The Cartanza Senora is the most visited dive site in St. Thomas. It is sometimes called the Cartanser Senior, and different dive guides refer to it by either of the different names. The wreck is located in the well-protected Shipwreck Cove on Buck Island, about four miles south of St. Thomas.

The Cartanza was a 190 foot long freighter that was originally used to transport goods during World War II. After the war, she served as an agricultural freighter transporting products from South America up the Caribbean island chain. Sometime in the 1970s, however, it seems that she added some agricultural products to her cargo that weren’t completely legal. During one trip to St. Thomas in the late 1970s, the Cartanza was abandoned by her captain and crew for reasons that aren’t altogether clear. Legend has it that the crew was warned that they were about to be boarded by the Coast Guard, so they took their illicit cargo, hopped into their tenders and took off, after they scuttled the ship near the mouth of St. Thomas harbor, where it sank.

It was considered to be a hazard to navigation for the cruise ships visiting St. Thomas, so the Army Corps of Engineers was planning go blow up the wreck. But local dive shops banded together in a campaign to “Save the Cartanza”, and raised money to pay for a large crane mounted on a barge to move the ship. This campaign was led by Bill Letts, a local dive shop owner at that time. Bill was a passionate fan of the Cartanza, and when he passed away in 2005 his ashes were sprinkled amid the wreck at his request. In addition, there is a concrete plaque embedded in the sand of Shipwreck Cove a few yards west of the stern section honoring Bill’s efforts on behalf of the Cartanza.

On July 16, 1979 the Cartanza was towed out to an area west of Buck Island and dropped intact into about 85 feet of water. She rested there as an advanced wreck dive until the 1980s, when Hurricane Hugo rolled the Cartanza up out of 85 feet of water, broke it into three pieces, and left it in Shipwreck Cove where it is today. It now sits in about 45 feet of water, home to a wide variety of fish and marine life including sergeant majors, snappers, parrotfish, turtles, southern stingrays, shrimp, and assorted corals and sponges.

The Cartanza Senora segment in “Diving St. Thomas, Volume 1” features all three pieces of the wreck, as well as a Barracuda, Reef Squid, Brittle Star, Feather Duster Worm, and Yellowtail Snappers.


This website is a loving tribute to our fish and other sea life comrades and the gorgeous colorful sea world they inhabit.