For a nation of seafaring people, it is inevitable that problems will occur. Plug into the equation the large number of vessels approaching and entering Bahamian waters daily and the potential for disaster increases. Sitting in the hurricane belt further compounds the issue. The result? A large number of wrecks. Certain areas are more susceptible to natural disasters than others. At the top of the list is the Devil's Backbone on the north side of North Eleuthera. A treacherous reef rising out of nowhere, it's one of the first places ocean-going vessels approach land. Over the centuries, many vessels have had their bellies ripped open by this reef. It rises to the very surface and, combined with open-ocean conditions, is often unseen until it is just too late. In addition, severe storms have brought down both proud and humble vessels throughout the islands.
A second factor is an active artificial reef program. On the southwest corner of the island of New Providence is an area referred to as Wreck City, a collection of a dozen-plus antiquated and abandoned vessels intentionally sunk by local dive operators. They provide a tremendous variety of dives in varying depths, some shallow, some sitting near the edge of the wall. At least one has been set up with internal lines running through the hull specifically for penetration exercises. Wrecks range from virtually intact to scattered remains -- a boiler here, a drive shaft there and planking strewn across the bottom. All sites attract fish, drawn by the security of their nooks and crannies. There are many other areas in the world with wrecks, it is an inherent danger of being at sea, but few nations can compete with the variety the Bahamas offers.
Theo's Wreck (Grand Bahama)
Grand Bahama's premier wreck, Theo's (originally the MS Logna) was formerly a concrete transport vessel. She worked in various areas, exhausted her useful life and was contributed to UNEXSO by Theodopolis Galanoupoulos, an engineer and manager at the company that owned her -- thus the name. She slipped under the water on Oct. 16, 1982, and began a new life. Her hull is nicely encrusted and, as always, many animals find her a welcome refuge. She sits in 110 feet of water and rises to 70 feet at the top.
Bimini Barge (Bimini)
At 150 feet in length, this vessel sat idle in Bimini for years before being quietly towed and sunk in 1986. Lying on a 95 foot bottom, she has 30 feet of relief and sits in the wash of the Gulf Stream." Currents can be strong, but grouper, large stingrays and schooling permit are common. Great encrustation.
SS Frascate (San Salvador)
This may be the finest shallow wreck in the Bahamas. She went down in 1902 on New Year's Day after the crew apparently had a bit too much fun the previous night. Weather was calm and there was a big island directly in her path that nobody seemed to notice. The ship sat intact until, considered hazardous to other vessels, she was salvaged and demolished during World War I. Lying as shallow as six feet and deeper than 20, she offers much too explore: great structures, moray eels, grouper and so much more. This is one of San Sal's favorite shallow sites.
Willaurie (Wreck City, Nassau/New Providence)
A former island mail boat, the Willaurie sank in Nassau's harbor in 1988, was raised and sank again. A second attempt succeeded in keeping her afloat. She was towed to the southwest corner of New Providence and laid to rest at a depth of 70 feet. Sitting upright and crowned by a steel framework, she now sports a coating of sponge and cup corals and is home to many fish. With a minimum depth of 45 feet, she is appropriate for every level of diver.
Vulcan Bomber (Wreck City, Nassau/New Providence)
New Providence has been Hollywood's underwater studio for decades, resulting in the normal detritus, a variety of discarded props. The Vulcan Bomber is one of the results. A mock-up of a bomber, she was used in the filming of Thunderball. While the covering has rotted away, the framework remains. Looking much like a jungle gym with a lot of jungle on her, she is easily the most photogenic site in the area. Spreading deepwater gorgonians, colorful sponge growth, a great structure and lots of fish make her a photographer's dream. A must-do site.
Devil's Backbone (North Eleuthera/Harbour Island)
The first known wreck on this reef carried the Eleutherian Adventurers, a group of Bermudians fleeing religious persecution and seeking a new life. They floundered on the Backbone and, once ashore and recovered, gave Eleuthera its name which came from the Greek word for freedom. Evidence of their ship has since rotted away, but remains of many others are here and visited daily. Top sites include Onions and Potatoes, the Cienfuego and the Train Wreck, among others. Most are shallow, and the surrounding reefs, the reason for their demise, offer interesting diving.