The Wreck of Sapona is spectacular. A concrete hulled cargo steamer, 282ft in length and 46ft at the beam, was built in North Carolina. A fleet of these ships were built around WWI, because steel was in short supply. The SS Sapona ran aground in a hurricane near Bimini in 1926, and has become a navigational landmark for boaters as well as a popular dive site.
We arrived shortly before sunset at low tide and the creatures immediately set out on paddle boards to explore. As they made their way the short distance from Tanda Malaika to her , the warmth of the sunset saturated the scene in a dreamy golden glow. I cooked tuna on the braai at the stern for fish tacos and the delicious smell filled the air. Since there was not another vessel in sight, we were the only ones to soak in the sights and smells of the Heavenly scene.
Jude climbed off the board she was on with Mycah, and slowly made her way up the wreck, among battered concrete and rusty bars and panels. After she reached the top deck she picked her way around the huge holes and called down to her siblings, who were still paddling around below. We watched with smiles on our faces from Tanda Malaika’s bow, wondering how she was going to get down afterward.
When the sun dipped low past the horizon line, Jude jumped off the 55-60ft wreck down into the cool clear water below, and like a hunting party, the creatures returned with a collection of exciting discoveries and observations to share with the family.
We decide that in the morning we would all return and explore together. After dinner we lay in our beds, the anchor holding us firm, and I glanced once more out the port window at the eerie remains of the once majestic ship that still carries with it so much life.
The following morning I awoke just before sunrise and looked out once more at the sleeping giant. I grabbed my Nikon and quietly walked out onto the forward deck to try capture the sun as it rose, instantly feeling the warmth on my skin.
It wasn’t long before everyone else slowly made their way out of their berths, and once we’d eaten and school work was done, we set out with masks, fins, snorkels and cameras to explore.
I first dove down at the bow and along the starboard hull, in hopes of seeing a shark, but instead was met by huge schools of jack, butterfly and damsel fish. Bright purple and green fans clung to the hull as well as sponges in red, orange and yellow.
As I reached the stern, which lay separated from the main hull, I found twisted and broken beams, bars and other rusty structures. The gigantic prop lay solid and strong, surrounded by hundreds of reef fish and a huge puffer meandered lazily through the schools. Big brown sea cucumber and urchins lay scattered among conch and barrel sponges in the white sand, and a 4ft barracuda watched me from the distance.
As I rounded the corner to the port hull, I was met by several hundred Silver Jack, who seemed to guard the wide space through which I swam. Once inside the the main body of the ship I surfaced and looked around in awe, feeling like I was in a cathedral. Huge rusted beams arched over me like a giant rib cage. I cleared my snorkel, took a deep breath and submerged once more, swimming among rays of sunlight streaming through the water. A large sleepy stingray lay off to one side with one of its eyes turned in my direction. I explored all through the inside, diving down through doorways and various open spaces, and a Scrawled Filefish inquisitively inspected its reflection in my mask.
Our sweet Momma had been sitting in the dinghy which was tied up to the wreck, not wanting to swim, but before long she was in the water with clothes and all, holding my and Bernadine’s hands as we guided her along. Jude and Mycah climbed to the highest point and jumped off.
Everyone loved their experience there with SS Sapona, and agreed that it was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives thus far.