The wreck of the RMS Rhone

The wreck of the RMS Rhone is world famous, and well worth a visit. It lies in the Marine National Park of the British Virgin Islands, and includes some exotic sounding sites including Dead Chest Island (my favorite), Rhone Reef, Blonde Rock, and Painted Walls. This was the location where some scenes of the movie “The Deep” starring Jacqueline Bisset and Nick Nolte were shot.

This “unsinkable” ship split in 2 during a hurricane when cold seawater washed over the hot boilers causing a massive explosion. The stern settled in water 35 feet deep, while the bow lies in water about 80 feet deep. Two separate dives are needed to visit both sections of the ship, one deeper dive first for the bow, and another later for the stern.

There’s plenty to se down there and the visibility is amazing. The wreck is visible as you snorkel in the water, waiting for the dive team to gather in the water. While descending, you can see shoals of Sennet, looking like the miniature Barracuda that they are. At some point, we also got to see the real deal, a large resident Barracuda that the local diving community affectionately refers to as “Fang”. If you’re lucky, you may bump into “Suzy”, the Moray Eel. (Quick trivia for the movie fans out there. Moray Eels were the inspiration for the double jaws of the movie monster in the “Alien” movies, so make sure that you keep your hands out of reach.) On our dive, you can also see snapper, lobster, a loggerhead turtle, and a black tip shark. Lionfish can also be seen around the wreck. Although beautiful to look at, its an invasive species that is causing quite a bit of damage to the local ecosystem.

As you descend closer to the ship, the outline snaps into sharper focus, allowing you to take in the Orange Cup Coral that covers it. The interior of the ship is huge, and easily accessible. Given the age of the vessel, which sunk in 1867, its in pretty good shape. The decking and parts of the rigging are still there, as well as the steam engine and the propeller. The Rhone was one of the most advanced ships of its time, another “unsinkable” and one of the first to power itself with a propeller rather than sails. Other notable objects to look out for are a silver teaspoon, and a “lucky” porthole. Legend has it that Captain Wooley was on deck stirring rum into his tea with that very teaspoon during that storm, before he was washed overboard by a huge wave. As for the porthole, that’s considered “lucky” because it’s the only one that still has an unbroken window and its considered good luck to rub it 3 times.

This dive gets 2 thumbs up, one for the marine life, and another for the wreck itself.