Shipwrecks of the Cayman Islands
Beneath the crystal-clear waters of the Cayman Islands lies the wreckage of almost 200 ships. Spanning the centuries from sail-powered British naval frigates to modern submarine rescue vessels, the wrecks of the Cayman Islands are fascinating to historians and divers alike.
Below are the stories behind some of Cayman’s most famous wrecks.
Exploring the dark, atmospheric corridors of the USS Kittiwake is one of the highlights of any dive trip to the Cayman Islands. The former submarine rescue vessel was deliberately sunk off Seven Mile Beach in 2011 to add a new attraction for the scuba industry. It has become one of the island’s best-loved sites and a favourite with photographers. The US Navy ship, in commission from 1946 to 1994, was tasked with recovering the ‘black box’ from the Space Shuttle Challenger, which exploded over the Atlantic, killing seven astronauts, just 73 seconds after lifting off in 1986.
The name Oro Verde literally translates as ‘green gold’ in Spanish. Originally a US Navy ship, the 250-ton vessel was converted to a cargo boat, shipping bananas from Central America to the US. It was also rumoured to be involved in marijuana smuggling, according to Lawson Wood’s book, ‘Shipwrecks of the Cayman Islands’. The ship was abandoned in Cayman’s waters in 1976 amid reports of unrest among the crew, who had reportedly not been paid.
A Cayman Compass article from 1980 indicates that it was claimed by the government and bought by Rupert Moxam for $1,500 before making history as the first boat to be sunk for the dive industry.
Originally a Japanese cable-laying barge, the Doc Polson was used in Cayman to dig the channel for the Cayman Islands Yacht Club.
It was sunk for the dive industry in 1991 and renamed for Dr John Polson, who was instrumental in securing the first hyperbaric chamber – to help treat scuba divers suffering from the bends – at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
Only 100 feet long and fully intact, sitting upright on the seabed, the ship has become encrusted with corals and sponges and is a magnet for marine life.
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