The Carnarvon was a 186 foot steel-hulled Welsh freighter which serviced the lighthouses in the Bahamas for the British Admiralty. She ran aground on a shallow coral head off of North Eleuthera in 1916. The wreck sits in 15 - 25 feet of water on the southern edge of the Devil's Backbone, northeast of Preacher's Cave beach. The remains of the Carnarvon and its steam engine are quite picturesque, and divers can swim through part of the ship's boiler (see video). The top of the steering quadrant is 8 feet below the surface, and the steam engine works and driveshaft are remarkably intact for a century-old wreck.
The waters surrounding Eleuthera are home to a disproportionately large number of wrecks (even accounting for its position in the Bermuda Triangle!) The cause of most of these wrecks has been a rock formation known as the Devil's Backbone (including its western portion commonly known as Egg Island Reef), although the reef off of James Point is not far behind in sheer number of shipwrecks.
Eleuthera is also home to a massive array of cenotes, deep water-filled holes in the island's rock which
connect to the sea
via underwater caves deep underground. The cenotes are a result of the island's karst geography, creating a Swiss-cheese-like maze of holes and twisty passages beneath much of the island. These cenotes often have a "lens" of fresh water floating on top of the salt water. These lenses are usually only a few feet deep, and this shallow layer of fresh water is the only thing that made life on Eleuthera viable until the advent of salt water treatment technologies.
Between the shipwrecks and the cenotes, the diver on Eleuthera has countless options for sites to explore.
Eleuthera's most infamous reef, the Devil's Backbone is a shallow, ragged reef which is located just off the north tip of Eleuthera near Preacher's Cave. The pounding breakers in this location can be readily observed from the beach next to Preacher's Cave, as the tidal water there flows around the north end of the island. The surf here is only very rarely calm, making shore dives to the wrecks here a difficult proposition.
sloop of war launched on October 15, 1825 by the Boston Navy Yard and commissioned the following year. She was 700 tons and 127 feet long, with a 34 foot beam and a 16 foot draft. Her complement was 125 men. She served in the Brazil Squadron from 1826 to 1829, then in the Mediterranean Station from 1830 to 1832 before joining the West Indies Squadron in 1836.
In 1846, after the onset of the Mexican-American war, she was ordered to join Commodore Conner's Home Squadron to blockade the Mexican east coast. While en route to her new station, she was wrecked on "the north side reef of Eleuthera
Island" during a squall on November 15, 1846. The sloop was a total loss, but all hands were saved. The specific location of the wreck remains unknown. (Visit http://www.ussboston.org/ for an additional painting of this ship.)
GPS coordinates: Unknown (see approximate location above)
Other names for this dive site: None
The Cienfuegos was a steam-powered American passenger ship operated by the Ward Line out of New York. According to Berg's Tropical Shipwrecks, "she was launched from the John Roach & Sons Shipyard in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1883. She was 292 feet in length, 39 feet 8 inches in breadth, had a draught of 22 feet, and weighed 2,332 tons. Her iron hull was divided into six watertight compartments. On February 5, 1895, while under the command of Captain B.F. Hoyt Jr., the Cienfuegos ran aground on a shallow coral reef. According to the original New York Times article, 'the vessel struck a reef while the seas were calm.' Days later, one of the members of the Cienfuegos crew gave a slightly different account; 'On the morning of Feb. 4 about 4:30 o'clock, during a strong northwest gale, while enormous seas were running and weather was hazy, the steamer ran on a reef or small coral islet, about five miles north of Harbour Island and forty-five miles from Nassau.' Fortunately, all passengers and crew survived, all very thankful for the skill of the native seamen who were ferrying all to shore. One life boat with women and children aboard capsized, but two natives instantly plunged into the water and recovered all passengers before anyone drowned." Some of the cargo was reportedly salvaged, including a large shipment of rice.
Click here and here for two New York Times articles from February 1895 detailing the wreck and the rescued passengers.
The wreck lies flattened by the waves in 10-35 feet of water, and is said to resemble an underwater junkyard now. The bow, steam engine, and boiler can still be seen and make a good swim-through for divers. Two giant heat exchangers and the main driveshaft can still be seen at the wreck site, as can numerous steel plates, broken ribs, and twisted metal beams. The Train Wreck and the Vanaheim lie nearby, reportedly on near the far edge of Ridley Head.
200 yards east of the Cienfuegos lies a ballast pile, perhaps from one of the Devil's Backbone wrecks listed herein, or perhaps from a wreck that is, as of yet, unknown.
GPS coordinates: Unknown
Other names for this dive site: None
This site is home to the remains of a shipwrecked barge that was carrying a steam locomotive and several rail cars. In 1865, their rail lines overrun by Union troops, the Confederate States of America had arranged for sale and shipment of the train engine to a sugar plantation in Cuba to raise much-needed capital. Unfortunately, the barge was struck by a violent storm and sunk with the locomotive still on board. All that allegedly remains of the locomotive is the wheels, three wheel trucks, boiler plate, and several wooden beams. Brass spikes, coal, and ballast stone from the barge also reportedly litter the wreck site.
The wreck lies 10-15 feet of water. The wrecks of the Cienfuegos and the Vanaheim lie nearby. Both wrecks are reportedly located on the far edge of Ridley Head.
GPS coordinates: Unknown
Other names for this dive site: None
Nearly on top of the wreck of the Cienfuegos lies the remains of the Vanaheim, an 86 foot coastal freighter which ran aground on the reef during a storm in February of 1969. The Vanaheim's metal rudder can be found only five feet from the bow of the Cienfuegos since the two ships struck the reef in the exact same spot. The site's unusual nickname "Potatoes and Onions" comes from the contents of the ship's cargo at the time of the wreck. The wreck of the Vanaheim lies in 10-35 feet of water.
This site is close to the wreck of the Cienfuegos and the Train Wreck. The remains of a commercial shrimper (name: unknown) which ran aground in August of 1969 also reportedly lies nearby.
GPS coordinates: Unknown
Other names for this dive site: Potatoes and Onions, the Potato and Onion Wreck
Eleuthera's most famous wreck, the William wrecked on the Devil's Backbone in October 1648 while proceeding to a landing spot with nearly 70 colonists aboard. One passenger died in the wreck, and most of the goods and provisions on the ship were lost. A 6-ton shallot (an open boat 16-20 feet in length) which was towed by the William is rescued by the colonists. The remains of this wreck have never been found.
GPS coordinates: Unknown
Egg Island is the western-most of a series of islands and cays (most notably including Spanish Wells) off the northwest tip of Eleuthera, and was allegedly given its name because it was once home to a population of wild chickens put there by sailors who wanted a source of fresh eggs while at sea. Egg Island Reef (sometimes called simply "Egg Reef") extends from north of Egg Island to just north of the eastern end of Russell Cay, and arguably makes up the western part of the Devil's Backbone.
the American schooner Adele Ball was left New York for Matanzas, Cuba with a cargo of coal, lumber, and bricks under the command of Captain Fisher. On May 3, she stranded on a reef off either Spanish Wells or Harbour Island, respectively, depending on whether Tony Jaggers' A Shipwreck Guide to the Bahamas or the original New York Times article is referenced. The crew was saved, although the ship was a total loss. Salvage efforts were conducted on the materials and cargo, but the extent and success of the salvage operations is unknown. See the original New York Times article about this wreck.
On October 20, 1895, during an earlier trip from Charleston to Wilmington, Captain George Woodhull was in command of the Adele Ball when she came across the Dickey Bird of Bath, Maine in distress. Full of lumber, the ship had become waterlogged and her masts had blown away on the way to Brunswick. When found, the crew had already gone thirty hours without food. Captain Cleveland and the crew of the Dickey Bird were promptly rescued although all their possessions were lost. See the original New York Times article here.
The exact location of this wreck remain unknown.
This wreck lies just off of Egg Island. In May of 1970, the Arimoroa, a steel-hulled, 260 foot Lebanese freighter, was traveling from South America to Europe with a cargo of guano-based fertilizer when a fire started in the ship's galley. The fire spread so rapidly that the captain ordered the ship to be run aground on the closest island (Egg Island in this case). The crew was able to escape, but the cargo continued to burn for three months, and the phosphates leaking from the wreck made the area around the wreck barren of sea life for several years.
This wreck sits in 20 - 30 feet of water and is very accessible. The freighter used to sit upright on the reef, and looked from a distance as though it were merely sitting at anchor; from the nearby settlement of Current just seven miles away, the Arimoroa looked like a ship permanently at anchor). In 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated this area and broke the wreck in half. Today, only the bow can still be seen above water. Scrapmetal dealers salvaged her propeller and some other parts prior to 2000.
This wreck is decaying fast; contrast the above video from 2010 with this YouTube video of the wreck from 2008.
GPS coordinates: N 25°28'21.1", W 76°53'20.1" (approach carefully, since parts of the wreck lie just three feet beneath the water but are invisible from the surface)
Other names for this dive site: The Freighter Wreck, Egg Island Wreck
1904, the American tanker Arthur McArdle was traveling from Philadelphia to Havana with a cargo of crude oil when she went down on the Egg Island Reefs. The conditions and exact location of this wreck remain unknown.
On March 11, 1844, the American ship Francis Stanton was lost off Russell Island while traveling from Boston to Mobile, Alabama under the command of Captain LeFavour. The conditions and location of the wreck remain unknown.
the American ship Margaret M. Ford was returning from Santo Domingo to New York with a cargo of lumber when she sunk near "Purn Rock, 12 miles northwest of Spanish Wells". The conditions and location of "Purn Rock" are currently unknown.
In 1816, the English ship Robert was en route from Nassau to Liverpool under a Captain Wilkes when she wrecked on a reef off Egg Island. The conditions and location of the wreck remain unknown.In March of 1821, the Spanish ship Santa Rosa was lost off Egg Island under a Captain Torres while en route to Havana from Philadelphia (or vice-versa, according to Jaggers' A Shipwreck Guide to the Bahamas). The crew was saved. The conditions and location of the wreck remain unknown.
On February 22, 1842, the American ship Stephen Phillips was on a journey from Boston to Havana under the command of a Captain Farnham when she sank in a gale off the Egg Island Reef. The exact location of the wreck remain unknown.
The Surprise was a 50 foot fishing boat which sank here around 1994. The boat had just been purchased in nearby Spanish Wells by a party from Nassau and was its very first voyage under new ownership when it ran aground on this very shallow reef and sank only a few miles from its place of purchase, thus living up to her name. It is believed that the Surprise was not yet insured, and it is not known why the engine and other once-servicable parts were never salvaged.GPS coordinates: N 25°26'45.3", W 76°52'07.6" (basically, halfway between Little Egg Island and Current Rock)
The reef off of James Point, and neighboring James Beach, lies off the Atlantic side of the island behind the settlement James Cistern. Through the centuries, numerous shipping routes have taken vessels around the tip of James Point. Unfortunately, the reefs here are deceptive: they extend much farther out into the sea than in most places on the island. Locals tell stories of having even small outboard motors hit rock even 1.5 - 2 miles from shore. In light of this, it's no surprise that the settlement of James Cistern is itself named after a captain named James (nicknamed "Lord James") who wrecked his ship on what would later be called James Point. The captain and his crew moved inland to find fresh water in what is now called James Cistern. (It's unclear whether the eponymous "James' Cistern" itself is the James Cistern Ocean Hole discussed below in the Cenotes section, or a smaller hole which is reputedly located somewhere behind the present-day Zion Baptist church.)
No recreational dive operations are situated near James Point, and as a result, the wrecks discussed below are little-known. Many of them have remained virtually undocumented until now. In an effort to thoroughly document the site, I will post additional discussion relating to wrecks which were successfully removed from the site, but which were historically significant in some way.
While salvage efforts were attempted by the Symonette Shipyard in Nassau, the ship could not be saved and it proceeded to break up into several pieces. Built in 1963 by Nieuwe Noord Nederlandse Scheepswerven in Groningen, the Atlantic Pearl weighed between 639 and 643 tons and was 265 feet long with a 34 foot beam and 12 feet of draft, and was owned by Atlantic Pearl Ltd. of the Cayman Islands and operated under a British flag.
The cargo of the Atlantic Pearl spanned a wide variety of items, including cars, heavy equipment, new tires, groceries, and meat (the latter of which could be seen scattered along the entire length of James Beach for weeks after she went aground). At least some of the cars were removed via helicopter before the ship broke up. However, the heavy equipment (including trucks and construction equipment) could not be removed in this manner remains beneath the waves. The tires and many of the perishables were quickly rescued from the surf by area residents.
This wreck is located in 10 - 15 feet of water, and can easily be snorkeled. Since it is nearly a mile from shore, it is best visited from a boat.
Location: N 25°20'57", W 76°20'59" (confirmed)
In February of 1999, the Barge 264 grounded at James Point after bad weather caused the barge to be washed over the reef, leaving it stranded 50 feet from shore. With every one of its 15 tanks beached, the barge was damaged beyond repair. The Titan Salvage Company cleared the cargo and refloated the barge, which was then towed towed out to sea and scuttled.On August 11, 1882 the British steam freighter Blenheim was wrecked off James Point during a voyage from London to Nassau. Built in 1877 by E. Withy & Co. of West Hartlepool, England, and owned by Steel, Young & Co. of London, the 1163-ton Blenheim was 225 feet long with a 31-foot beam and 17 feet draft. The remains of this ship have not yet been located. However, there are reports of a large, old boiler and some other ship remains located about halfway between the wreck of the Atlantic Pearl and James Point. The pieces are in a large, sandy expanse with not much of interest around them, and resemble a large, black circle in the water. These could be pieces of the Blenheim. Further research is needed to confirm.
On March 2, 1977 the Gangmar, a 250 ton freighter which often hauled goods between the United States and Eleuthera, caught fire and beached on the ocean side of James Cistern. According to one source, the Gangmar's freight had reputedly included a load of marijuana. The ship was stripped before it was scuttled, and artifacts from the wreck still adorn homes in Rainbow Bay
The remains of this wreck lay just off the north end of the James Point Beach behind the southernmost part of the town of James Cistern. Today, three main pieces remain above water, one much larger than the other two. This wreck is decomposing rapidly, and a horizontal deck which would support some weight in 2006 has destabilized considerably. It is unlikely this wreck will be visible above the waves for too much longer.The Gangmar had a sister ship known as the Mayaka which had the same configuration, and served the Hatchet Bay settlement.On March 8, 1968, the 555-foot, 11,900-ton Greek oil tanker General Colocotronis ran hard aground 1.5 miles off James Point with a dead engine caused by a broken fuel line compounded by a flooded engine room. At the time of the impact, she was carrying 18,478 tons (nearly six million gallons, or 119,000 barrels) of Venezuelan oil from Aruba to West Palm Beach in heavy seas. Twenty eight crew members made it to shore. One rescue boat from Hatchet Bay was overturned by a wave, dumping its four passengers into the sea. A US Coast Guard helicopter dropped a life raft into which three of the men were able to climb, although the fourth man (crew member Stratos Mastroitainis) was washed away. The captain and the radio operator remained on the ship. The General Colocotronis began to split at the seam, and oil leaking from the tanker quickly washed onto a three-mile stretch of beach near the wreck.
For several days following, a tug boat stood nearby waiting for the twenty foot waves to subside, and detergents were flown in from Florida to emulsify the spill and prevent it from spreading. During the subsequent six weeks, the Esso Margarita and the Rescue pumped a total of 3.5 million gallons of oil out of the Colocotronis. Since the oil was around 72 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which oil is sticky and has a tendency to gum up, heating coils were used to raise the temperature to 108 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure efficient pumping. Most of the remaining ~2.5 million gallons were washed out to sea or caught in the reef off of James Point, and thus the amount of oil that reached Eleuthera's Atlantic-side beaches was relatively minimal.
Unburdened of cargo, the tanker was finally able to be floated and towed out to sea, but ultimately had to be scuttled because the damage to the ship was so extensive (dive surveys revealed that the keel was buckled and crushed, and the hull was heavily damaged). The cargo tanks were flushed with dispersants to remove residual oil, and the General Colocotronis was sunk in deep water. Click here, here, and here for 1968 New York Times articles detailing the wreck, the rescue, and subsequent salvage efforts.The USS LST 291, a 328 foot US Navy LST-1 class tank landing ship, was launched from the American Bridge Company in Pennsylvania on November 14, 1943 and took part in the June 1944 "D-Day" invasion of Normandy. She had a 50 foot beam, and a draft of around 14 feet when loaded and with ballasts were in sea-going (versus landing) configuration. In 1954, on her way home from amphibious training exercises in Vieque, Puerto Rico, she ran aground on the James Point reef in high winds. The reef then claimed three of the landing craft which were used to evacuate the crew to the shore a mile away, although the operation was miraculously free of human casualties. By the time the Navy tugboats arrived, the LST 291 had been blown too far up onto the reef to be towed off, and Navy frogmen had to blast a 1,000 foot channel through the reef rock to free her. The entire operation took 11 days, and while she was made seaworthy enough to reach the drydock at Jacksonville, Florida, the damage was deemed too extensive to fix, and the USS LST 291 was decommissioned, struck from the naval register on May 19, 1954, and sunk as a target in July of that year.
For a full account of the salvage operations, including a mention of "underwater jeep driving", see "Blasting Their Way to Safety" from the June 1954 edition of "All Hands", the US Navy magazine On February 5, 1818, the Neptune, a ship of unknown nationality, was sailing from France to New Orleans when it ran aground on the reef at James Point. Captain Hallowell and the crew was saved, but the ship was a total loss. The remains of this ship have not yet been located.
On June 30, 1914, the British ship Advance was traveling in ballast from Jamaica to Nipe Bay, Cuba when she sunk near "El Autre Cay" on the "north side of Eleuthera". The location of "El Autre Cay" (assuming it is not a mangling of some other word or phrase) is currently unknown, as are the conditions surrounding the wreck.On October 1, 1866, during the Great Hurricane, the "old American brig" Baltic under the command of Maddocks, the ship's Master, out of New York, struck on Eleuthera while sailing to Galveston, Texas with a general cargo. The officers and crew along with a small part of her cargo were saved. The specific location where this ship went down is not known. Click here for the original November 13, 1866 New York Times article describing the wreck.
On the afternoon of October 28, 1943, a small Nova Scotia motor vessel named the Bernardo was rocked by an explosion from either the galley or the engine room while passing near Eleuthera. The ensuing fire spread so quickly that captain Mathis Eckholm headed the ship for the shore, but were forced to jump overboard as the ship neared a reef. Eckholm and and eight crew members were subsequently rescued from the water by boats from Eleuthera. For the original article detailing the loss of this ship, click here.
On December 13, 1843, the American ship Birmingham was en route from New York to Mobile, Alabama under Captain Robinson when she went down off "Ellison's reef, Harbour Island." The conditions and specific location of "Ellison's reef" remain unknown.
On April 28, 1846, the American ship Commerce went down with a cargo of lumber near Harbour Island while on a voyage from St. John to Nassau under the command of Captain Burnham. The conditions and specific location of the wreck remain unknown.
A violent gale struck the Bahamas on July 26, 1813, wrecking over 40 ships in Nassau alone. The English ship Conck was sailing from Nassau to Jamaica when this storm hit, and was wrecked somewhere off the coast of Eleuthera. The location of this wreck is currently unknown.
In the year 1824, the French ship Eolus (named, potentially ironically, after the ruler of the winds in Greek mythology) was sailing from Morlaix, France to Mobile, Alabama (formerly the capitol of French Louisiana) under the command of Captain Dickinson when it wrecked somewhere off the coast of Eleuthera. The location of this wreck is currently unknown.
On January 12, 1817, the American ship Fame went down near Harbour Island while on a voyage from Boston to Havana under Captain Salisbury. The entire crew was saved. The conditions and specific location of the wreck remain unknown.During the Great Hurricane in the autumn of 1866, the American brig J. P. Ellicott of Boston was dismasted while sailing from Bangor to Port-au-Prince with a cargo of lumber under the command Jonathan Bray, ship's Master. By October 16th, she'd made it to Harbour Island but, still without masts, she drifted onto a reef and was a total loss. Her officers and crew were saved and brought to Nassau. The specific location where this ship went down is not known. Click here for the original November 13, 1866 New York Times article describing the wreck.On June 1, 1843, the American ship John Hale sunk off the "north side of Eleuthera island" while traveling from Havana to St. Jago, Cuba (presumably an early reference to what is now known as Santiago de Cuba, however it's not clear why a ship traveling along Cuba would have traveled this far north). The conditions and exact location of the wreck remain unknown.
On October 1, 1866, during the Great Hurricane, the American brig John R. Plater out of Norwich, Connecticut wrecked while en route from New York to Havana under the command of James W. Yales, ship's Master. The ship's officers and crews were saved along with a portion of the ship's cargo. The specific location where this ship went down is not known. Click here for the original November 13, 1866 New York Times article describing the wreck.
The Jonathan Knight went aground on the Atlantic side behind the Banks Road, between the present-day locations of Tippy's restaurant and Captain Jack's restaurant. The date of the wreck is unknown, but it occurred in the twentieth century prior to 1940. The location of this wreck is unknown.On December 1, 1824, the American ship Live Oak sank near Harbour Island while en route from Gibraltar to Havana under Captain Brill. The crew and the cargo were saved. The conditions and location of the wreck remain unknown.
On June 1, 1843,
was later salvaged by Union forces and renamed the USS Gettysb
the American ship John Hale sunk off the "north side of Eleuthera island" while traveling from Havana to St. Jago, Cuba (presumably an early reference to what is now known as Santiago de Cuba, however it's not clear why a ship traveling along Cuba would have traveled this far north).
The Ocean Maid was carrying a cargo including barrels of rum when she ran aground off Wreck Point (near Double Bay) during the 1940's. The conditions and date of the wreck remain unknown, as does the exact location of the wreck.In 1841, the American ship Rinaldo sunk off Eleuthera while under the command of a Captain Parsons. The conditions and location of the wreck remain unknown.
The Dutch freighter Saga went aground on the reef off the Atlantic-side beach south of the Glass Window, behind the salt pond (this beach has been called "Lover's Beach" in some texts, but it appears this is only a recent name) during the late 1960's. The conditions and date of the wreck remain unknown, as does the exact location of the wreck.Sickle (Eleuthera, 1866)During the Great Hurricane on September 30, 1866, the British barque Sickle wrecked off Eleuthera while en route from New York to Havana with a general cargo under the command of Mr. Friend, the ship's Master. All hands were saved. The specific location where this ship went down is not known. Click here for the original November 13, 1866 New York Times article describing the wreck.
On December 10, 1816, the Swallow collided with a reef on the north end of Eleuthera (presumably either the Devil's Backbone or the Egg Island reef) and sunk while on a voyage from Savannah, Georgia to Jamaica under Captain Mossop. The entire crew was saved. The conditions and specific location of the wreck remain unknown.
In 1702, an American brigantine was chased by pirates and forced to run aground somewhere on Eleuthera. The same year, the pirates also forced another ship aground on Mayaguana, which they then plundered and burned to the waterline.On February 7, 1928, the American steamer Yungay was traveling from New York to Port-au-Prince with a shipment of petroleum products when she sunk off Eleuthera. The conditions and location of the wreck remain unknown.
An unknown wreck is shown just north of the Quintus Rock pole beacon (now simply an empty pole) on the 1984 NGIA nautical chart entitled "Eleuthera - West Part." The chart is unfortunately somewhat inaccurate -- no wreck exists at the specified coordinates (approximately N 25°15'31.26", W 76°56'14.28" on the zoomed "Fleming Channel" inlay), and the depths in this area far exceed those shown on the map (30+ meters versus the 15-17 meters shown). As a result, only very nearby expanses of the bottom can be seen by a snorkeler (or from the deck of a boat, on a sufficiently still day), making a visual search a slow process.
This may be the
wreck of the Zelma Rose, a 30-ton mail boat that went down somewhere
near Six Schilling Cay. In the early morning of June 1st, 1952, she ran into rough weather, and fifteen foot waves caused at-least-partially-unsecured cargo of lumber, furniture, and gasoline drums to suddenly shift to
one side. At 2:50 AM, the Selma Rose capsized almost instantly. Survivors who could swim took turns in the water alongside a dingy, or clung to the wreck until she finally sank at 10:00 AM, or to floating fuel drums, but ultimately six lives were lost. Seventeen people survived. One account suggests that Captain Edison Higgs swam east through the night, 11 miles to Current, to summon help. For an account of the sinking and subsequent rescue, read this St. Petersburg Times article from June 5, 1952 (or click here for a text transcript of same). See also this Nassau Tribune article, along with this one which indicates the origins of a song about the wreck of Zelma Rose which was available on phonograph records of popular Bahamian music by 1954.
It is not clear exactly where the Zelma
Rose went down, and researching the results of the Board of Inquiry which studied the accident is in order.
Cenotes, known locally as "ocean holes" (when the entrance is on land) or "blue holes" (when the entrance is under the sea), are deep holes in the rock which connect to the sea via an underwater cave deep underground. The water within such a hole is usually salt water with a small layer of fresh water floating on top (often with a layer of algae floating on top of that!) This fresh water layer is replenished by rain, and without it, Eleuthera would historically have been uninhabitable until the advent of reverse-osmosis water treatment. These cenotes are often quite deep, and often connect an ocean hole on land with a blue hole out at sea. Depending on whether the tide is going in or coming out, a blue hole may be either a "blowing hole" (wherein water is blowing out of the hole as water from an inland ocean hole drains out) or a "sucking hole" (wherein water is being sucked into the hole as water from an inland ocean hole is replenished). Scuba diving in any tidal cenote when the tides are changing can be risky, since the currents can suck the diver down further into the hole.
Eleuthera's ocean holes are home to at least two unique species found nowhere else on earth. Cryptocorynetes elmorei, a species of Remipedia (Crustacea) only recently discovered, was found in Bung Hole in Wemyss Bight on the southern part of Eleuthera. (Click here for a research paper concerning this species.) Godzilliognomus schrami, another species of remipede, was discovered in Windermere Abyss in 2007. (Click here for the paper introducing this species.) Given the vast number of ocean holes on Eleuthera, there is no reason to believe there aren't many more species just waiting to be discovered on Eleuthera.
A few years ago (as recently as 2004), the Ocean Hole was relatively clear, and features on the bottom (reportedly including an old car) could be seen from the surface thanks to the water-cleaning parrotfish that lived within. However, when the area was improved by adding the park, pruned branches were allowed to fall into the hole, the sap from which altered the chemistry of the water enough to kill off the parrotfish. Until the parrotfish are restocked, the top part of Ocean Hole remains green and opaque, making for very dark, low-visibility diving (and poor quality photographs - sorry about that!)
On February 28, 2010, I did an exploratory scuba dive on the southwest part of the hole. The site is really like three dives in one.
Above 40 feet: green water with occasional fish along ledges. Visibility 10 - 15 feet.
40 feet: halocline, dropping down into much warmer water (at least 10 degrees)
50-60 feet: Brownish/red hydrogen sulfide layer; sediment strata creates interesting 2-dimensional mirages
Below 60 feet: Dark brown/pitch black, water starts to cool off again.
90 feet: wall drops away, this is either the tunnel entrance or the hole getting wider. Visibility 25 feet below the H2S layer.
I'd used so much of my air exploring the rock contours of the area that I was unable to explore down below 90 feet. However, I had 15 - 25 feet of visibility, and can verify that the bottom lies somewhere below 110 feet.
(Across the Queen's Highway from the African Methodist Episcopal Church; details coming soon)
This cenote is topped with 10 feet deep layer of fresh water which floats on brackish or salt water below. It is thought that this body of water may have been the original "James Cistern" after which the nearby town is named, although written history pertaining to this settlement has been difficult to find.
(Tried to dive this site again and take photos on June 24, 2010, but visibility was less than six feet! Either there was a recent algae bloom due to seasonal or chemical change (a car junkyard is perched on the south edge of the pond) or the pond mud is such that it silts heavily after rainfall. Will try to dive this site again when it's cooler and hasn't rained for a few weeks.)