The Wit: A Diver’s Dream & Conservation Innovation
Belize’s newest and premier wreck dive site is The Wit, Turneffe — a 375-foot concrete tanker ship that was laid to rest at the bottom of the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Turneffe Atoll. She is located at the Oasis dive site 0.75 miles Northeast of BlackBird Caye in Soldier Caye Reserve. The Wit has been described as a “diver’s dream and an innovation in ocean conservation” with several months of careful planning and an earlier unsuccessful attempt leading up to the historic moment of her sinking. At 3:12 p.m. on 10th December, the mighty tanker descended to its final abode amid the watchful eyes of sting rays, barracudas, jacks and the conservationists at the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA). The 66ft dive makes it perfect for open water and advanced diving.
The Wit is one of the largest shipwrecks to be deployed in the Caribbean. She joins other historic and recent shipwrecks in the Caribbean Sea including her sister ship, The Wit Concrete II that was sunk in the US Virgin Islands in 1995. The Wit was built during WWII mostly by women in Philadelphia, USA and was used as a floating transfer station to transport supplies around the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard of the US. She was later used for molasses storage by the Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSI). In May 2021, TASA was gifted The Wit by the ASR/BSI and so begun preparations for the final chapter of her life.
The Wit measures 375ft. in length, 56ft. width and 38ft. height with sixteen chambers, creating fascinating opportunities for wreck diving. Her impressive corridors and easy-to-access compartments mean there’s no shortage of spaces for the curious explorer. Her concrete structure provides the perfect foundation for her final years of service as an artificial reef. This marvel was glimpsed with the 60 ft. of coral growth that had been preserved on her keel over 30 years at the time of her sinking. The Wit will breathe new life below the sea surface and double as a haven for diverse wildlife ranging from sting rays to hammerheads. Great care was taken to thoroughly remove and dispose of potentially hazardous materials. The location of the dive site was also intentionally selected to eliminate coral reef impact.
The Wit’s final fate as a part of Belize’s world-renowned Barrier Reef seems a rewarding one after 70 years of service. She joins other bucket list gems such as the Great Blue Hole. The Wit is managed by TASA with funds collected from wreck diving going towards their operations and programs at the Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve. Whether you’re a snorkeler, a beginner or advanced diver, The Wit offers intriguing underwater adventures for everyone.
Photos courtesy the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association (TASA), Blackbird Caye Resort and Beth Watson.