Bermuda's Golden Ring of Wrecks
by Geri Murphy
Bermuda has always been associated with the Devil's Triangle; that region of the Western Atlantic where many ships and planes have mysteriously vanished. Yet, there is another phenomenon even more fascinating; Bermuda's Golden Ring of Wrecks. While the Triangle involves lost ships, the ring encompasses a region of found ships, or to be more specific; shipwrecks.
A RING OF WRECKS
Bermuda is unique among tropical islands. It is the only island completely encircled by shipwrecks; and the only island that offers such a fantastic array of divable wrecks, spanning four centuries and 15 countries.
Since the beginning of maritime shipping, the thorny coral reefs of Bermuda have caused considerable havoc and mayhem. During the summer, when the sun warms the surrounding waters to 86 degrees F, the sea is generally calm and peaceful.
But during the winter, violent storms come up suddenly and dissipate just as quickly. And, while the Bermuda islanders are snug in their stone and mortar homes, these tempestuous storms transform the reefs into a cauldron of heaving and frothing seas.
The result is 350 documented shipwrecks around this one little island paradise; making it one of the world's best wreck diving destinations.
Maritime historians suspect the first ship sank in Bermuda waters between 1500 and 1503. It was a Spanish explorer. As shipping commerce to the New World increased, ships continued to sink; building a massive inventory of wrecks. They came from all countries and represented all types, ranging from warships to luxury liners.
WRECKS OF GOLD
Among those lost ships are many with cargoes of gold and thus the name, Bermuda's Golden Circle. Teddy Tucker was the first to discover and recover a fortune in gold ingots. In 1955, he made Bermuda world famous when he discovered a fabulous gold cross inset with six emeralds. He had hit upon a 1594 Spanish treasure galleon (identified as the San Pedro) that yielded gold bars, gold disks, pearl studded gold buttons, a gold ring and other jewelry.
Later, Teddy discovered the 1622 Spanish galleon wreck (the San Antonio) that yielded gold chain, gold rings, a gold religious medallion, gold and crystal earrings; a total of 57 gold objects.
In 1968, Bermuda diver Harry Cox discovered a 1580s Portuguese treasure wreck and recovered a 15 foot long solid gold double-link chain, hammered gold bars, gold rings, gold circlets and mint condition gold cruzados (coins).
No one is quite sure how many 'golden wrecks' lie buried in the sand holes and crevices of Bermuda's coral reefs. Some sank with no survivors. Others were never documented.
Today, Bermuda's best treasure remains underwater. It is the shipwrecks themselves; sort of an undersea museum of maritime antiquity, without fences or walls. More are being found every year. Veteran treasure hunter Teddy Tucker is believed to have located the remains of more than 165 wrecks, many of which remain secret.
Divers come from all points of the globe to explore these wrecks, often visiting two or three in one day. At last count, Bermuda offered 36 divable wrecks that visitors find intriguing. Of this number, at least one-third are the most popular. Another one-third are dived less frequently and the last third are seldom visited.
It's doubtful divers visiting Bermuda will actually find gold but they can bring home a souvenir of their wreck diving exploration. This year, Bermuda dive operators are awarding (at no extra charge) Shipwreck Certificates for diving any the island's 12 best shipwrecks: the Constellation, Cristobal Colon, Hermes, Iristo, Lartington, L'Herminie, Mary Celestia, Minnie Breslauer, Montana, North Carolina, Pelinaion and Taunton.
The Shipwreck Certificate program is open to any visiting diver or visitor enrolled in a scuba instruction class. Simply visit Bermuda during 1997; stay at any hotel, cottage or guesthouse; dive with any Bermuda dive operator; and receive a certificate for any one of the 12 designated wrecks. You can receive certificates for all 12 wrecks.
BERMUDA DIVE OPERATORS
If you are interested in visiting Bermuda and diving its wrecks, contact any of the dive operators listed below:
Blue Water Divers Co., Ltd.
P.O. Box SN 165
Southampton SN BX, Bermuda
(441) 234-1034; (441) 234-3561 (fax)
Darrell's Wharf, 1 Harbour Road
Paget PG 01, Bermuda
(888) DO A DIVE
(441) 236-6339; (441) 236-8926 (fax)
Nautilus Diving, Ltd.
P.O. Box HM237
Hamilton HM AX, Bermuda
(441) 295-9485; (441) 234-5180 (fax)
Grotto Bay Beach Hotel
P.O. Box 658
Warwick WK BX, Bermuda
(441) 293-7319; (441) 295-2421 (fax)
South Side Scuba
Sonesta Beach Resort
(441) 238-1833; (441) 236-0394 (fax)