Divers of All Levels Can Enjoy Anguilla’s Sunken Ships
A stingray materializes from the sandy sea bottom like a phoenix rising from white-hot ashes, flapping its wings as it prepares for underwater flight. Behemoth lobsters, more than 2 feet in length, clack their claws aggressively at divers before scuttling back to their hideouts. And that’s just a taste of what lies beneath the surface just offshore Anguilla’s Atlantic side.
Thanks to six freighters ranging from 110- to 250- feet long sunk just off the coast to create artificial reefs, the Caribbean isle is a veritable scuba theme park. Most sites are a short 15-minute boat ride from shore and depths start in as little as 30 feet of water, but mostly average 60-80 feet, which makes them accessible to beginners and seasoned divers alike.
At the Oosterdiep, 3-foot-long sea turtles settle lazily on the bow and a spotted moray eel often snakes its way around the periphery. Schools of mercury-hued jacks, neon-yellow French angels, steel-eyed barracuda, and yellowtail snappers swim nearby.
On calm current days, divers can float through the remains of the MV Commerce, a rich backdrop for underwater photography—and home to 10-pound lobsters. At 250 feet from bow to stern, the Sarah wreck is the largest of all the submerged ships.
The Meppel, also called the Hilda, may have the best story. It served as a ship-to-shore transport during World War II, vanished in a hurricane in 1995, and was only rediscovered three years ago. According to All at Sea, “Once the true history of the Meppel was learned, I (Anguilla sailor Steve Donahue), along with Marine Archeologist Lilli Azevedo and dive operator Douglas ‘Dougie’ Carty, began a further search for the wreck. In October 2009, the Governor’s Office arranged for the loan of the helicopter from the visiting HMS Iron Duke in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the wreck from the air. Dougie continued the search on many of his dive trips at his own expense, and finally – on 23 March, 2010 – he located the wreck by chance off the north coast of Anguilla. The wreck is in an upright position and in excellent condition in 80 feet of water.”
Native Douglas Carty of Special ‘D’ Diving and Charters guides tours of these sunken paradises from his dock in Sandy Ground. According to their website, “Special ‘D’ Diving & Charters owns and operates a 30 foot Monohull Fiber Glass Boat and is conveniently situated in Sandy Ground where we offer daily scheduled dives and private dive charters with over 18 years diving experience in Anguilla. Open 7 days a week.”