When you think about a shipwreck, there’s always this looming mystery behind it. The life of a wreck before being submerged in the ocean is forgotten and consumed by the sea. With that said, that mystery draws a lot of scuba divers in, and that includes me. Without a doubt, my top three dives are all shipwrecks around the world.
However, I struggle to find these wrecks’ history and back story, which sometimes frustrates me. Throughout the Virgin Islands, there are a ton of shipwrecks, and if you plan on coming scuba diving down here I want to give you my shipwreck knowledge.
In this article, I will list my favorite wreck diving throughout the islands and a brief history of each, so strap in and get ready to dive deep into the best wreck diving in the Virgin Islands.
Shipwrecks in The Virgin Islands
As fore-mentioned, there are a ton of wreck diving in the Virgin Islands, but I won’t waste your time with them all. Below I’ve listed my five favorite wrecks in the Virgin Islands.
1. Miss Opportunity, St Thomas
This is a 300-foot-long hospital ship that was purposely sunk. Sitting on her starboard side, she now lies around 60-100 feet of water. The slight turn of the vessel makes penetrating this wreck quite mesmerizing. As you descend into the hallways, you’ll see hallway lights on the floor and windows in the ceiling. Entering this wreck is quite easy, you enter from the stern through a door and are able to push straight through the wreck and out the bow.
While swimming through, keep an eye out because there’s a rumor of a morgue still being intact on the inside.
2. Cartanza Senora
The Cartanza Senora was an old World War II military boat that now rests in four pieces out on Buck Island off of St Thomas. The story behind her goes as follows; after the war she was commissioned into an agricultural shipping vessel and would do runs through the islands. Through its time as a work boat, the sailors aboard would find the urge to start shipping narcotics. Rumor has it the boat was abandoned for 2 years of the crew was tipped off that the coast guard was going to board the vessel. After being abandoned in stayed for two years around St Thomas floating until it sank in the harbor. After being deamed a navigational hazard the boat was moved to buck island where it has taken the wrath from multiple category 5 hurricanes.
While wreck diving on this wreck, you won’t be penetrating because the whole boat is broken up into pieces but you will see the two large intact engines in the center. While below the surface you’ll run into a handful of turtles, reef sharks, Barracudas, and the occasional Eagle Ray.
3. WIT Shoal
The Wit Shoal shipwreck is a popular dive site located off the coast of St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. The ship, formally known as the M/V Wit Shoal II, was a freighter that sank in 1984 during Hurricane Klaus. The ship was carrying a load of cement, and when the storm hit, it was unable to maintain its position and was pushed into the shallow waters off St. Thomas.
Today, the wreck is a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. The ship lies in approximately 90 feet of water but since the ship is 70 feet high you’ll drop right on top of it and the top of the wreck is visible from the surface on calm days. The site is known for its abundant marine life, including barracudas, moray eels, colorful tropical fish, and the 7-8 foot reef sharks that have claimed her as their home.
It’s important to note that diving the Wit Shoal wreck can be challenging, as the currents in the area can be strong and unpredictable.
4. The Kennedy
The Kennedy is a 147-foot personnel barge used to transport personnel from the USS John F Kennedy. In 1986 this barge sank right off the coast of St Thomas sitting at 40-60 feet. It sank one night without the Navy knowing. It was once raised and tried to be salvaged, but during the salvage attempt the barge once again sank to the ocean floor.
If you’re looking for sharks and stingrays while wreck diving, the Kennedy is home to many, especially near the evening time. If you’re an underwater photographer this wreck will be an artistic shock to your mind. She’s covered in Gorgonians which fall perfect on the big blue ocean background. If you’re looking for a night dive, this is a great place to go.
5. Wreck Diving SS Grainton
Lastly, the SS Grainton is one of my personal favorites. Due to its advanced diving, you’ll more than likely be alone during your entire dive. This ship is massive and can’t be explored in one dive. This 416 foot ship sank in 1928 during a journey from Vancouver to Hamburg. While underway she struck rocks off of Saba Island. Eventually she was refloated but while under tow she started to take on water once more and sank to her final resting place directly off of St Thomas.
This relic frozen in time sits at 110 feet and lies with her 3 steam engine left wide open as if she’s just waiting to be started once more. While on your dive you’ll have to plan ahead. The boat sits in tidal waters so be sure to have your ducks in a row. Under the surface you’ll be mesmerized by the boat, sharks, Barracudas, the occasional goliath grouper, and sting rays galore.
What if my Family Doesn’t Scuba Dive?
For most divers we need help finding others to dive with. If your friends or family aren’t divers and you still wish to do a full or half day of wreck diving, let me recommend Dolphin Water Taxi to you. They’re a private water service that can take you, your family, or both to whatever snorkeling destination or beach you desire. While booking a charter with Dolphin you and your guests will be under professional care and catered to like royalty. If you’d like more information about Dolphin Water Taxi and their services visit the Dolphin Shuttle link.
Frequently Asked Questions
For your leisure we’ve gone ahead and answered some frequently asked questions related to wreck diving in the Caribbean.
What is The Largest Wreck Dive in The Caribbean?
The SS Antilla is the largest wreck dive located in the Caribbean, specifically off the coast of Aruba. The Antilla was a German cargo ship that was scuttled by its own crew during World War II to prevent it from falling into Allied hands. The wreck is now a popular dive site due to its size and excellent condition, as well as the marine life that has made the wreck its home. The Antilla is often regarded as one of the largest and most impressive shipwrecks in the Caribbean, and is a must-visit destination for experienced divers.
What is The Wreck Diving Capital of The World?
The wreck diving capital of the world is generally considered to be Truk Lagoon (also known as Chuuk Lagoon) in Micronesia. Truk Lagoon is a collection of more than 60 shipwrecks, many of which are well-preserved World War II-era Japanese vessels that were sunk during a US bombing campaign in 1944. The lagoon’s calm, warm waters and excellent visibility make it an ideal location for wreck diving, and it has become a popular destination for advanced divers seeking to explore some of the most historically significant and visually stunning wrecks in the world. Other notable wreck diving destinations include Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the Red Sea in Egypt, and the Great Lakes in North America.
If you’re planning on coming to the Virgin Islands to do some diving, then you’re making the right choice. Be sure to do some research on dive shops in the area, but if you want my personal favorite, go with Admiralty Divers, located in French Town. On a regular basis, they go to 21 different wreck sites scattered around St Thomas. Safe diving and happy bubbles!