Setting sail for the Rhone

We had our first early morning dive today, splashing into Squid Reef at 6:46 am.  Not quite sunrise, but close.  Unlike the name implies, there were no squid to be found on Squid Reef, not even for ready money!  The most beautiful fish that I saw on this dive was the Indigo Hamlet.  I could watch it for hours. There was a lot of life, but we were at the mercy of our decompression algorithms on the dive.  We are definitely planning on using Nitrox on the first dive on the Rhone today.  There were a lot of jellyfish on the way up, many babies, and one large one just hanging out by the skiff.

I had a rather ungainly fall when the skiff banged into the Cuan Law - I had been propping my tank up on the side of the skiff, and was more than a little off balance.

The first dive this afternoon (well, the only dive this afternoon) was on the RMS Rhone Wreck.  It is most famously known as the wreck on which The Deep was largely filmed.   We wound up doing a live entry direct descent to the bow, and had a leisurely tour of the ship.  The great barracuda was hanging out in the bowsprit as promised, and we swam by the ship signaling cannon, and through the open hatch from “The Deep.” The boiler was in pieces, and schools of snapper were plentiful.  After we went by the water reclamation area, used to create fresh water to cool the pipes, we went up to the stern where we saw the water pump, the disco flooring, the lucky porthole, and Captain Wooley’s silver teaspoon, which we touched for good luck.  

The RMS Rhone was a British packet ship owned by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company (RMSP). She was wrecked off the coast of Salt Island in the British Virgin Islands on 29 October 1867 in a hurricane, taking the lives of 123 people. 

On the day of the sinking, the Rhone's Master, Robert F. Wooley, was slightly worried by the dropping barometer and darkening clouds, but because it was October and hurricane season was thought to be over, Rhone and Conway stayed in Great Harbour. The storm which subsequently hit was later known as the San Narciso Hurricane and retrospectively categorised as a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. The first half of the storm passed without much event or damage, but the ferocity of the storm worried the captains of the Conway and Rhone, as their anchors had dragged and they worried that when the storm came back after the eye of the storm had passed over, they would be driven onto the shore of Peter Island.

They decided to transfer the passengers from the Conway to the "unsinkable" Rhone; the Conway was then to head for Road Harbour and the Rhone would make for open sea. As was normal practice at the time, the passengers in the Rhone were tied into their beds to prevent them being injured in the stormy seas.  Just as Rhone was passing Black Rock Point, less than 250 yards (230 m) from safety, the second half of the hurricane came around from the south. The winds shifted to the opposite direction and Rhone was thrown directly into Black Rock Point. It is said that the initial lurch of the crash sent Captain Wooley overboard, never to be seen again. Local legend says that his teaspoon can still be seen lodged into the wreck itself. Whether or not it is his, a teaspoon is clearly visible entrenched in the wreck's coral. The ship broke in two, and cold seawater made contact with her hot boilers which had been running at full steam, causing them to explode.

The ship sank swiftly, the bow section in 80 feet (24 m) of water, the stern in 30 feet (9 m). Of the 146 people originally aboard, plus an unknown number of passengers transferred from the Conway, only 23 (all crew) survived the wreck. The bodies of many of the sailors were buried in a nearby cemetery on Salt Island. Due to her mast sticking out of the water, and her shallow depth, she was deemed a hazard by the Royal Navy in the 1950s and her stern section was blown up (thank you Wikipedia!).

We entertained ourselves between dives by watching The Deep.  Back in the 1970s, it was a scary movie, but by today’s standards quite tame.  We laughed quite a bit watching dives taking place while wearing long pants and a collared long sleeve shirt.  

Our night dive was on the stern of the Rhone.  We did another live entry direct descent, where we were exposed to a wicked, wicked current.  The dive time was limited to 45 minutes, which was a whole lot of work.  We were greeted by squid, 3 turtles and an octopus, and parrotfish dotted the sea floor.  We ascended the mooring line at the 45 minute mark, did our safety stop, and then ascended, pulling ourselves along the side of the boat on the surface.  We were pretty jammed in, 10 people, which made for an interesting exit and reentry. 

After this, I was VERY tired, but I did manage to log my dives today, and start doing some cursory editing of photographs.  So far our 3G SIM cards are working quite well for the iPad, not a bad investment.  We shall keep the cards, and see where else we can use them in the future.  We now have a set for Costa Rica, Okinawa and BVI.  We did have London SIM cards, but I think it is better to buy the unlimited cards from the airport when you arrive.

Good night all!