Graveyard of the Caribbean: What Shipwrecks Lie In Antigua’s Waters?

In human history, there are many tragic events that are both historical and mysterious. Humans invent things, discover things, and often face many hurdles in their journey of discovery. One of the most common ways of navigation and exploration for man has been sailing or seafaring. Although humans have found new means of transport today, ships and boats remain an essential means of transport even now. 

However, today,  ships are more secure and modern. This has decreased the chance of a ship’s  sinking to a minimum. But this was not always the case. Ships have been in use for quite many centuries. In fact, to prove that the earth is round, Magellan sailed on a ship. Even though ships have always caught the fantasy of adventurous souls, they have also been the principal backdrop of some very tragic stories. 

The Allure of the Shipwreck

Throughout history, one can find mention and evidence of ships sinking in different parts of the world. Even today, many shipwrecks lie in the mysterious belly of the  ocean. Some of these shipwrecks have been found, while others still remain hidden from the eye. 

From marine biologists to historians to  naval enthusiasts, a lot of diverse people are interested in finding and researching the shipwrecks in the world. When you pay attention, you understand why so many people are interested in wrecks that lie forgotten deep under the sea. 

For marine researchers and historians, shipwrecks are the algae-matted vessels of history that carry the imprints of many stories. The wrecks carry a chunk of history for them. It is unbelievable to think that people once lived and traveled on this ruin, and there are people who died in the wreck. 

All of this gives an air of  mysterious allure to shipwrecks. For a common man, shipwrecks are just junk lying underwater. But, on the other hand, every part of a shipwreck is a story waiting to unfold in front of the researchers’ eyes. 

Why Antigua? 

There are certain places on earth that are famous for shipwrecks. Many tourists and researchers are naturally drawn to these places. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are some of them. The reason that Antigua is famous for its shipwrecks because the  island is found in the part of the Caribbean  Sea where shipwrecks were most common in earlier times. 

One reason for this phenomenon was the naturally intricate coastline of Antigua. Antigua is an island in the Caribbean Sea, fringed with treacherous coral reefs and shoals. In addition to this, Antigua also has the famous rock of Redonda, an uninhabited rock 25 miles (40km) southwest off the coast. 

The Rock of Redonda (Invertzoo / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Rock of Redonda (Invertzoo /  CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In the past, many ships that sailed near Antigua could have collided with the rock of Redonda and sunk. Apart from this, the fact is that this region of the Caribbean  Sea has always been turbulent and difficult to sail on. Therefore, it is unsurprising that Antigua’s coastline is famous for its shipwrecks and other oceanic secrets. 

Antigua’s Famous Shipwrecks

Antigua is today a great tourist destination where adventure tourism flourishes. With an extensive coastline, the Antigua and Barbuda  islands give ample opportunities for diving and snorkeling, most notably at Cades Reef. Unfortunately, it is also the site where you can see the signs of many shipwrecks. 

Antigua has a total of 127 recorded shipwrecks. This number is huge when you see how tiny the island is. However, this tiny island is a 30 million-year-old volcanic rock formation, steeped in both natural and human history, and lies in a key trade route into the Caribbean. 

The Wreck of the Andes

One of the most famous shipwrecks on the Antigua coast is that of the Andes, a merchant ship. The wreck of the Andes is the most popular one because it is easily accessible lying in only 30 feet (9.1m) of water. Thus, tourists can easily visit and explore the wreck without specialized scuba gear. 

The Andes lies in only 30 feet (9.1m) of water (Unknown Author / Public Domain)

The Andes lies in only 30 feet (9.1m) of water (Unknown Author /  Public Domain )

The ship was a three-masted merchant ship and was originally headed for Chile in 1905 with a cargo of tar, but caught fire mid-journey. The ship burned out of control before sinking near Antigua. There it rests to this day at the bottom of Deep Bay, to be explored by the curious. 

The Wreck of the Jettias 

Another shipwreck in Antigua is that of the Jettias. The Jettias wreck is one of the oldest shipwrecks on the Antigua coast, and also one of the most visited. The Jettias was an old  French steam-powered freighter that sunk back in 1817, and lies only 80 feet (25m) away from the surface. The Jettias wreck is, therefore, very accessible for tourists. 

Today, Jetties wreck is a popular diving spot. The wreck is broken down to the bow, boiler, ship engine, and stern, a testament to both the initial damage, and the centuries underwater. One can see the abundance of indigenous marine flora and fauna on his diving expeditions to the wreck. 

The Wreck of the Montserrat

Another wreck that is worth visiting on the Antigua coast is the Montserrat wreck. The Montserrat wreck sits surprisingly upright and intact on the seabed, and is great for deep divers. It is home to a rich diversity of marine life and remains largely untouched. However, its position means most visitors will require additional training and supervision to visit the Monserrat, and most tourists prefer the surface wrecks.

These are only the three most noteworthy of the Antigua shipwrecks that one must explore. 

A New Shipwreck Uncovered

The Antiguan government has reported the most recent 18th century shipwreck discovery in June 2021, a ship potentially even older than the Jettias. The  English Harbor of Antigua is a historic port, and this recent discovery has reaffirmed its importance. The wreck has been found in the mud of “Nelson’s Dockyard” in the port. 

English Harbour, Antigua (XtravaganT / Adobe Stock)

English Harbour, Antigua ( XtravaganT / Adobe Stock)

From primary investigations, the hull of the wreck appears to be 130 feet (40m) long. The authorities also think that the wreck is of non-British origin. Experts suspect that the recently discovered wreck may be of 1762 Beaumont, crafted by the French East  India Company. If so, the ship would be the only known intact example of a French East India Company hull. 

The Beaumont was a heavily armed French imperial merchant ship with a colorful history, even participating in the American revolution. If confirmed, this is sure to be another major tourist attraction for Antigua, in these most dangerous waters of the Caribbean.

Top Image: The waters around Antigua are filled with shipwrecks. Source:  Malbert / Adobe Stock

By Bipin Dimri


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