South West Breaker reef is the southern-most breaker reef in Bermuda and a protected buoyed dive site. The breaker is not a coral formation or even a rock formation; instead, it is made of prehistoric fossils of worms. Known scientifically as algal vermetid cup reef they completely encircle the island in a loosely broken chain as close as 10 feet from south shore beaches and as far as 8 miles from the island on the North Shore. These reef survive at the surface over millennia because they are exceptionally dense and hard.
These reef are locally known as breakers or boilers because they break the surface of the ocean, where the water bubbles and boils, but also because they break up any ships that have been unlucky enough to encounter them, with over 30 well-known wrecks within them. The South West Breaker location includes several of these breaker reef including In Betweens, as well as a distinct Protected Area and a smaller boiler reef called Champagne Boilers. American novelist Peter Benchley chose South West Breaker as one of the main settings for his novel, “The Deep” (later made into a motion picture released in 1977).
At an average depth of only 28 feet and typical visibility in excess of 100 feet, South West Breaker provides an excellent shallow dive for both novice and experienced divers. The shallow depth and the variety of fishes make it a great place for snorkeling as well. Vertical, wall-like structures and overhangs provide ideal shelter for an amazingly diverse selection of fish. Schools of snappers, grunts and hog fish are found all around the breaker. A tunnel through the center of the breaker provides ample cover for green moray eels and spiny lobsters. The tunnel also acts as a hiding place for the glass-eyed sweepers. During summer months, the tunnel is filled with millions of silversides. Giant groupers can also be seen in the tunnel. The hard coral coverage of the area is astounding with literally thousands of healthy brain coral, some the size of wheelbarrows. The area has numerous cleaning stations that many fish avail themselves of and the numerous schools of tiny yellow cleaner wrasse, coupled with the prolific yellow brain coral, on a sunny day literally give a diver the feeling that they are diving through the color yellow.
Also near South West Breaker is the “Lost Breaker”, a closed site. This algal vermetid cup reef sits 15 feet below the surface, possibly a legacy of a previous stable sea level it is currently being photographed as part of the Bermuda 100 project as part of a grant application by marine scientists who are trying to understand the impacts of sea level rise on reef structures. (See also Bermuda 100 project analyzing biological indicators of a century of sea level rise in Bermuda.)
Location: 32°13'51.31"N, 64°51'56.16"W In Betweens: 32°13'52.68"N, 64°52'4.44"W Maximum Depth: 35 feet (10.7 meters)