Virgin Islands - Diving Into History

On our first full day, we cruised through the Sir Francis Drake Passage in British Virgin Islands waters, following in the wakes of such pirates as Blackbeard and Bluebeard. Our destination: the RMS Rhone, a steamship that sunk off of Salt Island in 1867. Trying to outrun one of the worst hurricanes to ever strike the Virgin Islands, the captain of the Rhone struck the rocks off Salt Island. When cold sea water hit the boiler, the ship exploded and went down with most of the passengers and crew. Today, the wreck is an underwater park and one of the best dive sites in the entire Caribbean.

CJ and I met each other through our mutual enjoyment of scuba diving, so we found it quite exciting to descend on our first dive together on a wreck made famous in the movie "The Deep." We had a fantastic time exploring the remains of the wreck, even swimming through the darkened cavity of the hull. We saw a humongous lobster, a large crab, rainbow-hued parrotfish and many other colorful fish before finally surfacing.

On the way back to St. John, Divemaster Trevor pointed out Dead Chest Island, a tiny cay off of Peter Island. There, legend has it, the pirate Blackbeard sent 15 of his men off with a case of rum to dig a hole for his treasure. After digging a deep hole, the drunk pirates all fell in and died, and the famous verse was born: "Fifteen men on a Dead Man's Chest, Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum." (But as with any lore told to you by a Divemaster, take it with a bucket of salt.)

Landlocked as I have been in Virginia, I was eager to do a lot more diving on this trip. But I'd say we got the most out of our one diving day by spending it on such an interesting wreck dive. And I have a dive trip to Key Largo on the radar in June....

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