Often referred to as the shipwreck capital of the world, the reefs surrounding our island have netted some 300 vessels over the centuries and contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a diver to experience them first hand. This summer, take the proverbial plunge and get to know our island’s most iconic wrecks, the treasures they contained and how you can still experience them today.
- A blockade runner during the American Civil War, the Montana (also known as the Nola) transported contraband like guns and ammunition to the Confederacy. On December 30th, 1863, during a run between Bermuda and North Carolina, she was caught in a storm and ran aground on the shallow reefs near Bermuda’s Western Blue Cut. Thankfully, her crew was rescued and most of her cargo salvaged.
Today, the Montana lies in 30 feet of water and is a popular dive site among divers and snorkelers because of her large boilers and paddlewheels which are still visible. An interactive 3D model of the Montana can be explored at Bermuda100.
- Location: 32.21′.663N, 64.54′.793W
- Length: 236 feet
- Depth: 39 feet
- Built in 1918, the four-masted schooner known as the Constellation was used as a cargo vessel for the US merchant navy during the Second World War. On July 22, 1943, on her way from New York to Venezuela with a cargo of cement, furniture, cosmetics, medical supplies and 700 cases of Johnny Walker, she began to take on water. The captain diverted to Bermuda for repairs but unfamiliar with the area surrounding our island, he struck a reef near Western Blue Cut.
It’s well-known that the wreck of the Constellation served as inspiration for Peter Benchley’s The Deep and while footage of the wreck wasn’t incorporated into the film, audio was. According to the late Teddy Tucker, the wreckage of the Constellation was always moving, which resulted in a constant, spooky groaning noise, which was fictionally attributed to the Goliath in the film but is entirely real.
The Constellation is visited often by divers and snorkelers and can be explored virtually at Bermuda100. Visitors to the National Museum of Bermuda (NMB) can take in a collection of various artifacts from the Constellation, including lead crucifixes and drug ampules containing opium, morphine and penicillin.
- Location: 32°21’42.08″N, 64°54’50.76″W
- Length: 190 feet
- Depth: 26–30 feet
- French frigate L’Herminie is arguably Bermuda’s most impressive warship wreck. In 1838, with 60 cannons on board, L’Herminie left Cuba for France when she encountered heavy seas and was forced to divert to Bermuda to wait out the rough weather. Before she could reach the island, though, she ran aground on a reef to the west of the island. It was later reported that after the ship’s stores were salvaged by locals, items began to appear for sale, including copper hinges, sails, hooks, a wheel, mast hoops, a brass-mounted stove, cabin doors, tables and a marble slab.
- Today L’Herminie sits in 35 feet of water and is regularly visited by Bermuda’s dive community. While the wooden hull is largely gone, divers can count as many as 40 cannons surrounding the wreckage. Non-divers will enjoy taking in salvaged items from L’Herminie on display at the NMB, including part of an officer’s uniform, bayonet sheath tips, a gun lock, a soup tureen and coloured sextant.
- Location: 32°19’8.29″N, 64°58’33.96″W
- Length: 300 feet
- Depth: 35 feet
- MARY CELESTIA
- One of Bermuda’s best-known wrecks is the Mary Celestia, which sank off the south shore in 1864. Also a blockade runner for the Confederacy, the side-paddlewheel steamer smuggled guns, ammunition and other supplies to the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
In 2011, after a hurricane, a group of underwater archeologists discovered two intact perfume bottles hidden in the bow of the Mary Celestia and after careful analysis of the fragrance, Lili Bermuda was able to recreate it and the scent is available for purchase.
A popular dive site among locals, the Mary Celestia can also be explored virtually in the form of an interactive 3D map at Bermuda100.
- Location: 32.14′.487N, 64.49′.918W
- Length: 225 feet
- Depth: 59 feet
- On August 22, 1915, the Pollockshields left Cardiff, Wales, with 37 crew members and a cargo of First World War provisions including live ammunition, shells and gunpowder. In early September, while making her way past Bermuda, the ship encountered dense fog and hurricane-force winds. On September 7, shortly after the fog lifted, the Pollockshields struck a reef near Elbow Beach. Hearing the ship’s distress signal, guests at the hotel, as well as many locals, launched a full-scale rescue mission, making their way out to the sinking ship in whaling boats. All crew members were rescued except for the ship’s captain, Captain Ernest Boothe, who was swept overboard and drowned.
Today the wreckage of the Pollockshields is a popular diving and snorkeling spot, with two boilers, a propeller and the ship’s engine still visible. Most of the ship’s cargo of ammunition was cleared in 1999 by local police. A brass cordite case from the Pollockshields is on display at the NMB.
- Location: 32°16’17.00″N, 64°46’11.00″W
- Length: 323 feet
- Depth: 40 feet
- THE WARWICK
- Between 2008 and 2012, the NMB and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M excavated and documented the remains of the Warwick, salvaging items including gun powder flask caps, lead merchant weights, and a mini cannon and game counters, all of which are on display at the NMB.
One of Bermuda’s oldest wrecks is the Warwick, a brigantine that sank in November 1619 when attempting to depart Castle Harbour with supplies for the desperate settlers in Jamestown, Virginia. The remains of the Warwick were discovered in 1967 by Teddy Tucker and Smithsonian curator Mendel Peterson using a magnetometer, and at the time of discovery was the most complete wooden-hulled England merchantman ever found.
- Location: 32°28’58.91″N, 64°42’17.64″W
- Length: 228 feet
- Depth: 40 feet