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  • A 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. Weíll highlight just a few of the best in each category for you here.

    Text and Photography by Bill Harrigan

    Shallow Wrecks
    The shallow wrecks of The Bahamas are great fun because you donít 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 donít 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 sailorís navigational landmark for many years, because it sits high out of the water south of Bimini. Itís 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.

    Moderate Depth Wrecks
    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.

    Upside down, right side up, over or through, Bahamas wreck diving is always a thrill/

    The area south of Grand Bahama is also rich with wrecks. The Jose is a 40-foot ocean-going tugboat that has been on the bottom in 65 feet for about ten years. Situated among the coral heads of the reef, the Jose makes a nice all-around dive. A Burma Oil tugboat called Badger and a 40-foot steel supply boat called Laura were sunk in 1997. Both sit upright in about 50 feet. The upside down hull of The Pretender is another Grand Bahama wreck in moderately deep water, lying on the sand in 45 feet.

    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.

    The Abacos have a couple of nice medium depth wrecks in the Violet Mitchell, at around 45 feet, and the steamer San Jacinto. Built in 1847, the San Jacinto was the first U.S. built steamship. It sank in 1867 and the remains lie in about 40 feet of water.

    Bahamas Sport Diving Wrecks

    Theo's Wreck 238-foot Freighter 100 Feet Grand Bahamas 1982 on port side
    Dorothy H. Ocean tug 100 Feet Walker's Cay --- upright
    Esther K. Ocean tug 100 Feet Walker's Cay -- --
    Comberbach freighter 100 Feet Long Island 1985 upright, bus  in hold
    Bimini Barge barge 95 Feet Bimini late 1980's --
    Ana Lise 150-Foot Supply ship 90 Feet Paradise Island 1990  
    Helena C. Passenger Vessel 90 Feet Paradise Island 1991  
    Bahama Shell 90-foot oil tanker 90 Feet paradise Island 1991  
    Bimini Trader barge 85 Feet Bimini 1992 upside down 
    Lady Moore supply boat 80 Feet Andros --  upright
    The Barge landing craft 70 Feet Andros 1970  
    Marion construction barge 70 Feet Andros 1975 with crane and boom
    Caribe Breeze 200-foot tanker 70 Feet New Providence 2000  
    Jose steel tug 65 Feet Grand Bahama 1986 upright
    Sea viking 60-foot fishing boat 65 Feet New Providence 1997 upright
    De La Salle 120-foot freighter 65 Feet Paradise Island 1987 upright
    Austin Smith 90 foot cutter 60 Feet Exumas 1996 upright
    B.J. passenger vessel 55 Feet Paradise Island 1994 on side, split in half
    Willaurie 130-foot freighter 55 Feet New Providence 1989 upright
    Laura 40-foot supply boat 50 Feet Grand Bahama 1997 upright
    Badger Burma Oil Tugboat 50 Feet Grand Bahama 1997 upright
    Panther 65-foot tugboat 50 Feet Cat Cay 1984 on starboard side
    Ethridge steel car ferry 50 Feet Grand Bahama --  upright, with truck
    David Tucker II patrol boat 50 Feet New Providence 1997 upright, clifton wall
    Wreck on the Wall wooden sailing ship 50 Feet New Providence -- very torn up
    Edmond Williams patrol boat 50 Feet New Providence 1997 upright, shark wall
    Finwick Stirrup patrol boat 50 Feet New Providence 1997 research dive site
    Violet Mitchell freighter 45 Feet Abacos 1988  
    Tears of Allah 92-foot supply boat  45 Feet New Providence  -- "James Bond" Wreck
    The Pretender steel hull 45 Feet Grand Bahama -- upside down
    Alma B. 120-foot supply boat  40 Feet Cat Cay 1999 upside down
    San Jacinto 1847 steamer 40 Feet Abacos 1867  
    Bahama Momma supply boat 40 Feet  New Providence 1995 upright
    Vulcan Wreck metal framework 40 feet New Providence -- movie set mockup
    Cessna Wreck light plane 40 Feet New Providence --  
    Mahoney steamship 30 Feet Paradise Island late 1800s boiler, keel, plating
    Airplane Wreck light plane 25 Feet Water Cay --  
    Sapona concrete vessel 20 Feet south of Bimini 1927 partially out of water
    Sugar Wreck sailing ship 20 Feet west of Grand Bahama --  
    Hesperus cement barge 15 Feet north of Bimini -- loggerhead turtles
    Anchor Wreck -- 15 Feet Gingerbread Grounds -- two large anchors

    Deep Wrecks

    Bahamas shipwrecks can be found in all conditions, from those that seem to be seaworthy, to those that seem to be sea bottom.
    Whatís the draw of deep wrecks? Physical integrity, for starters. Wrecks that lie deeper than 90 or a 100 feet are protected from the destructive surge of most storms, so they tend to be more intact than shallower wrecks. Scale is another reason deeper wrecks are appealing. When the water is exceptionally clear, as in The Bahamas, there is nothing like seeing a large wreck from a distance. As you swim toward it, the details become clearer and the wreck seems to get larger. Theoís Wreck, off Grand Bahama, is an excellent example. Sunk in 1982, this 238-foot freighter is lying intact on her port side in 100 feet. Most days you can see the hull as soon as you put your face in the water. Twenty feet down you can make out the wheelhouse, the massive open holds and the point of the bow. Up close, the ship seems huge. The cavernous cargo hold is encrusted with sponges and black corals, and hosts a variety of fish.

    Walkers Cay has two deep wrecks, both ocean-going tugboats that were sunk in about 100 feet of water. Named Esther K. and Dorothy H., they are perfectly set up for sport diving. The freighter Comberbach, complete with an old bus in the forward cargo hold, sits upright on the sand in 100 feet of water off Long Island. This is an excellent wreck for wide angle photography.

    You get three for one at the Shipyard, a remarkable wreck site off Paradise Island. Three vessels lie on the bottom here, a 150-foot supply vessel called Ana Lise, a 95-foot passenger ship called Helena C., and an oil tanker called the Bahama Shell. All three have been on the bottom for about ten years and are nicely encrusted. Like a graveyard, itís spooky, but somehow alluring.

    The Bahamas Experience | Parade of Marine Life | Shark Diving | Grand Bahama Island | Bahamas Dolphins Encounters | Nassau | Out Islands of The Bahamas | Ten Reasons To Take The Whole Family | Walls and Blue Holes | Rapture of The Wrecks | Exploring The Bahamas by Live Aboard | Bahamas By Snorkel | Bahamas Diving Association | Index