National Geographic : 1971 Jul
not only dangerous, but also backbreaking, for once a crew had put its man aboard the ship, all the rest of the crew had to row back to shore. "We once rowed out 87 miles to wait for a ship," he said. "We left Monday morning and got back Friday night. When we got on board, they gave us a bucket of mangoes and some salt pork. Then we had to row back again, all but the pilot." The government put many St. David's islanders out of business in 1929, when it ended the era of free-enterprise piloting and took over the responsi bility for guiding ships through the reefs. But by then the glory days were gone anyway. Piloting was at its height during the U. S. Civil War-and so was blockade-running. Theoretically Bermuda, like Britain, was neutral. But in fact Bermudians-to Britain's advantage-were a little more "neutral" toward the Confederacy. Britain needed the South's cotton, for which it willingly exchanged war materiel, and since the Southern ports were closed to foreign trade by the Federal blockade, Bermuda was chosen as a logical and convenient trading center (pages 104-5). Bermudians were delighted. Blockade-running utilized their seafaring talents and was highly profitable. Captains were paid $5,000 for each round trip to Wilmington, North Carolina. Century-old Hulks Still Strew the Reefs The shallows around Bermuda bear mute testi mony, however, that blockade-running was not all fun and profit. The carcasses of several blockade runners still lie amid the sand and coral. "See that patch of yellow-looking water ahead?" said Teddy Tucker, as he tossed the Brigadier's anchor overboard and made fast the line. "That's one of the Nola's boilers. She went down in 1863." We put on scuba tanks and hopped off the stern platform. Below, the Nola's massive boiler loomed from the bottom like some infernal sore. Fish swam in and out of its gaping belly. Off to the side, in rusty symmetry, lay her two paddle wheels. Later we dived just off Bermuda's south coast, where the Mary Celestia lies in a sand hole-a patch of clear sand amid the coral-60 feet down. "She was heading for the South with munitions and bacon," said Teddy. "She hit a rock and fell into the hole." Against the white sand the dark hull of the Mary Celestia looked starkly neat, as if a marine mor tician had arranged her for burial (page 105). We swam the length of her, and then as we began our ascent, Teddy suddenly turned back and grabbed what seemed to me nothing more than a long piece of coral. "Lead," he said when we were back aboard the Brigadier."This'll always come in handy."