Imagine an island with so many wrecks littering its coast that they are literally on top of one another, creating one awesome dive site after another. That is Bermuda. All these wrecks were at the heart of Peter Benchley's novel, The Deep, and the film of the same name. The story involved two wrecks from entirely different eras. The first, a vessel called the Goliath, fell victim to the reefs surrounding Bermuda during a severe storm, while ferrying munitions and medical supplies to Europe during World War II. As the story unfolds, the two young honeymooners diving the wreck happen on not only the Goliath's large hidden cache of morphine ampoules, but also the remains of a second vessel, dating back to the 16th century, buried beneath it. The second wreck turns out to be a lost Dutch Tobacco ship originally bound for Spain, filled with treasures of which the world has never seen. Although the book's overall plot was a bit far-fetched, the part about the two wrecks from differing centuries was actually taken from fact! If you doubt that a place could possibly have so many natural shipwrecks that they lie piled on top of one another, you need to visit the island of Bermuda. Lying 650 miles due east of the North Carolina coast, Bermuda could best be described as a small, semi-tropical island displaced to the mid-North Atlantic. Only 21 square miles in size, this idyllic piece of real estate is warmed by the waters of the Gulf Stream, and is rimmed with colorful coral reefs and some of the most beautiful pink-sand beaches in the world. Since the early 16th century, mariners crossing the Atlantic between Europe and North America used the island as a reference point. Many who strayed too close to Bermuda's massive reef system met with disaster. Treasure hunters and shipwreck historians surmise more than 300 ships have met their fate in the island's waters. As a result, the waters around Bermuda are a shipwreck graveyard, filled with everything from Spanish galleons, pre-18th century warships and Civil War blockade runners to 19th- and 20th-century mail steamers, freighters and luxury liners flying the flags of several different nations. Some of the wrecks responsible for inspiring Benchley's novel include the Montana, Constellation and Pollockshields.
The paddlewheel steamer Montana wrecked on the island's eastern reef on Dec. 30, 1836. Today, she lies at rest in 30 feet of water, with a large part of her bow, boilers and paddlewheel frames largely intact. Scarcely 50 feet from the Montana is wreck of the Constellation, a giant, four-masted American schooner that was driven into the reef on July 30, 1943, after reportedly getting caught in a strong current. Its wooden hull having long rotted away, the wreck's most prominent feature is a huge mound of solidified sacks of concrete, dishes and glassware. Included in its 2,000 tons of general cargo were thousands of glass drug ampoules, including morphine, which are still found on occasion. Sound familiar? Completing the model for the Goliath is the wreck of the Pollockshields. On the morning of Sept. 7, 1915, the 323-foot, British munition ship went down with a whopping 350 tons of live ammunition. In addition to an impressive array of flattened deck and hull plates, boilers and enormous engine parts, the wreck site contains a number of unexploded bomb and ammunition shell casings that are heavily encrusted and imbedded in the bottom. Bermuda is the final resting place of hundreds of wrecks such as the Caraquet, Iristo, Cristobal Colon, Taunton, Pelinaion and Mari Celeste, each of which has a unique story to tell. As for which served as the model for the treasure ship with treasures of which the world has never seen ... that you will have to find out on your own.