The Hunt for the Roanoke: Part II

Hunting for the elusive Roanoke wreck is a full-time passion for some scuba divers in Bermuda.

Although it went down in 1864, the remains of the Roanoke are still undiscovered off the shores of Bermuda — but not for lack of trying. Fast forward to 2013 and we ship-seekers have made a number of surface scans in the area where we believe the ship’s remains may be resting. We’d received a number of favorable hits on our scanner, indicating what appeared to be large, metal objects in various locations on the bottom. We carefully plot them for our subsequent dive trips to hunt for the Roanoke.

Hunting for the Roanoke

Our intrepid group of divers leaves the mooring on a stunning December day, and heads down the island’s south shore to the first site. We anchor, honing in on the most promising plotted points first. When we begin our first dive we find — literally under the boat — a huge ship’s anchor and chain, which appears to our untrained eyes to be at least 100 years old. Immediate dreams of hitting the jackpot on the first try surge through all of us as we follow the anchor chain over the reef to…nothing at all. We begin our search patterns and each group is coming across anchor after anchor, which vary from hundreds of years old to massive anchors from the middle of the last century.

In four dives, we discover more than 16 anchors. It’s a graveyard of the most incredible variety anyone has ever seen. We even discover two anchors on top of each other. For some added excitement, we also find huge artillery shells, obviously from the land-based forts. In the past, these strongholds had trained their guns on areas of the channel in case of invasion.

Where did the anchors come from? 

The main question on all our minds’ was how all those anchors got there, and why there were so many in such a relatively small area. When in doubt, one should consult the best. So we took our photographic evidence to the famous wreck hunter, Teddy Tucker (now, sadly, deceased). Tucker was almost certainly the most knowledgeable man in the world when it came to Bermuda shipwrecks. Tucker explained that we’d found so many anchors because it was the main area for ships to await a favorable wind to enter St George’s harbor. Clearly, many ships had their anchors fouled and had to cut them away. The anchors we found did indeed date from the 1600s up to World War II.

The hunt continues

As for the Roanoke itself? We found no trace — no burnt wooden remains, no boiler, no wreckage of any kind. Naturally, we asked Teddy if he thought we were searching in the right area. My lasting memory is of him looking at me with a typical twinkle in his eye. “Do what I did,” he said. “You guys just keep on looking.” We will Teddy, we will. The search continues this year. Who wants to join us?

By guest author Mark Diel