is one of the Caribbean’s most famous, still in great condition and with an abundance of life. The wreck lies in two parts, the shallower stern, which is closest to Black Rock Point, is less intact than the bow, but offers beginner divers and snorkelers more opportunity to explore. The main attractions include the lucky porthole, which still features some of the original glass. Divers often rub the brass housing for good luck. In addition to the porthole, the propeller, which is now the oldest brass propeller in the world, sits partially embedded in the rock; viewing it allows divers to complete a short swim-through, passing under what remains of the hull. Captain Wooley’s teaspoon (although no one knows if it’s actually his) is also embedded in nearby coral.

The deeper bow part of the wreck is the most intact, and offers an amazing opportunity for divers to enter the wreck easily and comfortably. The wreck is open at several points and allows large entry and exit points, as well as a lot of light for divers. Bursting with marine life, it’s common to see stingrays, turtles and green morays, as well as large schools of fish.


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