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RMS Rhone - Courtesy of Rainbow Visions

Shoal of fish on RMS Rhone - Courtesy of John Liddiard

Prop shaft of the RMS Rhone- Courtesy of John Liddiard

Scuba Diving in the British Virgin Islands, Caribbean

Dive Site: RMS Rhone

Location: Salt Island

Description: Royal Mail Steamship

Length: 95 metres (312 feet)

Depth: 24 metres (80 feet)

Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)

Rating: ****

The wreck of the RMS Rhone is considered to be one of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean, if not in the world. It is the wreckage of a Royal Mail steamship that got caught in a hurricane in October 1867. It was a huge 95 metres long and the fastest ship of its time, holding the record as the first steel-hulled, propeller driven ship to cross the Atlantic. It took mail and passengers from England to the British Virgin Islands. As the hurricane hit, visibility was greatly reduced and the Rhone got dangerously close to the rocks at Black Rock Point. The captain was swept off of the ship by a huge wave and never seen again, leaving the Rhone to slowly meet its fate as it drifted into the rocks off of Salt Island. As the boiler was hit it caused a huge explosion that split the Rhone in two. The stern sank into 10 metres of water and the bow into 24 metres, with the prow emerging from the seas surface. Passengers aboard the Rhone had little chance of survival as they had been locked in their cabins for their own safety. Despite this 23 people survived the tragedy, although sadly 124 passengers did not.

The Rhone makes a superb dive for both pleasure and for training. The sheer size of it means you can do at least two dives without covering the whole wreckage. The easy descent from the surface to the shallower sections of the wreck makes this a great dive for those who have never done any wreck diving previously. The Rhone lies on the starboard side and the interior is still mostly intact, allowing some basic penetration. There is an abundance of life on the wreck, which is coated in coral and filled with shoals of fish. Look to the sea floor as well as to the wreck itself as there are the scattered remains of the boilers and deck supports.

Reader Reviews:

One of the top wreck dives in the Caribbean. It ranges in depth from 30ft to 80ft, conditions are generally good but there can be strong currents. It has a vast variety of fish life and corals. Famous for the filming of the movie The Deep.

Keith Royle, Instructor

This was my first-ever dive and it was absolutely beautiful. But don't do it without certification and good equipment. There was no dive Center involved, just my brother in law with his new toy and a serious disregard for safety but I cannot blame only him. I went down there!

I used a brownie, it was my first time underwater and the thing failed when I was in about 80' of water. I am happy to be alive. Obviously I'm stupid for being that deep but just an FYI on the brownie thing, don't use it below 20' or so!! The brownie is a floating air compressor with really long hoses. We were diving with weight belts, masks and the brownie hose which goes up to the surface equipment, so you're breathing surface air the whole time.

Obviously not smart to be so deep with this type of stuff. What if the thing ran out of gas or the engine quit? Our issue was different, the hose we were breathing through 'kinked' and therefore we couldn't get any air. I'm just trying to educate people on how dangerous these things are for beginners like myself.

Until it happened, I'd say diving was the coolest visual experience I've ever had. Now, I'm gonna get certified and do it the right way.

Eric Wynsma

Please note dive site directory do not condone diving without the correct equipment or qualifications.

The RMS Rhone is one of the best dives in the world. I have been there several times and I would go anytime again.

Max Pucher

We just got back from 10 days of sailing in the BVIs including 10 dives. Two of our dives were on the Rhone. GREAT site! You could easily spend 2 days diving the Rhone and still not see it all.

Pete and Pam Demarest

I liked the Rhone, not the best in the world. Lots of sticks and pipe all over, plenty of fish, nice quiet 30-60 dive. Can be large groups swarming it. Nothing to go "in". The bow was most interesting, to see a ship that old was fun. I liked the dogs better while in BVI.

Naked Sailor

The Rhone is essentially split into two parts - if you dive the deeper section there bits to "go in". The shallower portion is all blown open, although one can still swim through a short enclosure where the (huge!) propellor is.

Colin Riegels | 05/06/2009

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