Bermuda's waters hold a chronology of disasters that profiles human progress spanning five centuries of shipping. Storms and treacherous reefs ravaged them all without prejudice: British mail packets, tramp steamers, blockade-runners, yachts, liners and French frigates.
When exploring the history below the surface, be sure to visit the remains of the four-masted schooner Constellation. But you must dive it when the sun is shining usually no problem in Bermuda to get the full effect. At a depth of 30 feet, divers ogle the bottom, which is covered with thousands of bottles and glass shards that sparkle like jewels in the crystal-clear water.
They're part of a cargo of medicine, whiskey and opium ampules bound for Venezuela in 1943. The remains also became the stage for the Hollywood production The Deep, author Peter Benchley's tale of treasure, drugs and intrigue. The film featured actress Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt, a serendipitous Bermudian treasure.
|Life in the Fast Lane
Rent a scooter, the preferred mode of transport on Bermuda, and tour the myriad attractions of this maritime island, or just make your way to one of the pink-sand beaches and idle the day away with a Rum Punch or three.
|1 The Constellation
2 The Hermes
3 The Montana
4 The Cristobal Colon
5 The Mary Celestia
The Constellation is a two-fer: The same dive takes you to the nearby Montana, a 236-foot side-paddle-wheel blockade-runner. Sunk in 1863 en route from London to North Carolina, it foundered on the reef while trying to reach port for fuel.
The Hermes is a quick 15-minute boat ride from shore; this 156-foot steel buoy tender sits upright in the sand at a depth of 80 feet. The ship's mast, stack and gangway provide dramatic photographic backgrounds, while the wheelhouse and engine room offer safe penetrations.
The Cristobal Colon, nearly 500 feet long, is Bermuda's largest wreck. The Spanish liner was stranded on the northern barrier reef in 1936. Its battered remains, half on one side of the reef and half on the other, are strewn across the shallow bottom.
Bermuda is not just about shipwrecks, though; divers also come to see the "the big stuff" at Blue Hole Reef on the west side of the island. Here, great barracuda, red snapper, amberjack, tarpon and grouper congregate in the maze of canyons, tunnels and ridges that rise to within a few feet of the surface.
There are also many topside attractions on this island of pink-sand beaches. The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, opened in 1997, is an inspiration for anyone intrigued by the traditions of the sea and the lore of its ships.
Bermuda has remained a repository of proper British culture: High tea on manicured lawns occurs daily, driving is on the left side of the road, and a national politeness infuses every corner of life.