Scuba Diving the B.V.I.s

Blue chromis

We had a great time diving around the British Virgin Islands.

We dove with Kate Brunn of UBS Dive Center. Kate and her husband Tony run a nice, small dive shop that gives you personal attention.

Diver down: Chris
Blue chromis and damselfish near fire coralChris
Fantasy forest: tube sponges
Bluehead wrasse hidingMegan diving down to Kate
Trumpetfish 'hiding' with parrotfish

This last picture on the right shows Divemaster Kate pointing out something for Megan.

The picture on the left, and the picture below, shows a trumpetfish using a parrotfish for cover. Camouflage is an important tactic for trumpetfish, who are predators that eat smaller fish. Usually they hide in more conventional places, like this one we saw in Bonaire.

As you can see from the next few pictures, trumpetfish can be brightly colored. We can't imagine why this would be handy for anything except hiding next to parrotfish.

Trumpetfish 'hiding' with parrotfish
Trumpetfish pair (Rhone)
Yellow trumpetfish (Rhone)Trumpetfish swimming straight toward camera (Rhone)
Reef view
Parrotfish or Spanish hogfish? (Rhone)Featherduster or feather worm, very abundant around B.V.I. (Rhone)
Megan: ready to explore the RhoneSponges

These last pictures, and all the ones that follow, were taken on our second day of diving, on the wreck of the R.M.S. Rhone.

The Rhone is the most famous dive site in the Virgin Islands, and one of the most famous wrecks in the world. R.M.S. stands for Royal Mail Steamer. This British mail ship was anchored at Peter Island (one of the many small British Virgin Islands) on October 29, 1867, when one of the worst hurricanes in recorded history hit.

The captain steamed for open water but was pushed toward the jagged volcanic rocks of Salt Island. When cold water hit the hot boilers they exploded and split the ship in two. The stern now lies in about 35' feet of water, the bow in about 80'. More than 100 passengers died in the wreck.

By the way, the Rhone is the shipwreck in the 1976 movie The Deep with Nick Nolte.

Megan and a large snapper (Rhone)

Here is Megan behind a large mutton snapper on the Rhone. The snapper was big, but not quite as big as this might look. He was probably a little over two feet long.

By the way, see the black spot on his back? As with many fish, seemingly random spots or birthmarks aren't random at all. That spot is part of what helps us determine his species. We assume the fish themselves have some other ways of knowing.

The fish below are lizardfish, perhaps a mating pair. You usually see them alone.

Lizardfish (Rhone)
R.M.S. Rhone
Grunts and silversides (Rhone)
Megan and Chris on the Rhone
Megan rubs the Rhone's 'lucky porthole'

Here is Megan rubbing the Rhone's "lucky porthole."

The divemaster for our second day of diving was Scott, a Canadian. He's pictured below. Scott said that touching this porthole was a diving tradition.

Divemaster ScottThe Rhone
Megan on the RhoneRhone galley floor with male sergeant major

The checkered tiles above are the Rhone's galley floor.

The blue fish on the tiles is a breeding male sergeant major. He is probably guarding a nearby patch of eggs, or else keeping the galley floor clean and attractive in the hopes that a female will find it an appealing place to lay her eggs.

Below: a queen angelfish and a school of squirrelfish.

Queen angelfish and squirrelfish
Nurse shark (sergeant major and blackbar soldierfish)

On the Rhone dive we had our very first shark encounter. As you can see from the photo above, it was a nurse shark about four feet long.

Actually, we only saw about what you see here, which is to say, we saw nothing. Scott saw it and then it hid under the Rhone. Chris claims to have glimpsed its head through the murk. Megan admits she couldn't make out anything at all.

The red fish in the picture are blackbar soldierfish. The striped one is a female sergeant major. Perhaps we should have encouraged her to swim carefully away from the shark and go check out the handsome Abudefduf saxatilis in the galley.

(This shark really wasn't much of a danger to the fish or to us. Nurse sharks feed at night, and they aren't known to attack humans. Otherwise we wouldn't have been sticking our noses into his den looking for him. Hmmm. That may still have not been the wisest thing to do. :-) Let's not do that again.)

RMS Rhone
Grunts beneath the Rhone
Chris in a fishbowl (with wrasse?)
Squirrelfish pair (Rhone)Two butterflyfish
French angelfish (Rhone)
French angelfish (Rhone)
French angelfish (Rhone)

Above: lovely French angelfish.

Below: an ugly old barracuda. He's been hanging around the Rhone so long that divers have given him a name: Fang. If you look closely you can see a prominent white tooth in his lower jaw.

The Rhone's resident barracuda, Fang
Squirrelfish (Rhone)

Above: a squirrelfish.

Below: a grunt.

Aren't the colors in these pictures great? We actually don't see a lot of this color when we're diving, unless we're using a flashlight. As you go deeper, the "warmer" colors — the reds and oranges — are the first to get filtered out. Their longer wavelengths bounce off the water. So, as you go deeper, it gets bluer and darker.

The flash on the camera, and a few adjustments in Photoshop, bring the full spectrum of color back.

Grunt (Rhone)
Rhone swim through


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