New Years Eve in the Virgin Islands

The crew and passengers on board Juliet rang in the New Year in style while cruising around the Virgin Islands this year. Open Water Adventures joined us for some diving, exploring, and beautiful weather down south and had a picture-perfect trip!

Starting off the week around St. Thomas, the divers were treated to some of the spectacular wrecks the islands has to offer – including the WIT Shoal and WIT Concrete. Turtles, Eagle Rays and octopus were among the usual suspects. One of the divers even hit dive #100 – and after being certified for only 10 months! Someone has been busy…!

Heading over to the BVIs, we of course made a stop at the Wreck of the RMS Rhone, which is not to be missed if you’re ever in the area! A 310′ iron-hulled royal mail steam packet, the RMS Rhone was built in London in 1865 to carry freight from England to the Caribbean and Central America. Powered by both steam and sail, she was a sturdy ship who proved her worth over the mere 2 years she was in service.

[image size=”one-half” caption=” ” title=”Rhone BVIs diving” alt=”Rhone BVIs diving” align=”left” fancy=”false” shadow=”true”][/image]In October, 1867 the Rhone pulled into Great Harbor with the RMS Conway to refuel. While there, the captains worriedly watched the barometer fall but didn’t think anything of a hurricane as it was thought that hurricane season was over. What took them by surprise was considered a category 3 hurricane, whose first half caused their anchors to drag and worried the captains that they might run up on Peter’s Islands. During the calm of the storm (the eye) the captains chose to transfer all passengers to the “unsinkable” Rhone and haul anchor – the Rhone to head for open sea, and the Conway to take a chance and head for the shelter of Road Harbor. Passengers were tied into their bunks as was standard procedure, to prevent any injuries during heavy seas.

The Rhone’s anchor caught and had to be cut loose in order for the ship to head out and quickly headed for the narrow passage between Salt Island and Dead Chest Island. The captain gave the shoal between a wide berth and as the ship began passing through the passage, the second half of the hurricane struck with winds coming out of the exact opposite direction as expected, throwing the Rhone against the point of Salt Island. The ship split in half and the cold water from the ocean rushed inside the ship, hitting the boilers that were running at full speed, and causing them to explode.

The ship went down in 80′ of water at the bow and 30′ at the stern, the masts sticking out of the water. There were only 23 survivors of the 146 on board, most of the bodies buried at a cemetery on Salt Island. The Rhone is now regarded as one of the best dive sites in the world, teaming with fish and encrusted with 150 years of coral.

[image size=”two-third” caption=” ” title=”Virgin Gorda Baths” alt=”Virgin Gorda Baths” align=”right” fancy=”false” shadow=”true”][/image]There were plenty of land excursions as well – a stop off at the Baths in Virgin Gorda was a highlight of the trip. The Baths are a collection of boulders concentrated on the southern tip of the island, some of the boulders almost 40′ in length! Thought to be volcanic in origin, these boulders make a beautiful network of tunnels and formation surrounding a beautiful beach where visitors can climb the formations or snorkel around them.

The ship anchored at Jost Van Dyke for New Years Eve and rung in the New Year Caribbean style. They also paid a visit to the famous Willy T’s floating bar where, well, let’s just say what happens in the Virgin Islands stays in the Virgin Islands!

Happy New Years from Juliet!