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     The Cayman Islands Shipwreck Expo Directory
     
Capt. Dan Berg's Guide to Shipwrecks information
     Historical and current Cayman Islands Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers and fisherman.
 
 

Grand Cayman Shipwrecks
Source of information on shipwrecks of Grand Cayman and Little Cayman including links to other shipwreck vacation destinations. Information and images taken from Capt. Dan Berg's Tropical Shipwreck book. According to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism . Cayman has World Renowned Dive Sites.
Whether you opt to go in it, or just sit above it, there's something about the turquoise waters, white sand and refreshing breezes that keep visitors to the Cayman Islands coming back for more. There's no limit to the number of things you can see and do, from the thrill of going underwater without getting wet to the fun of parasailing along the beautiful Seven Miles Beach or just basking in the sun. The ideas are endless when you just add water. Watersports centers that offer a variety of ways to get wet are located in the most convenient spots in the Cayman Islands, with the main centers being located at major hotels on Island. Depending on the location, these might include ocean kayaks, windsurfing boards, hobie cats, waverunners, aqua trikes, view boards, sun searcher floats, banana boat rides, paddle cats, paddleboats, parasailing, water-skiing or small sailboats.

How to SHIPWRECK DIVING Guide By Capt Dan Berg

For more information about the Cayman Islands visit the Cayman Islands  Board of Tourism’s official website –www.caymanislands.ky


      ANNA MARIE

The Anna Marie is also referred to as the Tug Wreck. She was a 25 foot long, wood hulled tug boat that was used as a support vessel for the Atlantis submarine. The little tug was  sunk by a storm in 1987 and now rests upright in 50 feet of water on a sand flat just outside of Devil's Grotto in the southwest corner of Georgetown Harbor. This miniature tug has now been transformed into a wonderful little fish haven and makes a great background for wide angle photographs.

    BALBOA

The Balboa was a 375foot freighter sunk, on November 10th, 1932, during a hurricane.  After sailing from Cuba into Georgetown, the ship began to experience engine trouble. She was then caught in shallow water while enduring a hurricane in full force.  Mother nature played a cruel trick on the Balboa by inflicting waves so high that the ship was bounced up and down off the ocean floor.  Eventually, the vessel could take no more, and her hull gave way. 

The Balboa was carrying a cargo of wood and oil when she went down.  The Caymanian's claim that after the ship sunk you could have walked from the wreck to shore on her cargo of wood without  even getting your feet wet.  It is also said that the wood that washed onto shore was used to build a church steeple. The story of this wreck is told by dive masters as being a gift from God. 

In 1957, the Army Corp of Engineers decided that this wreck was a hazard to navigation, and had to be blown up.

Today, the Balboa rests on a sandy bottom in 30 to 35 feet of water.  Divers can explore her stern section which remains partially intact, or they can swim over a large three bladed steel propeller.  Divers can also swim through a tent like shape that was formed by her steel hull plates. 

Fish feeding and photography are ideal activities for this wreck.  The Balboa seems to attract a large array of aquatic life.  We were lucky enough to find and photograph large green moray eel in the Balboa's boiler room, located just off the wreck's starboard side.  Also happy to have their picture taken were some tiger groupers.  This site has become a quite popular night dive too. According to noted photographer Joe Koppleman, the Balboa is one of the best places in the world to find and photograph the Orange Ball Anonyme (Pseudocorynactis Caribbeorun). Also called Sunburst Anonyme, this rare species is seldom seen by  divers.

    CALLIE

Built in 1900, the Callie wreck was a 220 foot, four masted steel schooner, or barkentine that had been refitted with an engine.  The Callie was said to have been carrying a cargo of grain when she ran aground in1944. As the grain absorbed sea water that was leaking in, it quickly expanded and caused the doom of the ship.  Since the Callie had become a serious hazard to navigation in the area, it was decided in 1957, as it was with the Balboa, that the British Army Corp of Engineers would blow her up. The Callie now lies scattered over a very large area  just inshore from the Balboa and about 100 feet from shore in 20 feet of water.

Since the wreckage is so close to shore, access is very easy for anyone interested.  She is located directly in front of  Surfside Watersports where divers may conveniently rent gear and tanks.  You can then swim to the Callie from the beach by following a 300 degree compass course.  The shop owners have placed steps in the water which make for an easy entry from their deck.  There are also various boat trips that can be taken to the Callie. Boat loads of snorklers can explore not only the wreck but the surrounding reef as well.  If you're diving on the wreck when one of these boats arrive as we were, this area will suddenly look like the sea of legs. 

While a diver is approaching the Callie which is marked with a large steel mooring buoy, the first piece to be seen is a large triangular shaped portion of her bow.  This introduction to the wreck only makes you more enthusiastic about ending this rather long swim and finally reaching the main wreckage area.  Slightly north of this piece is the main area. Once you get there, you'll see pieces of the broken ship everywhere you look.  In fact, it's hard to decide which way to go first.  Although less obvious than the rest of the wreck, divers  can easily locate a huge pile of anchor chain.  Next you will come across her large deck winch, then swimming along the keel to her massive engine and partially intact stern section. Observant divers should be able to locate an intact porthole that is lying face down still firmly attached to a steel plate. 

The marine life at this wreck was not as impressive as the other wrecks on the island, but we did see some large barracuda, tiger groupers, two large puffer fish, trumpet fish, a small spotted moray eel, and, of course, the always present and ready for a handout, yellow tailed snappers.  Don't forget about the reef surrounding the wreck. As we found out, it is definitely worth exploring, and since you're diving in such shallow water a full tank of air allows plenty of time to explore both the wreck and the reef.

    CARRIE LEE

 The Carrie Lee was a freighter approximately 100 feet in length that originally sank on the far side of Grand Cayman. While en route, the ship capsized, turtled, and floated upside down for a few days. In an attempt to save her, she was towed into Georgetown, but this attempt was in vain. The Carrie Lee sunk, flipped over again, and landed on the bottom upright and intact.

Unfortunately for the local dive  operations, the Carrie Lee didn't stay in water shallow enough for sport divers. Instead, she slid down a sandy slope to her present location which puts her stern in 130 feet of water and her bow in approximately 200 feet of water. 

We were lucky enough to be able to charter two dive trips to the Carrie Lee.  On our first trip, we scouted the wall for about 20 minutes in search of the wreck and finally found her. Unfortunately our bottom time was used up, and we had no choice but to settle for a distant photo. Exploration was left for another day. 

On our second trip, Captain Butch brought us right to the wreck. We found her to be perfectly intact, and it looked as though she was waiting for us to explore her rusted remains.  Her pilot house is accessible through a door on her port side.  A big spotlight and brass horns are still mounted atop the pilot house.  If we swam any further ahead of the pilothouse, we would have ended up in water considered too deep for sport divers.  However, we were totally in our glory just to be able to explore the stern section since there was such a large assortment of interesting items.  Among these items was an intact porthole and, after wiping off some light marine growth, we were able to read the wreck's name Carrie Lee on her stern.

     GAMMA

The Gamma is a steel freighter now resting on the shoreline between Georgetown and Seven Mile Beach. This wreck can be explored or at least observed by even a tourist walking down the beach. In 1980, the Gamma ran aground on an offshore reef during a storm or Norwester as the Caymanian's commonly refer to them. The ship's owners apparently didn't feel that she was worth salvaging and left her to rest on the reef. Sometime later, after another storm, the ship was forced up onto the beach which is where she rests today. Her owners finally decided to hire a salvage company to remove any existing precious metals off of the rusting hull. Thus, all of her brass portholes  and fittings are now gone. These pieces were brought to the United States and sold as scrap metal.  Although the Gamma is not deep enough to dive , snorklers swimming in the area can enjoy a nice assortment of fish.  Some of the local inhabitants we saw included trunk fish, blue tangs, peacock flounder, parrot fish, rock beauties, and the ever delightful angel fish.  The Gamma is also a great spot for a photo back drop on the beach, especially if you wait for a Caribbean sunset to enhance the background.

      KIRK PRIDE

A visit to the wreck of the Kirk Pride is definitely the highlight of any wreck diver's trip to Grand Cayman.  The Kirk Pride was a 170foot cargo vessel weighing 498 gross tons. In 1976 the Kirk Pride was docked in Georgetown due to engine trouble.  A Northeaster was building up, and, in an effort to save the ship from being banged up at dock, it was decided to move her to deeper waters where it was thought she would be much safer.   The ship's engines were started, and she was backed out from dock.  Unluckily, it was necessary to turn her engines back off in order to switch into forward gear.  It was at this time that fate struck.  The engines would not start again, and the ship was helplessly driven into a reef. The damaged vessel was now in serious trouble as the ocean water quickly began to seep in. In another attempt to save her, she was fitted with pumps and towed into deeper water. While awaiting a calmer sea that would allow more extensive repairs, the Kirk Pride was left anchored in 60 feet of water with drainage pumps running.  During the night, the wind changed direction causing the ship to swing around and hover defenseless over the Cayman wall which drops down into 3,000 feet of water. By morning, the pumps had been overcome with sea water, and her two cargo holds were filled. At 9:30 AM January 9, 1976, the ocean once again held an empty surface as the Kirk Pride plunged down into unknown depths.

It was not until 1985that the Kirk Pride was rediscovered. While on one of their underwater expeditions, Research Submersibles Ltd. came upon the Kirk Pride.  She had not fallen into the depth of 3000 feet as it was believed but instead became wedged into her final resting place by two huge pinnacles in 800 feet of water. A small pinnacle or haystack trapped the stern, while a large 60 foot high boulder trapped the bow.

Today, this wreck is far beyond the limits of a sport diver but can be viewed through the use of Research Submersibles Ltd's two passenger submersible.  The submarine ride will last for about one hour and 30 minutes.  This once in a life time adventure of dropping to the great depths of the sea and viewing the wreck of the Kirk Pride is a memory that will be long lived in anyone's mind. 

The wreck is clearly visible and still sits upright.  Her name can easily be read on the stern as well as on the bow.  She has two cargo compartments.  The aft hold still contains a Volkswagen Thing and some sacks of cement. Portholes, cage lamps, the ship's telegraph, a spare anchor, and a deck winch were all pointed out to us by the operator of the sub. 

In November of 1988,National Geographic published a remarkable stern photo that captured almost the entire  wreck in one image. To get the photo, two submersibles were used along with two glass floats each filled with four dozen flashbulbs. The combined flash and lights were over five times the  intensity of a standard Coast Guard lighthouse. It was one of the most powerful photo flashes ever taken underwater.

Don't be worried, decent photos of the wreck can be taken by anyone using a high speed film such as 400 or 1000 ASA or video. They will not show the entire wreck in one photo but will document your dive.  The entire experience was a perfect way to wrap up a great week of diving on Grand Cayman's shipwrecks.


ORO VERDE

 As we found out on our trip, the Oro Verde is by far the most popular wreck dive in Grand Cayman.  Dive boats run trips to this wreck regularly, day and night. 

The Oro Verde was an84 foot, steel cargo vessel which was towed and sunk on May 31, 1980, by the Caymanian government. This was done in a joint effort with dive operators.  When the ship was originally sunk, she was completely intact and lay on her starboard side.  Today, years later, much of her upper structure has given into the elements of time and collapsed.  Her bow section is slightly tilted towards her starboard side, and the deck winch and hand railings are still in place.

If divers enter the wreck through the large square deck hatch, a penetration  can be made of  about 25 feet forward. Once inside, there are a group of porthole openings you can look through or   some inner rooms that are still intact that can be explored. 

Behind the bow section of the wreck, divers can swim in and around huge steel plates or just have fun feeding the fish.  Be careful not to be too surprised if while feeding the fish, all of a sudden  a 300 pound jew fish is right under you waiting for a handout.  This jew fish is more commonly referred to as Sweet Lips or George and has made the wreck of the Oro Verde his home. Other inhabitants of the Oro Verde include a four foot spotted moray eel that lives in a pipe just forward of the pilot house, a six foot green moray named Kermit who can usually be found under some of the steel plates and a four foot barracuda named Puff.  If you look hard enough as we did, you may also find a large rock lobster living under the wreck.   Due to the constant hand feedings from divers, the most common fish of all are overly plump yellow tail snappers, and some beautiful large angel fish.

Since this wreck lies in 50 feet of water, there is more than sufficient bottom time for exploration and photography.  Divers of all experience levels can enjoy the wreck of the Oro Verde. 

         
    PALACE WRECK

The Palace Wreck is the remains of a  Norwegian steel hulled brigantine that was forced onto a reef during a storm in 1903. The wreckage is in very shallow water of about eight to ten feet. She is in very small pieces that provide a home for almost every sort of fish and invertebrate represented on the island. Some fish commonly observed here include puffer fish, scorpion fish, flying gurnards, stingrays, parrot fish, and juvenile lobsters.  Much of the old rusting hulk remains above the water line, which makes her easy to locate as a beach dive. The Palace is an excellent site for snorklers to explore. According to photographers Courtney and Cozy Platt, a word of caution should be extended to the explorer of this wreck. When a large surf breaks over this barrier reef, the build-up of water inside the reef sets up a strong current flowing toward the nearest channel in the reef". Divers should avoid these channels when the surf is up. This site is also in an area heavily used by pleasure craft; as always a dive flag is mandatory. Offshore of the wreck is a reef named Palace Wall after this once fine vessel. 

RIDGEFIELD

The Ridgefield was a Liberian freighter, 441 feet long, 57 feet wide, weighed 7,217 gross tons, and was built at the New England Ship Building Corporation, Portland, Maine in1943. The Ridgefield was originally built as a liberty ship for WW II and christened the James A. Butts. In 1947 she was renamed Lone Star State, in 1955, Anniston and in 1957, Caldwell. Later in 1958 she was again sold and renamed Ridgefield. On December 18, 1962, while en route from Maracaibo to Galvestone with a cargo of grain and beer, the Ridgefield ran aground and broke in two.

Today, the Ridgefield is located off the east end of the island in 20 feet of water. Her bow and stern sections are mostly flattened out, a testament to the constant pounding of the ocean waves and power of seasonal tropical storms. Her center section is still standing high and dry above a site that is beautiful to dive or snorkel on.


LITTLE CAYMAN             

         SOTO TRADER

The Soto Trader was a120 foot long by 30 foot wide, steel hulled island freighter registered in Grand Cayman. In April of 1975, she was en route from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac, carrying a cargo of beer, gasoline, diesel fuel, cement mixers, and ajeep and stopped at Little Cayman only to off load diesel for local generators on the island. While at anchor in an area called The Flats, her crew was pumping diesel fuel into 55 gallon drums which would later be transported by small boats to the island when tragedy struck. Some of the diesel had leaked onto her decks and ignited from a spark, quickly engulfing the vessel inflames. One crew member die'd of burns almost immediately, while another lived through being transported to a hospital on Cayman Brac only to pass away two  hours later. The rest of her crew eluded injury. The Soto Trader burned from3:00 PM until 7:00 AM the next day before slipping beneath the waves to her watery grave.

The wreck is now sitting in 60 feet of water on the southwest side of Little Cayman, completely intact and upright. According to Gary Moore, a veteran Caribbean diver, and Croy McCoy, an island dive guide, divers will find three large cargo doors on her main deck, all open, which allow for easy access to her cargo holds. Inside her holds are some remains of her cargo including the jeep chassis and cement mixers. There is a crane mounted midship with the boom facing bow to stern. A big green moray eel can usually be found living inside the boom. The wreck's pilot house is still intact, and her rudder and propeller can be seen sitting just on top of a coral reef. The area is frequently visited by eagle rays, puffer fish, shrimp, and angel fish. This site is not dove too often. Unfortunately, the Soto Trader is situated on the opposite side of the island from where all of the popular reef dives are. If, however, you can schedule a dive here, we think you will be quite pleased. Expected visibility ranges from 40 to 70 feet.  
   
 
Tropical Shipwrecks ebook
The Diver's guide to Shipwrecks of the Caribbean and Bahamas

Buy Now   only $9.95
7.3 MB instant download, printable  PDF file

Tropical Shipwrecks contains a wealth if information such as; aquatic life, currents, bottom composition, depth, visibility and the history and present condition of 135 shipwrecks spread over 35 tropical islands. This downloadable ebook includes 127 illustrations comprised of color photos, Black and white historical images, maps, and drawings which combined with an informative text paint a complete picture of each wreck site. Many of these rare photos have never before been published. Divers, snorkelers, marine historians, armchair sailor or anyone with a general interest in history, diving or the sea will surely find this book fascinating and the perfect addition to their library.

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Courtesy www.caymanislands.ky
       
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T\e Csrrie Ize capsized and floated upside down before sinking during an attempt to right her, Photo by Courtney

Platt

 

 

 

 
 

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