Perhaps the most idyllic holiday destination of all, the Caribbean is rightly regarded as a truly relaxing and tranquil location in which to spend a week or two. However, the region’s historic role as an important shipping route means that, over the years, it has also been the scene of many dramatic shipwrecks.
Here, we introduce you to 10 of the most significant shipwrecks in the Caribbean, all of which should be of interest if you are planning to take a diving trip to the area in future.
Shipwrecks in Barbados
A particularly stunning island nation, Barbados is the ideal destination for anyone whose idea of a perfect holiday is reclining on golden beaches or swimming in pristine azure seas. The country, however, is also home to perhaps the most fascinating selection of shipwrecks in the Caribbean, all of which are just waiting to be discovered by those who want to explore the beauty of Barbados underwater.
Enjoying a history lesson may not be what you had in mind when you started thinking about booking your Barbados holidays, but you’re sure to be intrigued by the story behind the Berwyn ship, which was sunk in Carlisle Bay in 1919. The Berwyn was a French military ship which docked in Barbados during World War I. However when the war ended, the crew didn’t want to obey their captain’s orders and leave the island – so they took the unusual step of sinking their ship and staying!
You will have to dive quite a bit deeper to find the wreck of the Ce-Trek – also found in Carlisle Bay – but we can promise that doing so is well worth the effort. The ship itself is not the most attractive vessel in the world (it’s basically a huge, cement structure that was abandoned and sunk in the mid-1980s), but it is notable for the abundance of beautiful coral that now grows on it.
One of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean, the 110ft-long Eillon will arguably be the highlight of any diver’s trip to Carlisle Bay. As well as its sheer size and the air pockets that can allow you to hold a conversation at 25ft below the surface, the Eillon also has a fascinating history: an illegal drug boat seized in the early ‘90s, the Barbadian authorities held the ship for around six years before deciding to sink it for the benefit of visiting divers!
Even more intriguing is the Bajan Queen, which began life as a tugboat in the 1960s. After coming to the end of its working life, however, it was given a new and much more exciting role as a party boat! Legendary among locals, the Bajan Queen enjoyed a long and vibrant stint as one of the island’s premier nightspots. Then, in 2002, the vessel was sunk and started its third life as perhaps Carlisle Bay’s most interesting wreck of all.
The Cornwallis is unusual in that its home in Carlisle Bay marine park was not where it was originally sunk. Instead, the former World War II-era Canadian freighter was relocated to its current position from an area of particularly high marine traffic. The Cornwallis is another ship with a unique history, having been torpedoed by a German U-boat before being salvaged, repaired, relaunched and then torpedoed again – allegedly by the same boat!
Although not being the most cosmetically pleasing ship in Carlisle Bay, this former naval landing barge has found an important new lease of life as home to an amazing diversity of reef fish. Divers will relish the opportunity to get up close to many fascinating creatures such as the porcupinefish.
Shipwrecks in the Bahamas
The Bahamas is another Caribbean hotspot where life by the sea is usually very relaxing, with dozens of beachside bars and restaurants providing the perfect place to chill out. Just like Barbados, however, the Bahamas has also seen many spectacular shipwrecks, which you can find out more about below.
Bahamas holidays arguably offer some even more rewarding diving experiences than those available in Barbados, with the Alcora being one example of how this island country is undoubtedly home to some of the most intriguing shipwrecks in the Caribbean. Found off the coast of the beautiful Rose Island, Alcora was a huge drug smuggling freighter which – much like the Eillon in Barbados – was confiscated by the authorities before being sunk in 1983. The wreck is still in excellent condition, with exploring its cargo holds and engine room being highlighted for explorers.
At 40ft long, the Antinque is a much smaller but equally fascinating drug smuggling ship which, again, was seized by the police but ended up costing a great deal in dockage fees. Fortunately for the local authorities, a Bahamian eventually decided that he wanted to buy the Antinque himself, only for the ship to sink as he pulled it into the harbour off the coast of New Providence island. Eventually, it was raised from the deep before being deliberately sunk in a more convenient location for divers.
No holiday spent discovering shipwrecks in the Caribbean would possibly be complete without visiting the LCT barge that featured in the James Bond film, Thunderball. The wreck’s cameo as the setting of an underwater fight scene is what the barge is most famous for, but this is far from being its only interesting feature. Originally used as a troop carrier by the US Army in WWII, the LCT barge was then converted into a freight transporter but began to take on water during one of its sailings out of Nassau harbour. The barge was then run aground by its crew and has remained in shallow water ever since, where it is now covered with coral.
Last but certainly not least is the Mahoney, which can be found off the coast of Paradise Island. Built as long ago as the 1880s, the ship was used at various points as a private yacht, a British admiralty flagship, a lighthouse tender and a freighter. After it had finished its working life in 1929, the ship (which, interestingly, was never known as ‘Mahoney’ during its sailing days) was due to be sold for scrap but, as it was being towed during a hurricane, ran into trouble and sank. As it was sinking, the Mahoney split into two parts, which came to rest around 100 yards away from each other. The ship remains an exhilarating dive site today and is home to a wide variety of marine life.