Of all the ships that are reported to be haunted, the R.M.S. (Royal Mail Ship) Rhone has a very unique distinction: the ship lies 35 to 80 feet underwater. The Royal Mail Packet Company commissioned the ship in 1864 as a mail and passenger cruiser between England and the Caribbean. The Rhone's iron hull was 310 feet long and 40 feet wide and was believed to be the fastest and most modern ship in the fleet. Only two short years into its service however, the ship ran into trouble just outside the British Virgin Islands.
Hurricane of 1867
It was in late October (October 29th to be exact) and the hurricane season was believed to be over as the R.M.S. Rhone neared the island of Tortola. So when the barometers suddenly plunged and dark clouds covered the sky, Captain Robert Wooley just assumed that they were heading into an early winter storm. When the storm hit, the order was given to drop anchor, yet keep the ship at full steam ahead. The maneuver was to offset the storm's power and keep the ship in position. Then something unusual happened. The skies cleared and the sea came to a rest. It was then that Captain Wooley realized that the ship was now directly in the eye of a hurricane.
It has since been estimated that the hurricane the R.M.S. Rhone encountered that fateful day was around a Category 5 storm. At the time, the ship held anywhere between 150 to 300 passengers and crew, who reportedly were becoming hysterical as the powerful storm battered the ship. For this reason, and so that passengers would not be injured by the violent motions of the ship in the storm, Captain Wooley reportedly ordered his crew to tie the passengers to their bunks. It would prove to be a tragic decision.
The cable reportedly snapped and Captain Wooley attempted to use the calm of the ocean to his advantage and headed for open sea, between the islands of Dead Chest Cay and Salt Island. As the eye passed and the storm recommenced, the ship was helpless against the roaring waves and the zero visibility the storm provided. It is even said that a giant wave came out of nowhere and washed Captain Wooley overboard before he knew what hit him. The R.M.S. Rhone was pushed towards a series of rocky outcrops known as Black Rock, off the shores of Salt Island. When the ship crashed into the rocks, seawater rushed in and filled the hot boiler room, which was still set at full steam. The result was a massive explosion that ripped the ship in two.
The stern sank quickly - much too quickly for the ill-fated passengers still tied to their beds. It did remain upright for some time with its masts above water, allowing only four people to climb to safety and await rescue. The aft of the ship drifted a short distance away, but ultimately sank at a 90-degree angle from the bow. In total, of the estimated 150-300 people onboard, there were only 23 survivors; including 22 crew members and one passenger. The stern of the ship now lies in about 30-feet of water, while the bow is deeper at 80-feet.
The RMS Rhone was even predominantly featured in the 1977 horror/thriller film, The Deep. The R.M.S. Rhone is now considered to be one of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean, as well as the world. However, some visitors have reported strange activity inside the decaying hulls of the Rhone several feet underwater. One of the more predominant encounters experienced is the sensation of someone tugging on the shoulders of the divers. When they turn to see who was touching them, they find no one there. Others have reported hearing strange noises that they describe as groans or screams; including several professional divers who have said that they never heard such noises before in any other dive. The haunting is so widely known that it attracted the attention of National Geographic Channel's series "Is It Real?" who explored the legends and story of the R.M.S. Rhone. Each waterproof card is printed on both sides, made of durable PVC plastic and is designed to be taken on the dive. They are also 3-hole punched to fit in standard log books. Card measures (W x L) 5.5" x 8.5" (14cm x 21.6cm) and makes a great gift idea.