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Sunday, November 6, 2011

How Deep Is Your Love?

Today was another glorious day and since the seas were so calm, off we went to do some scuba diving! We had a map of dive sites, of sorts --- no coordinates or any specifics, but a map with rough, general estimates of the different sites. We used the dinghy sounder to check the depths and bottom contours for reefs and such, but nothing was corresponding to the map (of course!) and we weren't finding much reef anywhere outside Simpson Bay. We finally headed out to the marine park area to the south os St. Maarten, near Phillipsburg, where we saw a couple dive boats just finishing their dives. Happily, there was an empty mooring buoy in an area with depths of 45-55', so we tied up, and down we went. Since we were using 36% nitrox and thus needed to keep our depths shallower than 90', the reef was perfect! (Always be aware of your depth, and where your partner is!)
How deep is your love?
Turns out the site was the wreck of the HMS Proselyte! The Proselyte was  a 133-foot British war frigate with 32 cannons. Built in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1770 as the Dutch war frigate Jason, she was originally fitted out with 36 cannons. After some years of service, her crew mutinied and turned the small, fast warship over to the British in 1796. The Proselyte saw a lot of service in the waters off Europe, before being sent to British West Indies in early 1801, where she also took part in the successful British attacks on St. Bartholomew and St. Martin. Proselyte was stationed in St. Martin to help secure the island along with a couple other ships.

Then on September 4th, 1801, while sailing from St. Kitt's to St. Martin under the temporary command of Lt. Henry Whitby, the Proselyte hit the "Man of War Shoal" just one mile from Fort Amsterdam, near Phillipsburg. All 215 crew were saved, and it was determined that the ship sank due to the negligence of the ships master, L. Williams, whom Whitby had left in charge of navigation. This was unfortunate because Mr. Williams apparently refused to heed the well-known local maritime warnings of the shoal's location. Although the ship's commander, Captain George Fowke, was not on board the ship when she sank, he was later tried at a court martial. I have no idea if he was found guilty or not!

Today the Proselyte rests on her starboard side in approximately 50 feet of water, just outside of Great Bay Harbor. There are about 15 to 20 cannons and three 14-foot anchors still recognizable. Barrel bands and ballast plates supposedly can be found around the reef, but they are so encrusted with hard corals that they are almost unrecognizable. Still, the three cannons are very impressive: huge flukes and long stocks, each wedged into the reef and covered with coral. I saw a length of large anchor chain as well, also well-encrusted -- so much so as to be part of the reef. We both really enjoyed the dive; there was a lot of fish life, abundant coral and all in all, was a very cool dive, especially so since we had no idea it would be such a historic dive site!
One of the massive 14' long, heavy anchors from the Proselyte
lying on Man Of War Shoal.

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