By Jill Smith. (Next AquaCat scuba trip NEW YEAR 2019/2020!)
May 10 1980
Two Cuban fishing vessels were discovered poaching in Bahamian waters.
The Bahama’s HMBS Flamingo attempted to make arrests, but were attacked by the Cubans in retaliation. As a result, 4 Bahamian Defence Force Marines were killed: Austin Smith, Fenrick Sturrup, David Tucker, and Edward Williams.
A 90-foot Coast Guard Cutter was decommissioned, and it was decided that it would be towed to San Salvador to be sunk as an artifical reef and scuba diving site. It never made it, however.
Due to a series of mishaps, the vessel accidentally sunk in the Exuma Cays en-route to its intended destination. The Bahamian government agreed to name this wreck in honour of one of the brave marines that died 15 years prior in the Cuban attack of 1980, and so it became the Austin Smith Wreck, and a popular scuba diving site.
The Austin Smith came to rest in an upright position in approximately 60 feet of water, on top of a coral bed in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas. For 20 years the wreck remained whole and in good condition, until Hurricane Matthew (a category 5 storm) swept through the area between September 28, and October 6, 2016. The power of this storm broke the Austin Smith into 2 pieces, however, the wreck still supports the flourishing local marine life, and remains a favourite dive site for divers. Reef sharks frequent the area and can almost always be seen swimming around the wreck.
Just the Facts
Location: Bahamas (Exuma Cays) - the Caribbean Sea
Visibility: Average-10 m//33 ft Max-30 m/100 ft
Depth: 50-60 feet in area
Weather: Average Water Temp: 83.5F - Average Air Temp: 81F Weather conditions in area: http:weather.com/weather/tenday/l/Nassau+The+Bahamas+BFXX0005
Water temps can be as low as 75F in the winter, and as high as 88F in the summer Exposure suits: Recommended even in summer to prevent injury on wreck due to scrapes, cuts, and stings due to firecoral (or jellyfish if diving at night) Diver skill level: Suitable for beginners, but loved by all skill levels
Current: Very little, but may vary with weather conditions
The little critters found on and around the wreck (reef is right there):
Equipment: Normal Recreational Scuba Gear, safety gear (SMB), knife for possible disentanglement
Optional: Photography gear an asset - this is a beautiful wreck!
Environmental Factors: As always, maintain good buoyancy and don’t touch!
Wildlife: Reef sharks, moray eels, barracuda, parrotfish, angelfish, grouper, and don’t forget the small crabs and shrimps hiding in little places!
Medical and Emergency
The DAN Dive Accident Insurance Plans are recognized worldwide and can be confirmed 24 hours a day through the DAN Emergency Hotline (+1-919-684-9111). The DAN plans provide secondary coverage of up to $500,000 and pay 100% of eligible expenses.
Bahamas Hyperbaric Center Ltd
The Bahamas Hyperbaric chamber facility/clinic is on the grounds of the Lyford Cay Hospital in Nassau. This facility also extends free educational programs to Bahamas Dive Operators, and regularly provide training/coordination of air and sea evacuations and patient transfers from site of injury.
SSS NETWORK / Nassau
Bahamas Hyperbaric Center, Ltd. P.O.Box CB-10981 Nassau, Bahamas
Phone/Fax: Tel: (242) 362 – 5765
Normal Clinic Hours are: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (U.S. Eastern Time, – 5 GMT), 7 Days a Week
Bahamas 24 Hour Emergency Lines: (242) 362 5765
Bahamas 24 Hour Emergency Mobile: (242) 422 2434
Lyford Cay Hospital:
Lyford Cay Hospital Emergency: (242) 362 40251