Built in 1877 by R. Napier & Sons in Glasgow, the steamship originally known as the Balmoral Castle was a new breed of iron-hulled, transatlantic ship for carrying both passengers and light cargo. She was powered by a 383-horsepower triple-expansion engine. Ownership changed hands several times in the late 19th century, including to a Spanish company that renamed her the San Augustin. In the early 1890s the ship was acquired by a Canadian company, the Quebec S.S. Company, Ltd., and renamed the Madiana.
Under the command of Captain Roderick Frazer, the ship was en route from New York to the West Indies via Bermuda when the ship was threading her way through the narrow channel in the direction of Hamilton Harbour, while trying to avoid the coral reefs. Captain Frazer, however, mistook the light from North Rock, thinking it was from St. David’s Lighthouse instead. He miscalculated and altered the course, and the Madiana crashed on the reef northeast of North Rock on February 10, 1903. The ship went down, but all hands escaped on life boats. The captain was found guilty of negligence, but the ruling was later overturned by the British Board of Trade.
The wreck was partially salvaged in World War II. Her engine is gone, but the twin boilers are still visible, and her stern overhangs into a sand hole. The bottom of the ship’s hull and keel now sit 25 feet below the ocean’s surface on a hard coral bottom, approximately half a mile from the Caraquet wreck site. On top of this collection of hull plates and bulkheads sit two boilers and the ship’s massive propeller shaft (18 inches in diameter). Visibility for divers at the wreck site is considered excellent, generally averaging from 80 to 100 feet. The Madiana is a Bermuda Protected Area Dive Site.
Location: 32°28'2.71"N, 64°49'12.00"W Length: 345 feet (105 meters) Maximum Depth: 25 feet (7.6 meters) Tonnage: 3,045 tons Protected Area Radius - No Fishing: 300m