With Halloween approaching (it’s on 31 October for those who don’t usually take much notice), training agency PADI reckons diving Bermuda’s “haunting” wrecks could be spookily appropriate.
Mysterious disappearances and magnetic anomalies in Bermuda’s infamous Triangle could be said to tick a number of boxes around Halloween time, and certainly do so for PADI. The training agency has not only come up with some “spooky” facts about the north Atlantic coral island but has a host of shipwreck suggestions for visiting divers.
Plunging to 8,380m, the area known as the Bermuda Triangle includes the Atlantic’s deepest point – the Milwaukee Depth in the Puerto Rico Trench. There are countless tales of ships, planes and submarines vanishing in the Triangle, and at least 50 aircraft and 20 ships remain unaccounted for.
The Bimini Vortex is a connected oddity – a unique spot where compasses spin and electronics fail. There have been reports of dolphins appearing out of nowhere and coming right up to divers in this area, says PADI.
Some attribute the magnetic anomalies to “electronic fog”, an electromagnetic field that has been reported by pilots and Coastguard as resembling a cloud hanging over the ocean and able to engulf a ship and cause its electronics to malfunction.
While we know that the city of Atlantis was dreamt up by Greek philosopher Plato to make a point, there are those who attribute Bermuda’s anomalies to ancient technologies left behind by such a lost civilisation. Paranormal writer Charles Berlitz planted the idea that “Atlantis” was behind the unexplained disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle.
Of course, lost shipwrecks are of little use to visiting divers – they want those that have been located. Here are eight (including a two-for-one site) to consider diving:
1. The Mary Celestia (aka Mary Celeste, though not that one) is one of Bermuda’s oldest wrecks, an American Civil War-era paddle-steamer that struck a reef in 1884. It lies in 17m and is well-preserved, with the paddle-wheel and engine intact, and bow, stern, boilers and anchor remaining for divers to see. In 2015, bottles of 150-year-old wine were discovered on board and brought up for sampling.
2. The Cristóbal Colón is Bermuda’s biggest wreck at 150m long, and was a Spanish luxury liner that crashed into a reef off the north shore in 1936. It once protruded from the shallow water but WW2 target practice put paid to that. Abundant marine life has settled in and around wreckage strewn across 9,300sq m of seabed, in shallow depths from 4-18m.
3. A year after that sinking, Norwegian freighter Iristo (aka Aristo) followed suit. The captain was said to have been startled on seeing the Cristóbal Colón wreckage and ordered his crew to change course – until another submerged reef got in the way. Engine, boilers and propeller remain visible among what is described as spectacular coral.
4. To up the ghostliness ante, check out the rows of deadeyes along the deck-railings of the North Carolina – these sail-riggings resemble cartoon skulls. Again shallow at depths of 8-14m, this 75m English iron hull ran aground and sank south-west of Bermuda on New Year’s Day, 1880. Attempts to raise the wreck failed and it remains upright though with a collapsed mid-section.
5. You can get the two-for-one dive by visiting the Montana and Constellation wrecks, because they’re stacked on top of each other to the north-west. The first was a Civil War blockade-runner that hit a shallow reef in 1863, but it was 80 years before US cargo ship Constellation followed her down in 1943, some reports stating that she had caught Montana’s bow. She was carrying building materials and whisky, and stacks of cement bags and glassware remain visible.
6. Unusually, the Hermes cargo ship didn’t hit a shallow reef – the crew abandoned the 1943-built ship after she developed engine trouble. She stayed deserted for 41 years before finding popularity beneath the surface – the Bermuda Dive Association sank the ship upright, complete with mast, as a photogenic artificial reef in a high-vis area.
7. The King George was a large dredger built for Bermuda harbour operations in 1911. When no longer needed in 1930 she was towed out to sea and sunk, intact and upright.
8. Shipwrecks apart, PADI recommends diving the the skeleton of a Boeing B-50 Superfortress bomber that crashed in 1963 when a jet engine exploded. The remains of bent propellers, wings and fuselage remain, at a depth of 8m.
Also, to the east lies the eerie Cathedral site, rich in fish and with a vaulted reef structure that creates a natural skylight, with a single shaft of light illuminating the otherwise dark waters down to the 17m seabed.
For newer divers less experienced with wrecks, PADI recommends taking its Wreck Diver speciality course, which covers the fundamentals of wreck navigation and appropriate gear as well as planning and mapping a site, and includes four scuba dives for practice in open water. Divers must be at least 15 and hold a PADI Adventure Diver certification or higher.