DiverWire Destination: The GHOST SHIP of Saba Banks
(DiverWire) Brand new DiverWire contributing writer Chris Davies of Octopus Diving shares the experience of finding a new dive site on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten.
“The Ghost Ship” sounds like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, however the Ghost Ship that we dived recently is real and probably one of the last existing mysteries of the Caribbean.
About 3 years ago I was informed about a ship that was found and nobody knew about it. This ship had no name, no mayday was given and no loss of life reported. This is rare in Modern day Maritime History as most vessels carry the appropriate safety equipment, Marine Radios and locating beacons called EPIRB’s.
Our goals were to find out why she sank, how she sank and to hopefully have an idea if it’s worth diving again! Others had tried like the “Wreck Detectives”, but they put her sinking down to being scuttled. We now know why she sank and she wasn’t scuttled.
The Ghost Ship lies on the Saba Banks, notorious for treacherous conditions, big seas, strong currents, ‘Man Eating Sharks” and also this ship is known to be “Cursed” by some fishermen. So we knew we had to be cautious.
First we set our dive plan, calculated gas mixes, bottom time and Decompression stops and times. This isn’t easy as we both have to make sure that we have enough gas to complete the dive, enough gas to decompress and also enough gas to decompress on our travel gas (the 2 tanks we wear on our backs) just in case our Deco gas is compromised.
This is not as easy as it sounds and as the dive was so remote, we also had to make sure that we were covered for every eventuality.
On Sunday 20th January 2013 our weather window appeared.
At 0530am I headed over to the boat, met the crew, did a final check and we headed out.
Sea conditions were ok and we had a following sea so it wasn’t too bad. We headed to Saba First and then turned to head out to the Wreck. 1 ½ hours to Saba and then 26miles or 1 hour to the wreck. This was the easy part and we knew the return journey would be rough to say the least.
Once at the wreck site, the first thing we had to do is make sure we had a wreck to dive! It sounds so easy just follow some coordinates, tie the boat to a mooring and jump in for a lovely relaxing dive….. NOT today! It took an hour to find the wreck using the echo sounder, then we had to tie the boat into the wreck. This is easier said than done and took us a few attempts until we hooked into it.
As we got to 15M deep we had hundred of Horse Eye Jacks, African Pompano jacks, huge and aggressive Barracuda and SHARKS… it was amazing how fast the sharks came and also how close they came too. They are obviously not used to Divers!
We encountered more sharks, monstrous Jacks, Nurse Sharks, Turtles and just shoal after shoal of fish I also witnessed Cobia’s underwater for the first time which was really cool. The Saba Banks are known as the Nursery for the Caribbean and this was definitely apparent.
The wreck sits upright, still anchored and looks like it was being used as a very cheap transportation vessel for shipping Cement. The boat is full of massive bags of cement. 4Foot cubed bags of cement. There must be hundreds of them.
Whilst in water both Simon and I had a very clear idea of how this boat spent it’s last minutes.
Before heading to the surface I had to get inside the wreck and found an awesome hatch that lead me into the hull. If you watch the video this part is at the end of it. That was a really cool way to end one of the most exciting dives I have ever done.
Once we were at minute 45 it was time to head back to our first Deco stop for 20 minutes of Deco with loads of sharks!!
At this point I couldn’t stop smiling…. I know how many people talk about diving this wreck and we just did it and I videoed the whole experience!
Then reality dawned when a rather large wave broke over the bow…. it looked like our second dive was out of the question as while we were diving 3 squalls had picked up around us. The squalls were around 10 miles away, but it was enough to pick the seas up and force us to run for cover.
We cut the anchor line (left a $350 Fortress Anchor on the wreck) and I took my SMB and left a reel tied to it for next time!
For more details about this and other exciting opportunities from Octopus Diving, visit the website.