RAPTURE OF THE WRECKS
 
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Text and Photography by Bill Harrigan
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.
The giant propeller of Theo's Wreck, off Grand Bahama Island.

Shallow Wrecks
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 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.

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.


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 area south of Grand Bahama is also rich with wrecks. The Jose is a 40-foot oceangoing 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. 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 Diving Wrecks

NAME OF WRECK
TYPE OF WRECK DEPTH LOCATION YEAR SUNK REMARKS
Theo's Wreck 238-foot freighter 100 Ft Grand Bahamas 1982 on port side
Dorothy H. ocean tug 100 Ft Walker's Cay --- upright
Esther K. ocean tug 100 Ft Walker's Cay -- --
Comberbach freighter 100 Ft Long Island 1985 upright, bus  in hold
Bimini Barge barge 95 Ft Bimini late 1980's --
Ana Lise 150-foot supply ship 90 Ft Paradise Island 1990  
Helena C. passenger vessel 90 Ft Paradise Island 1991  
Bahama Shell 90-foot oil tanker 90 Ft paradise Island 1991  
Bimini Trader barge 85 Ft Bimini 1992 upside down 
Lady Moore supply boat 80 Ft Andros --  upright
The Barge landing craft 70 Ft Andros 1970  
Marion construction barge 70 Ft Andros 1975 with crane and boom
Caribe Breeze 200-foot tanker 70 Ft New Providence 2000  
Jose steel tug 65 Ft Grand Bahama 1986 upright
Sea Viking 60-foot fishing boat 65 Ft New Providence 1997 upright
De La Salle 120-foot freighter 65 Ft Paradise Island 1987 upright
Austin Smith 90 foot cutter 60 Ft Exumas 1996 upright
B.J. passenger vessel 55 Ft Paradise Island 1994 on side, split in half
Willaurie 130-foot freighter 55 Ft New Providence 1989 upright
Laura 40-foot supply boat 50 Ft Grand Bahama 1997 upright
Badger burma oil tugboat 50 Ft Grand Bahama 1997 upright
Panther 65-foot tugboat 50 Ft Cat Cay 1984 on starboard side
Ethridge steel car ferry 50 Ft Grand Bahama --  upright, with truck
David Tucker II patrol boat 50 Ft New Providence 1997 upright, clifton wall
Wreck on the Wall wooden sailing ship 50 Ft New Providence -- very torn up
Edmond Williams patrol boat 50 Ft New Providence 1997 upright, shark wall
Finwick Stirrup patrol boat 50 Ft New Providence 1997 research dive site
Violet Mitchell freighter 45 Ft Abacos 1988  
Tears of Allah 92-foot supply boat  45 Ft New Providence  -- "James Bond" Wreck
The Pretender steel hull 45 Ft Grand Bahama -- upside down
Alma B. 120-foot supply boat  40 Ft Cat Cay 1999 upside down
San Jacinto 1847 steamer 40 Ft Abacos 1867  
Bahama Momma supply boat 40 Ft  New Providence 1995 upright
Vulcan Wreck metal framework 40 Ft New Providence -- movie set mockup
Cessna Wreck light plane 40 Ft New Providence --  
Mahoney steamship 30 Ft Paradise Island late 1800s boiler, keel, plating
Airplane Wreck light plane 25 Ft Water Cay --  
Sapona concrete vessel 20 Ft south of Bimini 1927 partially out of water
Sugar Wreck sailing ship 20 Ft west of Grand Bahama --  
Hesperus cement barge 15 Ft north of Bimini -- loggerhead turtles
Anchor Wreck -- 15 Ft Gingerbread Grounds -- two large anchors
Deep Wrecks
What's 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.
Bahamas shipwrecks can be found in all conditions, from those that seem to be seaworthy, to those that seem to be sea bottom.
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. Theo's 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 oceangoing 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, it's spooky, but somehow alluring.
BAHAMAS DIVER ON-LINE Table of Contents

THE BAHAMAS EXPERIENCE
One Nation with a World of Diving Opportunity
 
A PARADE OF MARINE LIFE
Grouper Spawns, Lobster Marches/Rick Frehsee
 
SHARK DIVING
Choose Your Thrill/Bill Harrigan
 
FREEPORT/GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND
A Buffet of Experiences/Rick Frehsee
 
BAHAMAS DOLPHIN ENCOUNTERS
Meeting the Ocean Masters/Bill Harrigan
 
NASSAU/PARADISE ISLAND
An Underwater Wonderland/Michael Lawrence
 
OUT ISLANDS OF THE BAHAMAS
The Stuff of Dreams/Michael Lawrence
 
TEN REASONS TO TAKE THE WHOLE
The Difference is in the Destination/Bill Harrigan
 
WALLS AND BLUE HOLES
Vertical Descents, Decorated Caverns-Turning
 
RAPTURE OF THE WRECKS
Fascinating at Any Depth/Bill Harrigan
 
EXPLORING THE BAHAMAS BY LIVE
Superb Diving and Absolute Convenience/Bill Harrig
 
BAHAMAS BY SNORKEL
Intimate Adventures/Michael Lawrence
 
BAHAMAS DIVING ASSOCIATION
Dive Operators and Liveaboards that Bring You the
 
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