If you think that Bermuda is a beautiful island above the water, you have to take the plunge and experience a whole new world of wrecks and marine life. You can find it too, just below the surface. ~Destination Bermuda 2006/2007
The iconic image of Bermuda is of pink beaches and turquoise waters. But there is a whole underwater world here too that many visitors never get to witness.
Ask any diver in Bermuda and he or she will attest that our pink beaches and turquoise seas are just as beautiful underwater as they are above. Not only are Bermuda's reefs the northernmost in the Atlantic, our winter water conditions are surprisingly benign for a destination so far north. Water temperatures range from 7 - 80 degrees in the summer, going down to the mid - 60s in the winter. Visibility in the winter is superb with 70 - 100 feet visibility extending to 150 - 200 feet on a good day. Bermuda's reef system is healthy and magnificent and is home to a bewildering quantity of reef life. warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, the ocean life is surprisingly similar to that in the Caribbean.
There are few places in the world that can offer the broad spectrum of diving available here in Bermuda. You don't even have to be a diver to enjoy Bermuda's reefs. In a recent poll by Scuba Diving magazine, readers ranked Bermuda first for snorkeling in the Caribbean and Atlantic. While many divers think of Bermuda as a place to visit for its many shipwrecks, the Scuba Diving magazine survey clearly reveals that Bermuda's clear, shallow and accessible waters and healthy reefs are also "in" amongst the snorkelers. Church Bay, John Smith's Bay and Tobacco Bay were listed as three of the most popular snorkeling spots. Within easy swim of a pink beach, there are healthy reefs to swim over with a vigorous parrotfish population, one of the most spectacular fish to observe.
Bermuda as a place to visit for its many shipwrecks, the Scuba Diving magazine survey clearly reveals that Bermuda's clear, shallow and accessible waters and healthy reefs are also "in" amongst the snorkelers. Church Bay, John Smith's Bay and Tobacco Bay were listed as three of the most popular snorkeling spots. Within easy swim of a pink beach, there are healthy reefs to swim over with a vigorous parrotfish population, one of the most spectacular fish to observe.
By virtue of its position in the middle of the Atlantic, Bermuda's known inventory of shipwrecks doesn't start until the 15th Century when the age of exploration and discovery put it right smack in the middle of the sailing routes between the old world and the new. Without any natural resources of its own, and with no native inhabitants, "The Devil's Isles" might have been a footnote in history were it not for the fact that it lay on the northern tip of the Gulf Stream, and was surrounded by treacherous, hidden reefs.
Dive on Bermuda's Ship Wrecks
There’s something unique about diving wrecks. Sure, navigating coral reefs and swimming amongst colourful schools of fish is fine for a while but the novelty soon wears off. Wrecks on the other hand are a visual reminder of the fragile relationship between man and nature and the battles that have raged between them. Welcome to Bermuda; the undisputed world heavyweight champion of wreck diving.
Bermuda's earliest importance to the world was as a navigational fix in the Atlantic, which was why ships came so close to the islands. This interesting nautical trivia means that for serious Scuba divers of today, there are over 300 wrecks lying in some 200 square miles of reefs in what is arguably the most accessible waters in the Western hemisphere. While diving on wrecks is often associated with deep water, here, all of the wreck diving is in shallow waters averaging 40 - 50 feet, which allows plenty of bottom time to explore. Over half of these shipwrecks are accessible to visitors to dive on, providing an unexpected picture into a slice of times gone by. With so many wrecks around these islands, divers have an unequalled and rich resource of opportunities to peer vicariously into the past.
The Sea Venture is Bermuda's most famous shipwreck. En route from Plymouth in 1609 to relieve the colony of Jamestown in Virginia, England's first permanent settlement in the America's the galleon full of supplies for the new settlers and commanded by Sir George Somers, was hit by a hurricane. Leaking badly, the ship was heading towards a deliberate beaching on Bermuda when it hit a reef.
From the 15th to the 17th centuries, Spanish galleons sailed annually across the Atlantic from Spain's holdings in the Caribbean islands and South America to the Spanish Mainland, returning with the wealth Spain needed to be a superpower of its day. Not surprisingly the vessels of this great fleet of Spanish treasure ships have provided some of the greatest adventures ever.
The San Pedro, a Spanish nao or carrack as it was termed by Northern Europeans, was a 350 ton merchant vessel on a voyage from Cartagena to Cadiz when she was shipwrecked in November 1596. Teddy Tucker discovered the wreck in 1951, which eventually furnished a 32 ounce gold bar, two small gold cakes and an emerald studded gold crucifix along with thousands of silver coins, gold buttons, tools, navigating equipment and rare Carib weapons. Some of these and other treasures discovered on Bermuda's wrecks can be viewed at the Maritime Museum in Dockyard or the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
When the hostility between Spain and other European powers came to an end, the privateers who had operated so handily with royal authority no longer had a business and many turned to piracy instead. From the early 16th century until the American Revolution, the seas of the Atlantic Coast was constantly criss-crossed with small trading vessels. slave ships, fishing and whaling boats and the craft of those who preyed on them. Bermuda, being in the centre of all of this, participated in all aspects of the commercial trade that swirled around these islands, and the wrecks of vessels reveal much about this period of history.
Among the island's most famous wrecks was the Pollockshields, which was loaded with a cargo of 350 tons of ammunition, shells and gunpowder when she sank off Elbow Beach after encountering fog and heavy waves on August 22, 1915. This was the most spectacular Bermudian wreck in living memory as hotels guests were able to watch the whole dramatic scene from their balconies as rescue efforts were made to save the crew.
The four masted schooner Constellation was originally built in 1918 and then refitted as a floating nautical school in 1932. Refitted again as a cargo ship during the Second World War, in 1942 the Constellation was pressed into service to carry hundreds of bags of cement, whisky and an assortment of drugs from New York to Venezuela. Leaking badly enroute, she turned to Bermuda for repairs where she was driven onto the reefs by the strong currents and became the inspiration for Peter Benchley's book, The Deep.
So, whether you are an experienced diver or a non-swimmer, there are plenty of opportunities in Bermuda to experience our spectacular underwater world. From glass bottom boats, to snorkeling, helmet diving, bubble diving for children and novices and Scuba diving for adults, there's an underwater activity for everyone.