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The Wreck of The Marie Celeste - Bermuda

GPS 32.14’.487N 64.49’.918W
1864 - Confederate Paddle Steamer
Stamp One of Bermuda’s most historic wrecks is The Marie Celeste, a side paddle-wheeled steamer chartered by the Chas one of the most interesting histories of all the wrecks in Bermuda. She was a civil war blockade-runner. A 207 ton paddlewheel, steamer chartered by the Confederacy during America’s Civil War. She was utilised as a blockade runner, smuggling much needed guns, ammunition, supplies and food to the troops in the South. In return for this service, the vessels would return to Bermuda with cotton and cash. A long and very narrow ship, making her very fast. She was able to cruise at about 15 Knots, which was considered an extreme high speed in the mid-nineteenth century.

PhotoThe 225 foot Marie Celeste, was one of the most fortunate in her class and evaded capture for many years. On September 26, 1864, she was cruising at full speed along the south shore to take corned beef and rifles to Savannah, Georgia. The First Mate, reported seeing a reef, but the pilot, Bermuda’s most experienced at the time - Mr. John Virgin, told him not to worry as he knew the reef like "...His own back yard". He obviously had not been out of the house much!! As the ship almost immediately struck a reef, then sank in only 11 minutes in 55 feet of water. The only loss of live was the ship’s cook, who went back on board the ship to recover a personal item. The possibility/probability that bribery, not navigation, sunk both her and her sister-ship, is highly likely. Unable to catch them by means fair, the Union used means foul, and simply bribed the pilots to put them on the reefs. The fact that the pilot, John Virgin, was able to swim from the wreck to his home, adds a little credibility to the "payola" claim

The wreck is now located almost directly off the Sonesta Hotel, on the south shore, just past the breaking reef line. All the rifles were recovered using convicts from the local prison to recover them. The wreck lies in 55 feet of water, with one of her paddlewheel frames standing upright like a miniature Ferris wheel. The other paddlewheel lies flat on the sand ,along with other interesting artifacts such as her boilers, anchor and large sections of the bow and stern.

The Marie Celestes sister ship, The Montana, is also wrecked in Bermuda. Wreck Certificate
The Marie Celeste is one of the wreck sites featured in the
Bermuda Shipwreck Certificate Program
Divemasters Notes PhotoThe Marie Celeste, is an incredibly picturesque wreck. Most of the ship has been engulfed by the sand, leaving a bow section, two boilers, both paddle wheels the engines and the stern visible. Passing hurricanes and storms will expose more of the deck adding as many as 6 feet to the depth. Within a few months the sand has once more engulfed her decking.

One of the paddle wheels is upright and totally encrusted with coral, making another excellent subject for photographers. The visibility can be lowered, when there is swell on the south shore, to less than 40 feet, but averages are around 60 feet in the summer to over 100 feet during the winter.

PhotoThe sand area where the wreck lies is not known for being a great place for find fish. However the occasional Eagle Ray will come into the sand flats to feed. Huge Groupers are often spotted by the bow section. Just inshore of the wreck is a "mini wall", which climbs to within 10 feet of the surface. This is where you will find many fish and the Marie Celeste’s heavily encrusted anchor.

Don’t forget to explorer the many caves and tunnels that riddle the face of the mini wall. If offered do take advantage of a guided tour on this site to get the fullest enjoyment and top avoid being the only person not to see the big stuff.