Bahamas Diver: Rapture of The Wrecks

good wreck is a great dive, whether you have ten dives under your weightbelt or a thousand. Why do we find wrecks so fascinating? Is it the history they reveal, or the tragedy they conceal? Or is it simply the excitement of seeing a familiar shape appear like a faded blue apparition as you descend toward the bottom? There is something strangely compelling about passing beneath the encrusted propeller of a large wreck or swimming through the dark passages of her interior. Whatever the reason, wrecks have a special appeal of their own, and nowhere is this more thrillingly apparent than in The Bahamas. While the wrecks in these islands offer myriad opportunities for adventure, they can generally be separated into three categories: shallow wrecks, wrecks in moderate depths and deep wrecks. We'll highlight just a few of the best in each category for you here.

Text and Photography by Bill Harrigan

The shallow wrecks of The Bahamas are great fun because you don't have to worry about your bottom time. In fact, many of them are so shallow they can be easily explored by snorkelers. Shallow wrecks also benefit from having lots of sunlight, which allows coral to grow on them quickly and attracts lots of fish. The abundant sunlight splashes them in rainbow hues of yellow, red and purple, too. You don't need the aid of a powerful dive light or strobe to boost the colors of a shallow Bahama wreck.

The giant propeller of Theo's Wreck, off Grand Bahama Island.
The Sugar Wreck, off the West End of Grand Bahama, is an all-time favorite of many divers because of its abundant fish life. Congregations of snappers, grunts, wrasse, gobies, angelfish and parrotfish are everywhere on the wreck. The remains of an old sailing ship that grounded many years ago, the Sugar Wreck is only 20 feet deep.

The Hesperus is another fascinating shallow wreck. An oasis of life on the vast sandy plain of the Grand Bahama Bank, the Hesperus is also packed with fish, but it is better known for the huge Loggerhead Turtles that shelter within its planks and plates at night. Maximum depth on the Hesperus is about 15 feet.

The wreck of the Sapona has been a sailor's navigational landmark for many years, because it sits high out of the water south of Bimini. It's also one of the best snorkel and shallow dive wrecks in the world. Surrounded by less than 20 feet of clear water, the Sapona treats her visitors to a close-up viewing of hundreds of reef fish.

The area south of New Providence has been the setting for numerous Hollywood movies, including several James Bond films, and a number of wrecks were placed on the bottom as underwater sets. The framework that passed as the Vulcan Bomber from Thunderball and the vessel Tears of Allah from Never Say Never Again are still popular dive sites. Other wrecks here include the Willaurie, a 130-foot freighter sunk in 55 feet of water in 1989, and the Sea Viking, a 60-foot commercial fishing boat sitting upright in 65 feet. Because the shark feeding dives take place nearby, sharks always seem to be roaming two of the New Providence wrecks, the David Tucker II, an ex-defense force vessel sunk in 50 feet at Shark Wall, and the Bahama Momma, sunk in 1995 in only 40 feet at the Runway.

De La Salle is a 120-foot island freighter that has been on the bottom off Paradise Island for about a decade. The ship sits upright in 65 feet, like a ghost ship steering a long forgotten course. Not too far away, the shallow section of the Mahoney can be found in about 40 feet of water. After a century on the bottom, the boiler, keel and plating are all that remain of this steamship.

The giant propeller of Theo's Wreck, off Grand Bahama Island.Upside down, right side up, over or through, Bahamas wreck diving is always a thrill/Above: De La Salle is a 120 foot freighter sunk in 65 feet of water off Paradise Island. Also Above: Divers observe coral inside Theo's Wreck.