Treasures Still to Be Found
Shipwrecks off the coast of Bermuda aren’t done revealing their secrets.
Thanks to Bermuda’s surrounding coral reef—a thriving underwater system that’s been designated a protected marine area since the 1600s—the island is home to over 400 shipwrecks sunk in its waters, making it the wreck diving capital of the Atlantic. The biggest of the bunch is the Cristobal Colon, a Spanish luxury liner that was 499-feet long and three decks high that crashed into a coral reef in 1936 during a cruise between New York and Central America. Today, its wreckage is scattered across 100,000 square feet of the ocean floor at a depth of 55 feet and is a haven for reef fish including grouper, damselfish and barracuda.
Another popular dive site is the wreck of the Constellation, a four-masted wooden schooner that was the inspiration for Peter Benchley’s book The Deep. Bound for Venezuela with a cargo of building materials, medicine and 700 cases of Scotch whiskey, the ship sank off the northwestern coast of Bermuda in July 1943 and now lies in 30 feet of water where novice divers can view petrified remnants of its bounty.
“The wreck diving capital of the Atlantic, Bermuda’s home to over 400 shipwrecks sunk in its waters.”
Off Bermuda’s south shore, underwater explorers can also dive the wreck of the Mary Celestia, a side-paddlewheel steamer chartered by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
The ship sank in 1864 but made news as recently as 2011, when five bottles of 148-year-old wine were discovered in her bow in addition to an intact bottle of perfume from the elite 19th century London perfume house, Piesse & Lubin. Once removed from the wreck, divers brought the bottle to Bermuda Perfumery Master Perfumer, Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, who hand-delivered the bottle to the laboratories of Drom Fragrances in New Jersey to have it analyzed. When the ingredients were determined—an elegant combination of grapefruit and bergamot with notes of neroli, orange flower and rosewood—the perfume was recreated and bottled under the Lili Bermuda brand. Indeed a true underwater treasure, the perfume is now packaged in a Bermuda cedar box and sold at Lili Bermuda perfumery in the City of Hamilton or at its historic St. George’s store.
“This story is fascinating in so many domains: For shipwreck divers, historians as well as perfumers,” said Ramsay-Brackstone. “I hope by sharing the story of this ancient perfume we grow the love of modern-day fragrance making.”
Triangle Diving: 1 Blue Hole Hill, Bailey’s Bay; 441-293-7319