The island of Grenada is affectionately known as the Spice Isle for its exotic spices of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. Indeed, as we stepped off the plane, its warm, fragrant breezes welcomed us. Just a few hours earlier we were shivering in the drizzle and cold, wrapped in several layers of clothing dreaming of this exact moment. Kate, my cousin and photographer on this trip, laughed, “Oh my gosh, I think I’ll tear up my return ticket and violate my visa. I’m not leaving!”
Binca, the hotel’s concierge, had everything prepared and our rooms were gorgeous. Set just above the resort’s white sand pool, our spacious suite came replete with a full kitchen, private balcony, large flat screen and fresh flowers. We made ourselves comfortable and headed down through the palms and manicured lawns to the dive shop.
Our hosts, Peter and Gerlinde Seupel—owners of Aquanauts Grenada—greeted us as their crew took our gear and readied the boat. We talked briefly on the deck overlooking the bay, getting a short briefing on our upcoming dives. The more they described our schedule, the more excited Kate and I got. I heard a motor turn over and Peter smiled, “Ok, go get wet!”
Our dive boat, Salsa, bobbed up and down in the turquoise swells just off the white sands of Pink Gin Beach at the southern tip of Grenada. I was the last of the group to take a giant
It was the first dive of our trip and as I floated down, fingers looped around the reference line already set by the dive team, I checked my gauges and computer knowing that at 20 meters (60 ft) the mythical Bianca-C would start to appear from the depths.
The water was 80°F (27°C)—both exhilarating and soothing at once—and a welcome change from the frigid temperatures of Puget Sound where I do most of my diving back home in the Pacific Northwest.
Paul Ward, instructor with Aquanauts Grenada, stayed close, flashing me the “OK?” sign, making sure I was equalizing properly and everything was all right.
His briefing on the boat a few minutes before gave me an idea of what to expect once we reached the largest shipwreck in the Caribbean, but when I first saw her misty outline, growing more definite and vast with each meter we dropped, I skipped a few breaths—breaking PADI’s golden rule.
Just below us Kate turned on her back and spreads her arms as wide as they would go. She was smiling behind her regulator, and I knew what she was thinking —This thing is HUGE!
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Bianca-C, an Italian cruise liner that caught fire from an engine room explosion while she rested in the harbor of Grenada’s capital city, St. George. The ship burned for nearly three days but, fortunately, due to the heroic efforts of her crew, numerous local fisherman and selfless townsfolk, only two people perished and over 670 passengers were saved.
Hearing the distress calls, a British warship, Londonderry, arrived to offer assistance. They were able to sever the anchor chain and secure a tow line, removing her from shipping lanes and local boat traffic with the intent of beaching her in a safer location. Damage to the cruise liner’s rudder made the tow difficult, and after a squall arose, the job became impossible. The line was severed, and the Bianca-C sank, coming to rest on her keel at a depth of 55 meters (165 ft).