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Devil's Backbone

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The devil's backbone - a shallow and jagged edge reef
Remnants of train wreck at the devil's backbone
Bahamas Fast Ferries crossing the devil's backbone
Underwater at the devil's backbone
A Bahamian delicacy known as crawfish
A snorkeler's paradise at the devil's backbone
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The devil's backbone is a shallow and jagged-edge reef, extending across the northern end of Eleuthera, about 1.4 miles northeast of Spanish Wells. It has rip the bottom out of more vessels than any other reef in the country, leaving them to settle among the sharp coral. Today it is known as a snorkeler's paradise and is waiting to be explored.

Dive Depth: 5 to 35 feet

Dive Features

During a devil's backbone reef dive, you can encounter snapper, grunts, parrotfish, angelfish, stingrays and moray eels among the elkhorn, star and brain coral formations.

Enjoy a sense of history entwined with an appreciation of the marine world as fish float around ancient anchors embedded in the coral from many ill-fated ships. Here are a few of the remnants you will encounter during your dive:

  • The William - captained by William Sayles, while leading the Eleutheran Adventurers from Bermuda, it wrecked during rough seas in October 1648, losing most of its supplies and one of the colonists aboard.
  • The Farmer - this American ship struck a reef on September 10, 1842, while sailing from Wilmington North Carolina, with a cargo of lumber.
  • USS Boston - this American 18-gun sloop war ship weighed 700 tons and was 127 feet long with a 34 foot beam and a 16 foot draft; it shipwrecked on the north side reef in November 1846, while in route to its new station.
  • The Train Wreck - a barge carrying a steam train and several rail cars struck a reef during a violent storm in 1865. It sank with the train still on board. The wreck lies in 15 to 25 feet of water and the site is littered with remains of the wheels, three-wheel trucks, boiler plate, wooden beams, brass spikes, coal and ballast stone.
  • The Cienfuegos - this steam-powered American passenger ship was 292 feet in length, 39 feet 8 inches in breadth, had a draft of 22 feet, and weighed 2,332 tons. Its iron hull was divided into six watertight compartments. Between February 4 and 5, 1895, it ran aground on a shallow coral reef during a strong northwest wind. The wreck lies in 10 to 35 feet of water, and is said to resemble an underwater junk yard. The bow, steam engine, boiler, two giant heat exchanges, the main drive shaft, numerous steel plates, broken ribs and twisted metal beams can still be seen at the wreck site and make a good swim through for divers.
  • The Carnarvon - this 186-foot steel-hulled Welsh freighter ran aground on a shallow coral head in1916. The wreck sits in 15-25 feet of water on the southern edge of the reef. The top quadrant is eight feet below the surface, and the remains of its steam engine and drive shaft are remarkably intact. It is quite picturesque, and divers can swim through part of the ship's boiler.
  • The Vanaheim - this 86-foot coastal freighter ran aground on a reef during a storm in February 1969. The remains of the metal rudder can be found only five feet from the bow of The Cienfuegos, since the two ships struck the reef in the exact same spot. The wreck lies in 10 to 35 feet of water.

For More Information, Contact:

Eleuthera Tourist Office
Queen's Highway, General Delivery, Governor's Harbour, CE
(242) 332-2142 · fax (242) 332-2480

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Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of the National Geographic.

Latitude: 25.513666000
Longitude: -76.954305000
Elevation: -7629 FT (-2325 M)
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