Imagine an island with so many wrecks littering its coast that they are literally on top of each other. That was the premise of Peter Benchley's novel, The Deep, and the film of the same name. The story involved two wrecks from entirely different eras. The first ship, a vessel called the Goliath, fell victim to the reefs surrounding Bermuda during a storm while ferrying munitions and medical supplies to Europe during World War II. As the story unfolds, two honeymooners diving the wreck happen on not only the Goliath's hidden cache of morphine ampoules, but also the remains of a second vessel buried beneath it. The second wreck turns out to be a lost 16th-century Dutch Tobacco ship originally bound for Spain, filled with treasures "of which the world has never seen."
Although the book's overall plot was a bit far-fetched, the part about two wrecks from differing centuries was actually taken from fact. If you doubt a place could possibly have so many shipwrecks that they are piled on top of one another, you need to visit the island of Bermuda.
Lying 650 miles due east of the North Carolina coast, Bermuda is best described as a small, semi-tropical island displaced to the mid-North Atlantic. Only 21 square miles in size, this idyllic piece of real estate is warmed by the Gulf Stream current and is rimmed with colorful coral reefs.
Since the early 16th century, mariners crossing the Atlantic between Europe and North America have used the island as a reference point. Many who strayed too close to Bermuda's massive reef system met with disaster. As a result, the waters around Bermuda are a shipwreck graveyard, filled with everything from Spanish galleons and pre-18th-century warships to 19th- and 20th-century mail steamers, freighters and luxury liners. Some of the wrecks responsible for inspiring Benchley's novel include the Montana, Constellation and Pollockshields.
The paddlewheel steamer Montana wrecked on the island's eastern reef in 1836. Today, she sits in 30 feet of water with a large part of her bow, boilers and paddlewheel frames intact.
Scarcely 50 feet from the Montana is the Constellation, a four-masted schooner that was driven onto the reef on July 30, 1943. Its wooden hull having long rotted away, the wreck's most prominent feature is a huge mound of solidified sacks of concrete, dishes and glassware. Included in its 2,000 tons of cargo were thousands of glass drug ampoules, including morphine, which are still found on occasion. Sound familiar?
Completing the model for the Goliath is the wreck of the Pollockshields. The British munitions ship went down with a whopping 350 tons of live ammunition in 1915.
Bermuda is the final resting place of hundreds of other wrecks, and each of them has a unique story to tell.
As for which of these wrecks served as the model for the ship with "treasures of which the world has never seen" ... that you will have to find out on your own.