Since my Advanced Open Water course, where I made a wreck adventure dive, I have been taking every chance I get to dive more wrecks in the area. Just last week, I dived at the RMS Rhone in the British Virgin Islands. It certainly takes a place in the top 3 of my diving career, together with diving with bull sharks and hammerheads. All thrilling experiences.
Many wrecks nowadays have been sunk by local governments to attract divers and also to attract (or restore) marine life. Underwater wrecks often function as an artificial reef and coral often starts to grow on it and fish use it for shelter.
But the RMS Rhone is not put there, but it sank more than 150 years ago near Salt Island. It was a British mail ship. As often with wrecks, many people have lost their lives during the disaster as the ship was caught in a hurricane and thrown on Black Rock. It is a very popular dive site now as the bow of the wreck is quite well preserved, despite its age.
Me and my buddy jumped in the water from a platform at the back of our dive boat. We did a quick equipment check to make sure we were all ok and started our descent to 12m. There is the stern of the wreck. We could see the propeller half buried in the sand. The wreck is roughly broken in 3 pieces. From the stern we continued to the mid section where there are still some wrenches laying around on display. On our way back, a small turtle came to greet us while we were making our safety stop before surfacing.
After a 45 minutes of surface interval, we went down again. This time to visit the deeper bow. The bow is the most impressive as it provides many safe swim-throughs. The ship is laying on its starboard side. On the hull, many coral colonies have found a new home. It is completely encrusted with corals and sponges. That attracts loads of colourful reef fish. Who doesn’t like a parrot fish or a friendly triggerfish? The smaller fish attract the barracudas. I love watching barracudas, they move so graciously through the water. But you don’t want to be in between them and their prey. They have a nice set of sharp teeth and will be happy to snap at you if you disrupt them.
So I made two dives on RMS Rhone as there is so much so see and look for. I saw a few lobsters hiding away in crevices. Two bold octopus sat on the deck with the tentacles intertwined… It must be mating season for them. There are also a bunch of massive moray eels who just stick out their head and constantly open and close their mouth.
I feel I need to go back there someday as there is just so much to see and to explore. It is a pity though that it is quite crowded. I am not the only diver who is fascinated by the abundance of fish and corals and the fascinating contours of the wreck in crystal clear water.
See you soon, RMS Rhone!