Dive shop owner Steve Broadbelt thought he had seen it all. That was until he stumbled across a train wreck in the shallow waters off East End.
Partially buried in sand and encrusted in coral growth, a collection of wheelsets for old-fashioned train carriages may have lay, hidden in plain sight, for more than a century.
Broadbelt, the owner of Ocean Frontiers dive shop in East End, stumbled across the wreckage while doing maintenance work on the shop’s underwater web cams.
“We were diving close to the south channel and I just spotted the outline of something unusual in the distance. It looked man made,” he said.
When he and colleague Blair Lavelle who were using underwater dive scooters, took a closer look, they found multiple sets of axles and wheels.
Now he is working with the Cayman Islands National Museum to determine the origin of the mysterious find. Initial inquiries revealed no known record of a ship carrying train stock going down in waters off East End.
Broadbelt has surveyed the site on several occasions since making the discovery last week and has sent images and measurements to Peggy Leshikar-Denton, the director of the museum.
Denton specialises in underwater archaeology and it is hoped she can help identify the wreck.
Broadbelt said there were 13 wheelsets at the site. Cayman never had a railroad, so he speculates they were most likely cargo on a ship bound for Jamaica.
He said the spoke design appears to date the wheels to the days of steam engines.
The wreck is in shallow water, close to the Old Isaac’s dive site, which is a regular stopping point for charters and lies on the south-east corner of Grand Cayman, less than a mile from Ocean Frontiers’ dock.
“We must have gone past it every day without ever knowing it was there,” he said.
He said it was probably too shallow to be a dive site but might make an interesting stop for snorkelling between dives.