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  • The North Carolina

    Bermuda's Three Masted Square Rigged Wreck

    by Walt Stearns, Sep. 1997

    In 1880, the North Carolina, an English built, iron hulled barque (three masted square rigger), was three years old. Approximately 205 feet long including her bowsprit,she displaced 533 tons. Her registry was in Liverpool, England, and her papers of ownership showed she belonged to H. Barber. Sunk January 1, 1880, a large part of the North Carolina's history and the circumstances surrounding her demise are pretty sketchy. It is known that she was enroute from Bermuda to Liverpool loaded with general cargo, including several bails of cotton and bark. She struck a reef near the outside edge of Bermuda's southwest corner and sank 8.5 miles west, 0.5 miles south of Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, while under the command of Captain Alexander Buchan.

    An attempt to re-float the vessel was made January 27, 1880. However, the effort met with failure. While her salvors were attempting to pump the water out of her, her massive anchor broke free, punching a sizable hole through her hull and sending her back to the bottom.

    When underwater visibility is good, the wreck of the North Carolina can be stunning. Although silty conditions often make it tough to photograph, its orientation, sitting upright on a shallow grade next to a reef, makes it impressive.

    Rising from a depth of 45 feet, the bow's 27 foot profile, with its 16 foot iron bowsprit now heavily overgrown with coral, looks like a ghostly apparition emerging from a fog.

    Today, more than 50 percent of the North Carolina's midsection has collapsed. In addition to her bowsprit, however, her fantail stern is also very much intact, resting 14 feet below the surface. Along her length, divers can swim through several areas containing large iron ribs. Even on a not so good day, the North Carolina's series of deadeyes, which span most of her length, still make great subject matter for photographs.

    On a good day, underwater clarity will range from 35 to 55 feet; seldom does it get any better. Although the wreck is still a good distance from shore, its final resting place is well inside the main body of Bermuda's comprehensive barrier reef. One of the location's attractions is its proximity to several other historic wrecks. Keep in mind that the silt on the wreck site is easily stirred up by surge or choppy seas. Thus, the North Carolina should be dived only when the seas are calm.


    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)

    Fantasea Diving
    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) 238-2332
    (441) 295-9485; (441) 234-5180 (fax)

    Scuba Look
    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
    Southampton, Bermuda
    (441) 238-1833; (441) 236-0394 (fax)