Best Dive Sites, Nassau, Bahamas - The Shipwrecks

There are a number of shipwrecks on the reefs off New Providence. Some of them are readily accessible in only 10 or so feet of water to both snorkelers and scuba divers. Others, at depths of up to 120 feet, are not so accessible. Those listed here are the best-known and can be visited with any of the dive operators listed in this chapter.

The Alcora
The Alcora sits upright in 80 feet of water just northeast of Athol Island. The ship, a 130-foot freighter, had been involved in drug smuggling until confiscated by the Bahamian government, which then turned it over to Sun Divers for disposal. The only proviso was that it not cause a hazard to shipping. The ship was stripped of any object that might be dangerous to divers, the ports and hatches were opened to allow easy access, and then she was towed out to her present location, where she sits on the sandy bottom surrounded by corals. The wreck presents a major photographic opportunity and is well worth the long boat ride. The cost of the ride, however, unless enough people sign up for the dive, could make the trip prohibitive. You’ll need to be a diver of at least intermediate experience to visit the Alcora. You’ll also need to let the operators know you’re interested well in advance.

The Antinque
Another confiscated drug smuggler ship, this is much smaller than the Alcora and therefore less interesting. It lies some 200 yards west of the Tears of Allah (see page 88),the James Bond wreck off the southwest0 coast.

The B-25
The B-25 is the wreck of a World War II bomber that crashed into the sea off the north side of Golden Cay more than 50 years ago. As you might imagine, there’s not much left of her today. Still, if sunken aircraft excite you, it’s worth a visit. The wreckage lies on the sand in less than 30 feet of water.

The Cessna
This is yet another scripted wreck, a part of the Bond film, Never Say Never Again. Bond crash-landed a twin-engine aircraft in the ocean, and then climbed out and swam to safety. This is that plane, and it lies in 40 feet of water, close to the Clifton Wall off the southwest side of the island. Novice divers, with supervision, can make it to this one. The site is sandy, so, if you’re visiting as part of a large group of divers, make sure you get down there first, before the sand gets stirred up and obscures the view.

The LTC Wreck
The LTC Wreck is the remains of a WWII landing craft that saw extensive service ferrying freight between New Providence and Exuma. During one run, the vessel began taking on water and, in a desperate effort to save her, the crew ran her aground just southwest of Athol Island. Over the years, she’s shifted and settled until finally she ended up at her present location in 10 to 20 feet of water. With the top of her wheelhouse almost on the surface, she’s the ideal wreck for novice divers. Living beneath her hull you’ll find all sorts of marine animals and crustaceans, including the tiny arrow crab. Still fairly intact, and liberally covered in seafans and sponges, she presents a nice photographic opportunity. Be careful; LTCs’ decks and door openings are covered in fire coral. It’s best to wear a wet-suit.

The Mahoney
The Mahoney is not the real name of the wreck that lies in 45 feet of water off the north coast of Paradise Island. The 212-foot steel-hulled ship apparently sailed the oceans under a number of names, none of them Mahoney. She went down in a hurricane in 1929, breaking in two. What’s left of the bow and stern portions are lying more than 100 yards apart. Unfortunately, because of the hazard she would have presented to other shipping, she was blown up with dynamite and laid out pretty flat on the ocean floor. Today, there’s not much of a profile for divers to explore, but her boiler, and other machinery, make for wonderful photographic backdrops. Because of the fast currents caused by the ever-turning tides, you’ll need to be fairly experienced to dive here. Once again, watch out for fire coral, which is everywhere.

The Royal James
The Royal James was once an old Mississippi ferry boat that once worked the channel between Nassau and Paradise Island. Her useful life as a ferry ended with the building of the Paradise Island Bridge. For a while she continued to provide service as a dive boat. In 1988, however, the ravages of old age and her constantly failing machinery brought about her demise. Local dive operators stripped her, towed her out to sea and sank her in 45 feet of water close to the Golden Cay drop-off. And so her useful life began again as a regular stop on the operators’ list of dive sites.

The Tears of Allah
The Tears of Allah is a 100-foot, steel-hulled wreck, perhaps the finest photographic opportunity of them all. The site was designed and dressed by experts. This was the freighter used to transport nuclear weapons in Never Say Never Again, the James Bond film. She, too, fell afoul of the Bahamian government when she was caught running drugs. The confiscated ship was taken under tow and, with help from Stuart Cove, the owner of Nassau Undersea Adventures, she was sunk in about 50 feet of water off the southwest coast. The ship’s profile is gorgeous: a rounded wheelhouse, short bow, broad fantail, and a long cabin with plenty of doors and hatches to allow easy access. Looking down from the surface she’s a little disappointing, but close-up she’s a delight. There are no significant currents here, the water is clear, and even novice divers, under supervision, can have a great time exploring.

The Vulcan Bomber
A set from the early Bond film, Thunderball, this is not really a bomber at all – just a movie prop, a framework of steel pipes and tubes that looks for all the world like part of some giant construction kit. The site, located only yards away from The Tears of Allah, is a jungle of seafans, anemones, and corals. Who could forget the great Vulcan bomber – they called it a Vindicator in the movie – as it lay intact on its wheels in less than 30 feet of crystal water? The site is now alive with fish, all waiting for you to feed them. Be sure to take along a camera.

The Willaurie
The Willaurie lies in about 70 feet of water off Clifton Point on the southwest end of the island. This 150-foot wreck, a steel-hulled freighter and sometime mail boat, now sits upright on the sandy bottom, hatches wide open, looking as if it had been sunk only yesterday. The ship’s demise is still something of a mystery. For a time it lay by Clifton Pier, seemingly abandoned. Then, one dark night, it disappeared, possibly towed away by one of the local dive operators, for it ended up on the bottom in its present location. The wreck has not yet had time to become inundated by the marine growth that will surely take over. Even so, the site offers a great many interesting photographic opportunities.

The Spiyva
The Spiyva, often called the Wreck on the Wall, is a 40-foot wooden fishing boat that was sunk just to the south of the Tears of Allah. It sits teetering on the edge of the abyss, offering an interesting dive. The coral of the Clifton Wall, upon which the boat lies, begins some 40 feet below the surface and drops off very quickly to a depth of more than 1,000 feet. The site is a wonderland of coral heads, marine life of all shapes, colors and sizes, and is very photogenic. You’ll find large groupers, yellowtails and parrotfish, snappers, surgeon fish and, now and again, a shark lurking in the darker waters beyond the edge of the wall.

 

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