The waters of Bermuda are home to plenty of shipwrecks with many of them diving sites – and there’s no better than The Constellation.
The Constellation is one of the most famous and popular diving spots in Bermuda and was the background of The Deep, a novel by Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, that was turned into a movie in 1977.
The novel was also inspired by the story of Teddy Tucker, a well-known local diver and treasure hunter, who plays the Harbour Master in the movie.
The Constellation was a four-masted wooden hull vessel, more specifically a schooner. She measured 192 foot long and was originally built in 1918. Named Sally Persis at first, she was part of the Crowell and Thurlow fleet, a company based in Maine.
After the company went bust, the ship was sold to Mr Robert Royal, in 1932. The ship was renamed The Constellation and was entirely rebuilt to become a floating marine school. She had large staterooms and, when refurbished, was equipped with electricity, refrigeration and plumbing.
She was sold again and ended up in New York Harbour, where she stayed until 1942. This is before being converted to a cargo ship, because many vessels were required to serve in World War II.
It was during one of her journeys from New York to Venezuela, in July 1943, that The Constellation ran into problems. Her pumping gear broke down and she began taking in water. The leak was too large for the crew to fight back with hand pumps and the captain decided to head to Bermuda for repairs.
As she was waiting for a local pilot to take her through the treacherous reefs, The Constellation was hit by a strong current and crashed. Of her cargo, only the 700 cases of Scotch Whisky were saved by the nearby U.S. Navy, while bags of concrete, and the morphine ampoules which feature in the plot of The Deep, sank in 30 feet of water.
The shipwreck has been searched by divers and treasure hunters for years and pretty much everything from the cargo has been recovered. These included medicinal ampoules (containing morphine but also adrenaline, opium, anti-tetanus serum and penicillin), coffee cups, ceramic tiles, nail polish bottles to tennis rackets and crucifixes.
This a great site for underwater photography and video, even for snorkelers, as the water here is very clear. Most of the wooden structure has now disappeared, but you can still see vestiges of its masts, especially the 40-foot lower part of one of them.
The Constellation site is also protected, with a no fishing limitation for 300 metres. The site is also part of the Bermuda Shipwreck Certificate Program of the Department of Tourism.
The Constellation, Bermuda’s Most Famous Shipwreck – Part of Elbow Beach Cycles ‘Things To Do’ in Bermuda series!
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