Wreck Diving in Bermuda

If you've heard the stories of the Bermuda Triangle, then you won't be surprised to hear that there are more than 20 ships wrecked off the island. Actually it's got more to do with the craggy reefs that surround the island than that old myth, but each wreck has a story, and most dive operators here know it. Graham Maddocks, a veteran of Bermuda's waters and owner of Triangle Diving, gave us a history lesson on five of Bermuda's most interesting wrecks.

Constellation.Jaws author Peter Benchley based his follow-up novel The Deep, set in Bermuda, around the Constellation wreck. A cargo ship bound for Venezuela during World War II, she was carrying building materials, morphine, and 700 bottles of whiskey when her hull was broken apart on the reef. Some of the building materials remain, but the rest of her cargo is long gone.

The Cristobel Colon. This massive Spanish cruise liner is the biggest of Bermuda's shipwrecks, at 499 feet long. It crashed into the reefs off the north shore in 1936 after its captain mistook an offshore communications tower for the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. It was crewed by Spanish dissidents from the civil war in Puerto Rico. (They were eventually rounded up and hanged for treason in Spain.) The Cristobel sat in Bermuda's waters for several years, and many of its furnishings can be found in Bermudian homes today. The British eventually sank its empty shell by using it for target practice during World War II.

The Hermes. Probably the most popular wreck dive in Bermuda, the Hermes remains fully intact sitting in 80 feet of water off the south shore. It's one of the few wrecks that you can actually get inside and explore. It arrived in Bermuda with engine trouble and was ultimately abandoned by its crew. The Bermuda government took possession of the 165-foot steel-hulled ship and sank it as a dive site in the early 1980s.

The Pelinaion. This 385-foot Greek cargo steamer was another victim of World War II. The British had blacked out the lighthouse in a bid to stop the Germans from spying on Bermuda. The captain had a perfect record, had sailed past Bermuda many times, and was months away from retirement when he made this journey from West Africa to Baltimore in 1940, carrying a cargo of iron ore. Without the lighthouse to guide him, he couldn't find the island until he struck the reef off St. David's. You can still see the ship's steam boiler and engine as well as some of the cargo of iron ore.

The Xing Da. A modern-day pirate ship, the Xing Da was carrying a "cargo" of Chinese immigrants to be smuggled into the United States in 1996. Crewed by members of the Chinese mafia, the Triad, it had arranged to meet a smaller boat 145 miles off Bermuda for the immigrants to be transferred and taken into the United States. Instead, they found themselves surrounded by U.S. marines. The boat was given to the government as a dive site in 1997.

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