Sunday, February 3, 2008

HMS Rhone Dive

Picking up divers from a catamaran.

Had my best dive yet today. In what looked pretty miserable conditions this morning with a heavy swell, rain and overcast sky I almost regretted having come out to dive. Anyway, we headed out to Cooper Island to rendezvous with a catamaran and pick up three divers from the boat before we got to the dive site.

The rocks on Salt Island where the Rhone went down.

When we got there there was still a swell and there looked to be a strong current running, not good! Getting in the water first was also a bad idea as waiting around in all the choppy water made it a bit uncomfortable. Eventually they all got in and we made it down to the bottom (70ft) to be greeted by a spectacular sight of a ship laying on its side. The ship sank in 1867 in a hurricane. Built as a mail boat ferrying mail to and from the Americas and Caribbean to and back the UK. it went down will all hands on board bar one so this is a ghost ship! This is also a big boat, I kid you not. The first dive was around the bow section and we got to sail inside the hull and come out the other end... absolutely spectacular!

Diver with the rudder and propellor behind him... look at the size of those!

On the second dive we went out to the stern section where the rudder and prop are standing (the ship split in two when she hit the rocks as the cold water and ships boilers did not mix). The stern lies in about 30 ft of water so this means we got a lot of time on this section including being able to come across a silver spoon caught in the machinery which is still shinny, and we all got to make our three wishes on the lucky porthole. I'll explain... there is still a shinny brass porthole on the wreck which it is alleged was assigned to the stateroom for passengers on their honeymoon. So tradition has it that if you rub the porthole in a clockwise direction three times and make a wish for every turn, your wishes come true.... so who can give up an opportunity like that?

Part of the Rhone

There is another tradition about Salt Island (this is where the ship hit the rocks) which came about from the sinking of the Rhone which you might be interested in. Salt Island gets its name as traditionally salt was farmed here (and was done so until recently). When the Rhone went down the people who lived and worked on the island (it is deserted nowadays) went out to try and save the sailors on their little boats etc (remember that there is a Force 5 Hurricane blowing). For their heroism the Queen decided to exempt them from all taxes with the exception of one bag of salt. Still to this day, the BVI sends Her Majesty one bag of salt a year!

No-one had an underwater camera on this dive (boy am I regretting not having bought one!) so I stole a couple of pictures from other photographers on Flickr. Their web address are ... and . Sorry guys!

So what looked like being a miserable dive at the start ended up being the best to date!

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