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THE WRECK OF THE RHONE

The ocean floor is littered with mysterious shipwrecks of all types and sizes and it’s a fascinating thing to learn about how and why some of them ended up where they did.

We snorkelled the wreck of The Rhone on our last trip to the BVIs. We were anchored at Salt Island so it was a short dinghy ride around the corner from there.

The RMS Rhone is a huge wreck in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs). She was built in 1865 and was a passenger and general cargo ship with over 250 first class cabins as well as a few 2nd and 3rd class ones. 

The RMS Rhone sank just off the coast of Salt Island after breaking up in hurricane San Narciso in 1876 where many people lost their lives.

The ship was trying to avoid the storm by heading to a more sheltered harbour but her anchor chain had become wrapped tightly around a coral head and the crew eventually had to cut it off so they could keep sailing. She was almost out of danger when a furious wind hit them and she was dragged onto rocks and that’s where she began to break up. 

When the storm first hit, the passengers were tied to their bunks to keep them secure in case the waves were going to toss them around…how freaky would that have been?

It was quite surreal to snorkel this site. She was a really big ship in her time at 94 metres in length and amazingly intact, you can still see many parts of her. Her propeller is massive at almost 5 metres and was only the 2nd of its type ever made and her bow is still clearly visible.

Just looking around her I couldn’t help imagining what life onboard must have been like. I imagined seeing the passengers enjoying their voyage and feeling very lucky to be on such a grand ship. I could imagine the crew that worked on her and seeing them going about their normal days work until they encountered this storm. I can’t imagine how horrific it must have been.

And here we are now, snorkelling such a beautiful place. I try to stop imagining what it was like in it’s time and just hone in on how lucky we are to be seeing this thing.

We’re surrounded by some beautiful fish and a special little guy who swam around us for the whole time we snorkelled the Rhone.

At that time there was no real remote weather forecasting. The onset of this hurricane was only picked up from the dramatic drop in barometric pressure that the Captain was monitoring. 

Nowadays we are lucky to have those resources. In the Caribbean we follow NOAA which is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Hurricane Centre. It monitors and forecasts tropical storms and issues advanced warnings of developing hurricanes during hurricane season (June to November). So unlike The Rhone, we are able to scrutinise NOAA daily but so far we have made sure that we are generally not in the hurricane belt during that season.

 

If you’re ever in the BVI’s I would strongly suggest you take a trip out to see the wreck of the Rhone. We snorkelled it but scuba diving it might be even better.

It was fascinating to see such a bizarre thing and to know why and how she got there. Somehow that makes it all the more interesting to look around it. The added bonus was that we were the only people there.

The other bonus was that we had read up on it’s history before we actually snorkelled it so that meant that school was done for the day!

You gotta love real adventure learning!!

If you’ve snorkelled or dived any other fascinating wrecks in the Caribbean, I would love to hear about them!

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