Volume 2 - St Maarten/St. Martin

Proselyte Reef comprises five ridges that are probably old lava flows. Several buoys enable dive stores to dive different parts of the reef on different occasions. The reef lies just outside Philipsburg.

The story of H.M.S. Proselyte, after which the site is named, is a sorry tale. The shoal that the ship hit was charted and the crew knew it was there. The 17-foot draft of the ship required the crew to pass around and not over the shoal, but failure to allow for the current caused the ship to founder. The British did not take kindly to losing this small, fast frigate and the commander, who was not on board at the time, was court martialled.

What is left of the ship lies scattered across the reef, indistinguishable at first glance from the surrounding reef. Look a little closer and you will see cannons and anchors standing proud of the coral.

Dive Profile
We drop to sand underneath the boat and shelter from the slight current behind a section of a ridge. The rocks are a riot of colour and deserve close inspection. In a bid to out do each other, encrusting sponges have painted the walls orange, ruby-red, pastel pink, with purple veins formed by rope sponges. Under the shaded overhanging sections orange cup corals make a noble attempt to compete for attention.

As we stare at the ridge, the mobile life reveals itself. Tiny arrow crabs creep on tiptoe across the coral as if trying not to leave footprints on fresh paint—perhaps they too cannot believe this colourful display is not painted afresh each morning.

We follow our leader through channels and around rocks. He points out parts of the H.M.S. Proselyte that we would not otherwise have seen. Cannons, in particular, have blended in entirely with their surroundings. Easier to find are the anchors; their shape is not so easily disguised, though they are just as encrusted as the cannons.

The area attracts fish, not least because of the cleaning stations eager for their next customer. A barracuda waits patiently, though we cannot help feel that the parrotfish being cleaned is looking a little intimidated. Perhaps he will skip the full wax polish today and make way for the barracuda.

Thanks to Chuck of Trade Winds Dive Center.
Proselyte Reef
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