Caribbean Wreck diving: the Hilma Hooker

Wrecks are fascinating, from a biological point of view, as nature occupies relentlessly the new territory and from an emotional perspective wrecks emanate a dark fascination as all wrecks have a history and often a gruesome one.
As everything interesting of course Hilma has a history and luckily it is not a very dark one – more kind of a green one…

The ship wreck of the Hilma Hooker lying on its starboard side on the reef of the tropical island Bonaire.

View on the deck from the back of the bridge to the stern

Let’s start with the name, Hilma wasn’t her first one, just her last. After being built in the Netherlands in 1951 the first name was Midland, then Mistral (1964), William Express (1967) under that name she even sunk, but was refloated and rebaptised to Anna C. (1975) then she became the Doric Express (1976) and in 1979 she was named Hilma Hooker.

Two French Angel fishes are peeking cautiously at me

Her new owners wanted to maximize the profit from poor, not very well maintained Hilma so they decided to use her as smuggling vessel.
Due to engine troubles she was towed to Kralendijk harbour were she was searched and 25.000 pound of marihuana were found.
After their owners vanished completly she was towed outside the harbour and moored on sea in sight of the coast. In the morning of September 12, 1984 the Hilma Hooker sank to her last destination on the sandy bottom at the foot of the fringing reef of Bonaire.

A sliver shining tarpon in front of the bridge of the Hilma Hooker
A sliver shining tarpon in front of the bridge of the Hilma Hooker

Let alone the approach to a wreck is magical and mysterious. When you come closer you first get aware of a slight shadow in the blue, then the silhouette gets clearer and clearer until you finally regognize these huge outlines as a ship. This alone is a great experience, then you can start exploring the wreck…

View from Bow to keel and my dive buddy
View from Bow to keel and my dive buddy

We were diving there twice, I hoped to do a night dive at the Hilma Hooker, too, but we did not manage to do so.
The scene of the wreck alone is worth a visit, but Hilma also got several interesting inhabitants and visitors. On the first dive I discovered four spiny lobsters in a crack in the hull down in the middle of the cargo bay. During the second dive four large Tarpons were roaming the opening of the cargo hold between the bridge and the stern. They seemed not at all disturbed by your presence.

The ship wreck of the Hilma Hooker lying on its starboard side

Besides the fauna the Hilma Hooker is covered by a lot of beautiful hard and soft corals, which offer protection to many ofther reef fish.
A couple of French Angelfish was swimming around the railings of the bow and offered some nice motifs, as you can see on the image above.
Near the mast a moray took position and lion fishes were strolling the sandy bottom in front of the ship wreck.
I also encounteres a cute boxfish exploring the inside of the wreck.
Groups of smaller reef fish gather at the propeller.
So the Hilma Hooker is offering definitely a lot to discover and to observe, I really enjoyed both dives a lot!

A Tarpon patrolling the wreck
A Tarpon patrolling the wreck

Hint: Check out Hilma during lunch time, we did so and could dive the wreck without any other divers!

Here is her entry on wikipedia, but the far more interesting story comes from Bruce Bowker.

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