July 23, 2008 – Wednesday – On To The Reef!

By Peggy Leshikar-Denton

I wanted to see if there was a place on the reef where the Black Rock Wreck may have struck and crossed, so Jack and I set out to see if we could find it. We imagined a line from the Black Rock Wreck to the area where the cathead was discovered in 2006, and projected it to continue eastward towards the reef. This could have been the reverse track of the Black Rock Wreck from the reef to its final resting place.

We started out with a Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV), swimming against the current along our line. On the way we traveled over sandy seabed and turtle grass patches, looking for any shipwreck features sticking above the sand. When we reached the reef we turned parallel to it surveying the inside face to the eastward, where we saw pieces of a riveted iron-hulled ship. We assumed this was the remains of the Dorian, a steamship that wrecked in 1895, first striking Drum Point then sinking near Black Rock. We saw lots of big fragments of the broken iron hull embedded sporadically in the reef as we swam eastward, but saw no sign of wreckage of a sailing ship. After inspecting hundreds of yards of terrain to make sure that we covered all areas where we felt the Black Rock Wreck might have struck, we returned to the spot where we had first encountered the reef.

Inspecting the reef

Continuing our swim along the reef westward we encountered more iron ship fragments. Here, on close inspection of the seabed just inside the reef, I saw a rectangular shape that looked like a brick, then Jack swam up and we both spotted a deadeye strap, without its wooden deadeye, concreted to the seabed. Apparently a piece of standing rigging from a sailing ship, we flagged it, and continued westward down the reef until we were nearly at a right angle to our original line. After surprising a reef shark – and it surprising us – we back-tracked to the deadeye strap “site.” Jack dove down to pick up a piece of coral to tap on the strap, only to discover that the item in his hand was another artifact; a large encrusted fragment of a plain white pottery bowl or basin. Finally we returned to our starting point, satisfied with our snorkeling reef survey, but determined to come back with SCUBA gear for a more thorough inspection.

Fragment of pottery bowl or basin likely from the iron-hulled wreck of Dorian

A few days later we returned to the site with Don & Robert, discovering a fragment of a molded glass deck light, a blown glass medicine bottle sherd, fragments of coal, and what looked like quarried ballast. I wondered; could the deadeye site be where Trouvadore first struck East Caicos? At this point, all we know for certain is that the site is where some sailing vessel lost part of its standing rigging as it ground against this treacherous reef!