SCUBA British Virgin Islands

Click Here for the Rest of the Trip
(What we did when we weren't diving)

Airplane Wreck - Great Dog Island

Me sitting in the cockpit.

Giant purple "vase sponges" growing in the cockpit.

Notice the baracuda sitting in the back window.

Barry flying as copilot.


The Caves - Norman Island


 

This series of small caves are said to be the inspiration for the the Robert Louis Stevenson novel "Treasure Island."

Night diving the caves.

Brilliant colors.

Many of the coral polups come out at night to feed.

Nurse shark.

Hawksbill sea turtle.


Wreck Alley - Cooper Island

A grouping of four shipwrecks resting on the bottom in about 80' of water.

"Standing" on the bridge.


The Indians - Pelican Island

Brain coral.

Trumpet fish


The Rhone - Salt Island

The RMS Rhone was a royal mail steam packet ship that transported cargo between England, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. She was one of the first iron hulled ships, powered by both sail and steam. Built in 1865 at the Millwall Ironworks on the Isle of Dogs, London, she measured in at 310 feet (94 m) long and had two masts with a 40-foot (12 m) beam. Her propeller was the second bronze propeller ever built, and she was one of two ships deemed unsinkable by the British Royal Navy[citation needed]. Her first voyage was in August 1865 to Brazil, which was the destination of her next five voyages. There, she proved her worth by weathering several severe storms. She was then moved to the West India route. The Rhone was a favourite among passengers due to her then lightning speed of fourteen knots, and her lavish cabins. She sported 253 first class, 30 second class and 30 third class cabins. On October 19, 1867, the Rhone pulled up alongside the RMS Conway in Great Harbour, Peter Island to refuel. The original coaling station they needed had been moved from the then Danish island of St. Thomas due to an outbreak of yellow fever.

On the fateful day of the sinking, the captain of the Rhone, then Robert F. Wooley, was slightly worried by the dropping barometer and darkening clouds, but because it was October and hurricane season was thought to be over, he and the Conway stayed put in Great Harbour. The first half of the storm passed without much event or damage, but the ferocity of the storm worried the captains of the Conway and the Rhone, as their anchors had dragged and they worried that when the storm came back after the eye of the storm had passed over, they would be driven up onto the shore of Peter Island.

They decided to transfer the passengers from the Conway to the "unsinkable" Rhone; the Conway was then to head for Road Harbour and the Rhone would make for open sea. As was normal practice at the time, the passengers in the Rhone were tied into their beds to prevent them being injured in the stormy seas.
Wreck of the Rhone

The Conway got away before the Rhone but was caught by the back end of the storm, and foundered off the south side of Tortola with the loss of all hands. But the Rhone struggled to get free, as its anchor was caught fast. It was ordered to be cut loose, and lies in Great Harbour to this day, with its chain wrapped around the same coral head that trapped it a century and a half ago. By this stage time was critical, and captain Robert F. Wooley decided that it would be best to try to escape to the shelter of open sea by the easiest route, between Black Rock Point of Salt Island and Dead Chest Island. Between those two island lay Blonde Rock, an underwater reef which was normally a safe depth of 25 feet (7.6 m), but during hurricane swells, there was a risk that the Rhone might founder on that. The Captain took a conservative course, giving Blonde Rock (which cannot be seen from the surface) a wide berth.

However, just as the Rhone was passing Black Rock Point, less than 250 yards (230 m) from safety, the second half of the hurricane came around from the south. The winds shifted to the opposite direction and the Rhone was thrown directly into Black Rock Point. It is said that the initial lurch of the crash sent Captain Wooley overboard, never to be seen again. Local legend says that his teaspoon can still be seen lodged into the wreck itself. Whether or not it is his, a teaspoon is clearly visible entrenched in the wreck's coral. The ship split in two and cold sea water made contact with the red hot boilers which had been running at full steam, causing them to explode.
Wreck of the Rhone

The ship sank swiftly, the bow section in eighty feet of water, the stern in thirty. Of the original 146 aboard, plus an unknown number of passengers transferred from the Conway, only 23 people (all crew) survived the wreck. The bodies of many of the sailors were buried in a nearby cemetery on Salt Island. Due to her mast sticking out of the water, and her shallow depth, she was deemed a hazard by the Royal Navy in the 1950s and her stern section was blown apart. Now, the Rhone is a popular dive site, and the area around her was turned into a national park in 1967.

The Rhone has received a number of citations and awards over the years as one of the top recreational wreck dives in the Caribbean, both for its historical interest and teeming marine life, and also because of the open and relatively safe nature of the wreckage (very little of the wreckage is still enclosed; where overhead environments do exist, they are large and roomy and have openings at either end permitting a swim through, so there is no real penetration diving for which divers usually undergo advanced training).


Painting of the demise of the Rhone


This shipwreck is so world-renowned and historic that underwater charts are available for the wreck.
These diagrams are waterproof and durable so you can use them during your dive to help navigate the site.


One of the Rhone's anchors.


Four-eyed butterfly fish swimming around coral


The bowsprit of the Rhone.


The bow of the ship is laying on it's side in 80' of water.


Bow cleats


The crows nest on the forward mast.


Swimming through the interior.


What's left of the boiler.


Angelfish


The structure that looks like it should be part of a Greecian wall is actually the floor structure standing on end.


Looks like the lost city of Atlantas.


The stern was blown apart by the Royal Navy because it posed a navigation hazard.


This is the gear box and drive shaft for the propeller.


The drive shaft.


Barry swimming through, next to a very BIG propeller.


Much of the ship is a bit worse for the wear, but the fact that any of it is recognizable after a hurricane, being bombed by the Royal Navy and sitting on the bottom of the ocean for more than 140 years in remarkable.


The Aquarium - Virgin Gorda


Another friendly sea turtle.


Ascending towards the boat.


A big spiny lobster.


A dozing nurse shark.



Coral Garden - Great Dog Island


Someone is missing their outboard.