North Rock is Bermuda’s biggest reef preserve and has at least two shipwrecks near it, and perhaps many more, including the ship that brought the first recorded Briton to Bermuda in 1594.
The remains of a WWI-era steam tug boat belonging to WB Smith sank when servicing the old North Rock Beacon tower. The wind swung around and smashed the tug on the breaker, leaving the crew to swim for the Beacon on North Rock, where they sat for a couple of days until people ashore realized they had not returned and sent out a rescue party.
Separately, the Crystal Catfish wrecked on the northern side of the beacon in 1977 after a radio beacon mix-up (her captain, Jack Hunt, also fell asleep). A massive, difficult and ultimately unsuccessful salvage operation ensued, with the ship being left to break apart.
In 2006, a salt glaze Bellarmine shard was discovered in the same area of North Rock. The shard dates from the late 16th to early 17th century. Coupled with an anchor and ballast, the find lent credence to a story that suggests the remains may be from a ship that arrived at North Rock in 1594 carrying the first recorded Briton to Bermuda, Henry May.
The remains of the WB Smith Tug can be found in the first sand hole to the south of the beacon, directly under and adjacent to a small blind breaker. In and above the sand, metal parts of the vessel are visible, along with what appears to be some sheathing and iron struts as well as metal fitting, pipes, etc. As expected (in a dynamic area), very little timber can be found apart from some small pieces in evidence. There is a small hand water pump in the sand hole.
The primary evidence of the Crystal Catfish today is her lead keel, a testament to the dynamic environment that North Rock confronts. The lead ballast from the ship remains on the northern side of the beacon.
The North Rock site is buoyed with a 1km no-fishing limitation. It is a very popular dive and snorkeling site with stunning clear water, extremely healthy hard and soft corals and sand with large pink elements. The area is pristine and used by marine scientists as a control site for a wide range of studies. As with all shipwreck sites in Bermuda, all cultural materials are protected and should not be interfered with or removed. If something is seen at North Rock that divers or snorkelers think is of interest, please record its location, take photographs from a variety of angles, and contact the Custodian of Historic Wrecks. (http://environment.bm/found-a-wreck).
WB Smith Tug: 32°28'29.26"N, 64°46'8.01"W Crystal Catfish: 32°28'29.26"N, 64°46'10.08"W Protected Area Radius - No Fishing: 1000m