The final day of diving today focused on the big wreck dive, the RMS Rhone. Once we reached the dive site, Casey gave us a rich history on the Royal Mail Ship and how it ultimately sank. Originally it was designated as a mail ship and moved to work the Caribbean Line in order to transport valuable goods such as champagne, gold, and luxury items. However, because moving said items wasn’t exactly profitable, the costs for the journey were offset by outfitting the ship with passenger quarters and moving English tourists down to see the islands. This became a luxury form of travel for passengers to visit exotic locales all around the Caribbean. Before the one ship became two pieces, it was at about 310ft. long and 40ft. across and was equipped with new technology of the time, a boiler and propellers, as well as a mast and sail as a backup. It also had a signal cannon to communicate because horns didn’t exist back then.On the day of October 29th, towards the end of the hurricane season, the barometric pressure in the area dropped suddenly, but because of the date and the casual mood of the passengers, nobody suspected their ultimate demise, the second worst hurricane to ever hit the islands. In port the Rhone was docked with gangplanks alongside another ship, the Conway, in order for the Conway’s passengers to witness the “unsinkable” beauty of the Rhone and have an event on deck. When the storm blew in and the ships eventually made it to the eye of the hurricane, the Conway pulled anchor and headed towards another nearby island to better ride out the storm. The Rhone raised anchor, but it got caught in the coral, so the Rhone was stuck in the storm and set off-course, eventually crashing and sinking in about ten seconds into the nearest rock. The resulting stress on the hull disturbed the boiler enough that it broke and put out extremely hot water around the boat and it tore itself apart with the resulting stress from the cold water around the ship. After the wreck and the recovery efforts of crewmen and passengers, only one Italian passenger and all crew but Captain Willy survived. Luck is also said to be with porthole twenty six on the stern section, the room of the single living passenger of the wreck. Also visible on the stern section are the large boat wrenches used in the ship and captain Willy’s silver teaspoon. Furthermore, when cruise ships set out to the island after the wreck, the still visible mast of the sunken Rhone was a bad advertisement for the incoming ships. So, with the task of blowing up the mast, the navy set out with dynamite from Tortola in order to get rid of the eyesore. Except, instead of only using what they needed and making a return trip to ditch the extra dynamite, they used all of it, totaling the stern section and sending debris everywhere.
During the dive I was thoroughly impressed as I got to see a seahorse latched to a piece of coral and a good amount of trunkfish. During the second dive of the Rhone, I was able to see various new sights, including the propeller and more pieces of the stern section that I hadn’t gotten to see last year because we only did a one-tank dive for the Rhone during Marine 1.
For lunch we visited Cooper Island and had some tasty conk fritters. Afterwards, we went on a snorkel around the sea grass near the island; I was able to see a fireworm and a sea turtle as well.
After returning to Guavaberry and a quick shower, we went to church on top of a high mountain overlooking the harbor and the rest of the islands. It was really awesome to return to the same spot after a year and see such a an amazing view. After we finished having a great dinner on the beach with all the dive masters, we went on a night snorkel off the beach of Guavaberry. While snorkeling, we saw some bioluminescent phytoplankton, a group of squids, and a sleeping parrotfish.
Tomorrow I’m looking forward to finally presenting the results of our project and having a bit of free time afterwards to enjoy our last day.