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MIAMI DIVE SITES

ALMIRANTE (135') A 200' steel freighter sunk 1974 that was in immaculate condition with beautiful coral growth when Hurricane Andrew picked her up and dumped her upside down in 1992. Since then, sea life has re-inhabited this vessel making it a great site once again. There are many areas of twisted metal which are great for exploration. Red gorgonians, jewfish, and many other varieties of pelagic life call this ship home.

 

ANDRO (100') Sunk in 1985, she was a luxury yacht that was converted to a patrol boat for World War II and was used to chase submarines. After the war, she served as a freighter along the Atlantic coast and was eventually seized by Customs for transporting illegal drugs and was scuttled. The ship settled upright in the sand and with a 38’ profile there is plenty to explore at a range of depths. The ship has twin propellers, two smokestacks and a large wheelhouse still intact. Hurricane Andrew broke the ship into three sections and exposed the engine block. This has made the wreck more varied and interesting to explore. This is a great wreck for underwater photographers.

 

ARMY TANKS (45’) In 1994 the Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) placed two M60 Army Tanks and 1060 tons of limerock boulders. The result is an area prolific with life. Lobsters are abundant both on the tanks and within the boulders where they can easily hide from their predators. Although the tanks have only been underwater for a short period of time, they look as if they have been here since the last World War. They have an incredible amount of growth, including spiny oysters, sponges and both a variety of hard and soft corals.

 

BELZONA BARGE (35’) This 115’ steel barge was sunk in August of 1991 at a depth of over 70’ until Hurricane Andrew moved her to 35’ in August 1992. This wreck is mostly broken apart, but is fully covered with soft corals and the flowing gorgonians constantly waving in the current; make the wreck look more like a coral reef than a rusty old vessel.

 

BERRY PATCH (150’) This 155' steel ship was sunk in 1988 is upright and intact except for some damage to her stern. She is a rather low-lying wreck, with little penetration potential.

 

BISCAYNE (60’) This wreck was a well-kept fisherman's secret until about 1980. This 120’ ship was often referred to as the "Banana Freighter" because it was used to transport bananas between the Caribbean Islands and from Central America. It was later confiscated for financial reasons and bought by fisherman who wanted to sink it for themselves at a depth of 250’. When it was being towed to the “secret” spot, strong winds blew the vessel and landed it in only 55’ where it currently lies. Because of this shallow sinking, this site became a great location for divers. Penetration can be done in the cargo hold where bait fish often reside. The picturesque colors and variety of sea life make this a great site for photography. The stern and starboard sections of the wreck have collapsed. However, the decades of growth leave this site fully inhabited with sea life and a great dive.

 

BLUE FIRE (135’) This 175’ passenger freight was sunk in 1983 and is filled with sea life. She was seized during the Cuban exodus by the Coast Guard. Today, she is home to many larger fish such as jacks, snapper, cobia, barracuda, and Jewfish. Divers should be warned that currents can be strong at this location. The vessel sits upright and penetration on this wreck is possible. If underwater photography is your goal, this is a dive that should not be missed.

 

BRANDYWINE (145’) Not much is known about this a 135’ steel hulled ship except that she was seized in 2001 as part of Operation Riverwalk after US Customs official found cocaine aboard. She was scuttled in 2001 along with M/V Miguana and M/V Etoile de Mer to create the US Customs Reef.

 

C-ONE (70’) This 110-foot long tug was purchased in 1990 by the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resources Management for use as an artificial reef. The aged tug was stripped of her engine and fittings and towed by the tug Captain Donald from Jacksonville to Miami in preparation for her scuttling. Approximately five miles southeast of the Fort Pierce Inlet, the 60-foot long Captain Donald began taking on water, which flooded her engine room causing the three crew members to abandon ship and the Captain Dan quickly sank beneath them. All were rescued without injury. The still floating C-One was eventually towed to Miami following the dramatic and somewhat ironic event. She was sunk in 70’ off Haulover Inlet in the vicinity of several other artificial reefs. The C-One is straddled by the tug Lady Carmen to the west and the tug White Coast to the east. The two sections of the 155-foot freighter Conception can be found less than 200 feet to the north. Additionally, a 90-foot barge and numerous concrete modules lie a short distance to the southeast.

 

CASCADES (80’) The Cascades is a series of deep reefs that start near the Orion and end over a mile away to the North. This is an awesome drift dive when the current is favorable.

 

CRUZ DEL SUR (240’) This 258’ freighter is one of the more impressive deep artificial reefs off South Florida. Like many wrecks off Florida’s shores, she was seized by the US Coast Guard for smuggling drugs. In 1985 a boarding party from USCGC Mesquite found three pounds of marijuana hidden aboard. The forfeited vessel was purchased by Miami-Dade and Broward counties and sunk with explosives in 1986. As a joint project between the two counties, she rests in 240’ on the county line about a mile south of the Tenneco Towers site. She sits upright and intact with her forward kingposts reaching to 140 below the surface. While her cargo holds are largely bare, aside from some scattered hatch covers resting under a fine layer of silt, the decks are adorned with a colorful layer of invertebrate growth which hosts swarms of tropical fish. This dive requires technical dive training and site generally has good visibility where currents are common.

 

DEEP FREEZE (135') In 1972, while moored in Costa Rica, an explosion rocked this 232’ freighter. The ensuing fire swept through the ship ultimately leading to her demise. The hulk was towed to Miami, where she was stripped of her superstructure and scuttled as an artificial reef in 1976 off the coast of Miami. Now one of Miami's most popular advanced dive sites, she rests at 135’ with her top deck reached at 110'. She was sunk in the artificial reef site known as Pflueger, located north of Government Cut and south of Haulover Islet. Close by are the wrecks of Henry’s Express and the Pimelious. Coincidentally, the wreck of the Ultra Freeze rests 12 miles south and was built in the same shipyard in Neuenfelde, Germany. Fairly strong currents are the norm here. She is a popular spot for local fisherman and spear fisherman. Due to the monofilament lines on this wreck and the heavy buildup of silt, the Deep Freeze is only recommended for advanced divers. Be sure to bring a knife for the monofilament. Hurricane Andrew separated a 35' section of the stern from the hull in 1992, but otherwise caused little damage.

 

DEMA TRADER (70') Formerly known as the GGD Trader, this 165' freighter was seized by U.S. Customs for carrying drugs, and was renamed DEMA Trader after the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association annual convention held in 2003. She was sunk October 2003. The ship is keel down in the sand. Large openings were cut in the sides of the superstructure to allow safe penetration dives into the former galley and cabin areas. Tons of concrete culvert pipes and junction boxes were loaded into the ship's cargo hold, creating ballast in case of storms, and providing more habitat than just an open cargo hold.

 

DOC DE MILLE (150') This 287' steel freighter was built in 1949 and renamed for a local veterinarian and pioneer before it was sunk in 1986. The interesting thing about this sinking is that it was done by the Air Force. They staged an attack on this ship to simulate what may have occurred in war, dropping concrete bombs with remote-controlled charges. The ship remains intact and managed to avoid damage in 1992 during Hurricane Andrew. Jewfish are a common sight here and share the area with a variety of sea life.

 

ESMERALDA (200’) She was an antique 147’ luxury yacht trimmed in teak and mahogany and originally named the Hiawatha. She plied the Great Lakes as a pleasure yacht until the early 1920s. In 1924, it was purchased by Thomas J. Peters of Miami, who brought it home and renamed it Esmeralda. Two years later she sank at Miami's municipal dock, now Bicentennial Park, when a 1926 hurricane barreled through South Florida. A derrick barge sank twice trying to bring the Esmeralda up from the bottom and eventually the city decided to spend up to $10,000 to rent equipment to raise and remove it. Two days after Christmas in 1927, the Esmeralda was towed out to sea and detonated, sending it to the bottom. Forgotten until 1994, she was discovered and identified by divers as the Esmeralda!

 

ETOILE DE MER (150') The “Star of the Sea” is 80’ steel hulled fishing vessel converted to carry dry cargo. In January 2001 she was seized after Customs Inspectors found 186 pounds of cocaine, worth $ 1.5 million wholesale. The cocaine was discovered on the main deck of the ship in two duffel bags and hidden in a false wall between the cargo hold and the engine room. The United States Customs Service sunk three cargo ships previously used to smuggle drugs into South Florida via the Miami River (M/V Brandywine, M/V Miguana and the M/V Etoile de Mer) to create the "U.S. Customs Reef”, a living monument to honor those who protect America's boarders and coastlines- past, present and future.

 

FISH HOLE (45') This is a natural recess in the sea bed that is frequented by many species of fish, including hogfish, grouper, snapper, angel fish, and parrot fish. This site is also home to nurse sharks, lobsters and various species of eels. This is a great dive!

 

JUPITER STAR (165’) Built in the Netherlands in 1956, this 226' steel cargo freighter changed ownership multiple times. It is unclear how she became known as Jupiter Star as this name does not appear in the vessel’s documentation history. She was eventually abandoned and left to rust on the Miami River. The Atlantic Gamefish Foundation purchased the vessel for use as an artificial reef in 2002 and she was scuttled later that year. She is intact lying on her port side with some damage to her superstructure and rudder, most probably from her sinking. Major penetration (cave diving rules apply here) down the funnel all the way into the engine room where numerous gauge panels can be observed. This is a very large and impressive looking wreck.

 

MATTHEW LAWRENCE (50’) This vessel was deployed in memory of Mathew Lawrence who was one of the founders of Aqua Video and was involved in the early development of underwater video housings. He died while diving on the Andrea Doria in 1992 and a memorial plaque can be seen at the top of the pilot house. This 110’ barge was sunk in 1995 as part of the Dade County Artificial Reef Program. Sites nearby can be accessed via rebar stakes.

 

MIGUANA (140') This 101’ former garbage scow was converted to carry dry cargo before she was seized as part of Operation Riverwalk when Customs Inspectors and the Florida Highway Patrol officers found 125 pounds of cocaine, worth over $1 million wholesale. The cocaine was initially discovered when "Bandit," a U.S. Customs drug detection dog, and "SPEC," a Florida Highway Patrol drug detection dog, alerted to the presence of cocaine near two propane tanks at the stern of the ship. While examining the tanks Inspectors discovered they were not properly connected to the galley stove, contained no propane gas, and were unusually heavy. An examination of the bottom of those tanks revealed that the bottoms had been cut and patched with a Bondo type material in an apparent effort to hide the illegal cargo. The United States Customs Service sunk three cargo ships previously used to smuggle drugs into South Florida via the Miami River (M/V Brandywine, M/V Miguana and the M/V Etoile de Mer) to create the "U.S. Customs Reef”, a living monument to honor those who protect America's boarders and coastlines- past, present and future.

 

NEPTUNE MEMORIAL GRAVEYARD (40') The Atlantis Reef Project is a man-made reef in the image of The Lost City of Atlantis. Atlantis will be the largest man-made reef ever built, covering more than 600,000 square feet of ocean floor and using 10,000 cubic yards of cement. The completed site will have a diameter of over 900 feet, making this a multi-tank dive! Billed as the first underwater theme park in the world, Atlantis also has a memorial for the dearly departed. Cremated remains will be deployed in most of the columns, domes, and other structures. If you’ve ever dared to visit a graveyard on a dark night dive, this is the dive for you! While ghostly visions have been reported from time to time on this site, there is almost a guaranteed chance to get a glimpse of a spirit from the past on this night dive.

 

OPHELIA BRIAN (110') This wreck is the second largest artificial reef off the coast of Miami, second only to the Doc De Mille, and was specifically deployed by and for the sport-diving community. Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association (MIRA) scuttled the 210’ freighter, Sea Taxi, in December 2009 in 110’ of water. Built in 1965 in Germany and christened the Hoheburg, the vessel is a sister ship to two very popular, previously sunk Miami-Dade artificial reefs- the Ultra Freeze and the Deep Freeze. It's been renamed several times in the past 40 years, most recently called the Sea Taxi. The new artificial reef is expected to boost the local marine ecosystem by creating a new home for fish and other marine creatures while diverting diving pressure off adjacent natural reefs. The wreck is being re-named the Ophelia Brian after the daughter of donors from the Brian and Lavinia Snyder Foundation- avid divers who contributed funds for the project.

 

ORION (95') Scuttled in 1981 in 95' of water. A 118' Navy Tug Orion was used during the widening of the Panama Canal in Central America. Eventually the boat went unused for 5 years until the State of Florida seized it and absorbed this ship into the artificial reef program. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew brought destruction to this vessel, tearing off the pilot house which landed in the sand next to the ship still intact. The pilot house often contains schools of bait fish. Grouper are also a common sight at this location.

 

PARAISO (70’) She is a 115’ steel freighter was used as a research vessel before becoming an artificial reef in 2000. Little is known about the vessel’s construction or service history, but it appears she was originally built as an offshore supply vessel. She now rests between the Rio Miami and Princess Brittney.

 

PATRICIA (55') This steel tug was sunk in 1990 and is mostly intact. This wreck is only 100’ from the Karline. Also close by are the Radio Tower Pyramids and Army Tanks. The once sandy area now has a great deal of coral and marine life. This is an excellent site for photography.

 

PIPES (45') This is actually a "secret spot." These left-over sewer pipes were disposed of just offshore south of Government Cut where they have sort of "stacked up" on top of each other in about 55 feet of water. The growth on the structures is incredible as the open pipes allow uninhibited flow of water and thus nutrients. Oysters, clams, sponges and the associated invertebrates are abundant and growing not only on the outside, but all along the inside of the pipes. Fish congregate on the adjacent reef and moray eels and lobster are a common occurrence here. The inside of the pipes is literally full of gorgonians attached to the sides, making it difficult, but not impossible to swim through. Yes, the pipes are large enough for a diver to comfortably navigate. It is truly amazing how these discarded sewer pipes have turned into a base for prolific life. These all-concrete pipes not only attract varied and numerous marine-life to the area, but if placed closer to shore would also prevent the erosion of the sand beach.

 

PRINCESS BRITTANY (85') This 165’ general cargo freighter was seized by Customs and Border Protection in 2002 during Operation River Walk when more than 156 pounds of cocaine were found hidden underneath the deck inside the engine room. The expected value of these drugs was $1.3 million. The forfeited vessel was subsequently cleaned and scuttled in 2003 off Key Biscayne. Sea life immediately found this wreck and made it their new home. Barracudas in large numbers and giant basket stars are a couple of the organisms that are often seen by divers who explore this site. She currently rests upright and intact, and in close proximity to other artificial reefs, such as the South Seas, which lies 250 feet to the southwest.

 

PROTEUS (75’) Sunk in 1985, this 220' freighter makes an excellent opportunity for the novice wreck diver. She was once a ferry boat on the Great Lakes before carrying freight and supplies between the Caribbean islands. Most of her superstructure was removed to allow maximum cargo space, but the ship failed to make a profit resulting in bankruptcy in 1980. The freighter sat on the Miami River for 5 years as a derelict vessel when NAUI expressed their interest in helping to obtain and sink a ship in late 1984. Volunteers cleaned and prepared the ship to make it environmentally safe before sinking. Resting on a sandy bottom, the Proteus was broken into several large pieces by the forces of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Since the structure spread out over a wider area, more marine life seems to have taken up residence in the various twisted metal remains of the wreck. Moray eels, schooling grunts, barracudas, angelfish and the occasional groups can be found within the wreck and around debris field.

 

RAYCHEL (185’) A frequent visitor to Miami, this 164’ Honduran freighter carried cargo from South Florida to ports in the Caribbean and South America. On October 18, 1990, she cleared Government Cut outside the Port of Miami to head southbound for the Turks and Caicos Islands. Burdened with cinderblocks, lumber, vehicles and cargo containers, the captain took over the helm form the harbor pilot.  In a 20-knot wind the freighter’s cargo suddenly shifted, she listed and began to capsize. The crew of nine abandoned ship unharmed, but Raychel settled at the bottom in 43’ of water. Opportunistic local divers descended upon the wreck and liberated her cargo, especially numerous crates of Jack Daniels. After several months she was salvaged, cut into three pieces and placed on the sea floor in deep water along with a barge and a large floating buoy which presumably was used in the salvage operation. This site consists of the five pieces about 150 feet apart in a North-South line and has 20’ of relief.

 

RADIO TOWERS (55') These pyramids are from sections of radio towers once used by Radio Mambi. Because of the broadcast area over Cuba, Radio Martν used to transmit anti-Castro, anti-communist sentiment, along with Spanish music content. The broadcast was also popular with the Cuban community in South Florida. The old radio tower was cut into nineteen steel and concrete pyramids and sunk in 1988 to attract marine life and to create a popular dive spot off Miami Beach. The pyramids rest in 50 feet of water and each rise about 20 feet from the bottom. This site is near to several other wrecks (Patricia/Miss Karline) and artificial reef rock piles.

 

REX BAER (225’) Also known as the M/V Augie Ferrigno, this 273' German-built steel coastal freighter cruised into the Port of Miami from Haiti and squatted along the Miami River for several years while she slowly rusted under the blazing Miami sun. Following a long saga that played out in local newspapers and in courtrooms, the derelict vessel was ultimately donated to be sunk as an artificial reef. She was scuttled in 1998 outside Government Cut and she lies on the seabed upright and intact with 80’ of relief. Considering her age, the ship is in great condition with little signs of breakdown or collapse. She has very little in the way of coral growth other than general encrustation. With her superstructure intact, there’s plenty of opportunities for penetration for those with the proper training and equipment. The skylights aft of the superstructure allow entrance into the engine room. Her deck work areas are still full of winches, windlasses and other deck gear. Her mast is lying down and hanging over the rails, football-style goalposts rise from her deck and the cargo holds are cavernous There’s a lot to explore on just one dive and a little mystery makes for some desire to return. There is some evidence of fishing on the wreck but nowhere near the extent commonly noted. This is a particularly large and impressive wreck, certainly one of the most interesting sites off Miami below 200 feet.

 

RIO MIAMI (70’) This wreck was featured on a 1989 episode of 20/20 where Hugh Downs detonated the ship for sinking and dove the site less than 24 hours later. The publicity brought some popularity to this location. Today, this 105-foot tug lies in 72 feet of water after being shifted by Hurricane Andrew. She is upright, and her cabin and ladders are intact and rise to 30 feet from the surface. This is one of the most intact wrecks in the area and is easily penetrated.

 

SCOTT MASON-CHAITE (240’) A technical dive site, situated 26 miles north of Key Largo in Dade County, the Ocean Freeze is a 297’ freighter. Even though she is further out, she's still a favorite wreck diving site for those with proper scuba diving certification. Sunk in 1998, the whole ship is upside down with her rudder at the highest point and her frame resting on the inverted superstructure of her stern.

 

SHERI LYN (110') She is a 235’ freighter that took 400 pounds of explosives to bring down. Dutch-built, she carried a small crew as she was launched in 1952 and used for shipping. When she had been docked for several years without use, it was assumed that this ship was abandoned, and ownership was gained by the Department of Environmental Resource Management. The vessel took a hard hit from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and was spread across a wide area. Her bow lies 60 feet away from the rest of the wreck. This allowed for increased marine life to inhabit the remains. Although prior to this she was intact and upright, she now has a larger variety of sea life. She has many foot holes cut through bulkheads that allow for exploration. South of the bow lies 50 Chevron tanks, each 30 feet long and 8 feet in diameter with the ends cut off. Twenty cement-mixer tanks also lie nearby. The variety of wreckage provides home to large amounts of pelagic life. She rests closely between, but slightly offshore of the Paraiso and the Princess Brittney.

 

SOUTH SEAS (75') One of the more infamous of Miami's artificial reefs, the "South Seas" sits in 73 feet of water off Key Biscayne. This vessel is a 175-foot luxury yacht that was built back in 1928 for the Guggenheim family. It is the sister ship and exact replica of Adolph Hitler's private yacht. The ship changed hands over the years and was even owned by the Woolworth family at one point. By the 1980's the ship had deteriorated greatly, at that time over 50 years old. Although investors bought her to restore her, she sank in a Miami canal and it was finally decided that the ship be donated to DERM, Department of Environmental Resource Management. Sunk in 1983, the South Seas has been scattered across the sand bottom over the years, however, the area is still shrouded by baitfish and barracudas.

 

STEANE D'AURAY (70') Often referred to as the "St. Anne"; she is a 110' North Atlantic trawler. Some of the wreck has been torn apart and scattered across the bottom in the sand after Hurricane Andrew in August of 1992. Sunk in 1986, she has a tremendous amount of growth. The rich nutrients of the Gulfstream have brought an abundance of life to her structure. Brilliant soft corals undulate in the current while the dark passageways beckon you to investigate her inner structure.

 

STARFISH REEF (35') Considered to be, by far, the most beautiful shallow reef group in Miami. The colors in clear water are breathtaking. Sponges of every color are complimented by patches of living coral, where every coral and sponge teem with juvenile tropical fish in the spring and summer. There are many larger fish, including parrotfish, angelfish, grouper, barracuda, puffer fish, lizard fish and hogfish.

 

TACOMA (135') The Tacoma is a 165' steel freighter that was sunk in 2002. This wreck remains in good condition and intact. Big game fish are often found on this dive because it is rarely visited. The Tacoma was seized as part of the Operation River Walk, a drug confiscation mission. This dive is deep and great for seeing pelagic life and the beauty that lies underwater.

 

TENNECO TOWERS (110') This is the largest artificial reef in SE Florida and was created in 1985 when the Tenneco Oil Company sank five large sections of oil production platforms. The decommissioned oil platforms were transported by barge and sunk in a straight east-west line, each a little deeper than the next. Three of the platforms are within recreational diving limits. The smallest of the three platforms rests at 97’ feet of water and rises to 65’. The two larger platforms are in 110’ and top out at 60’. The second platform lies about 100 yards from the first, and the third is about another 85 yards away. The two deep water sections lie in 190’ and rise to 80’. When Hurricane Andrew stuck in August 1992, it caused the two deep towers to list at close to a 45-degree angle. The flow of tides and currents that move freely through the site gave almost instant growth to a jungle of soft coral that has since covered the entire wreck. Many large pelagic fish can be found at the wreck along with queen angels, Spanish hogfish, and the occasional turtle.

 

TORTUGA (110') Sometimes called the Fair Game ship because its explosion and sinking in 1995 was used as the final scene in the movie Fair Game, starring Cindy Crawford and William Baldwin. The 165’ steel ship sits upright and has large openings that make this wreck fairly easy for the trained wreck diver to penetrate. The wheelhouse can be explored, and the twin propellers are intact. There is a good amount of growth and abundant marine life. Divers report spotting Boxfish, Snapper, and Barracuda.

 

ULTRA FREZE (135’) This 207’ ship was built in 1959 and was owned by Trans Caribbean Lines and managed by Trans Caribbean Agencies Inc. of Miami. While on the Miami River she was abandoned, vandalized and slowly stripped until she was worthless. She was scuttled in 1984. The steel hulled Ultra Freeze now rests in within 70’ feet of the surface. The wreck sits on a slope with her stern facing west. She sits intact and upright and her stern has an amazing amount of marine growth. The wreck's propeller is always a good photo background.

 

USS LAKELAND (150’) Landing Ship Medium (LSM-373) were 200’ amphibious assault ships of the United States Navy in World War II and she was one of 558 made for the USN between 1944 and 1945. Most vessels of this type were scrapped during the Cold War, but several were sold by the United States Department of Defense to foreign nations or private shipping companies. During the final weeks of World War II, she participated in operations in the Marianas, Solomons and Okinawa. After the Japanese surrender, she transported troops and supplies for occupation forces in Korea and China until 1946. After the war, she was placed in the Atlantic Reserve to serve as a logistic supply ship until she was decommissioned in 1960. The Lakeland was converted to a Panamanian inter-island freighter and was in service for two decades before finally being scuttled as an artificial reef off Miami in 1982. The Lakeland now rests almost completely upside down. While the inverted hull does not present an appealing dive visually, there are numerous penetration points that allow access under and into the interior of the vessel. To the north, an extensive debris field with numerous cement mixer drums that were also deployed to serve as artificial reef materials can be found scattered along the bottom.

 

USS STAR TREK (210’) This 200' Landing Ship Medium (LSM) was sunk in 1982 and has 32’ of relief. She lies on her starboard side and her hull is bent about one-third of the way back from the bow. Unlike her sister ships the Lakeland and the Pioneer One, also sunk off Miami, the Star Trek's superstructure was extensively modified from her wartime configuration. The years have not been kind to the Star Trek; the modified bridge and superstructure were badly damaged in Hurricane Andrew and now lie mostly destroyed in the sand beneath the wreck. She also had aircraft carrier like external walkways installed on both sides to allow the crew to traverse the ship without entering the cargo holds, however the external walkway on the port (top) side has begun to fall off making for an interesting swim through. About the only interesting original features left intact are the guarded props. Some penetration is possible (she has many dark silty internal passages) but probably inadvisable in her deteriorating state. Given her age there is surprisingly little coral growing on her.

 

WATER TOWER REEF (170’) This iconic retired Miami Beach water tower has been lying on the bottom at 170' next to an impressive looking 195’ barge with 65' of relief since 1997. There is considerable debris inside the barge, mostly consisting of the support structure from the water tower.                                                            .

 

WRECK TREK (75') Belcher Barge is a 195’ steel barge was sunk in 1985 by four explosions at each corner and the barge turned over on its way to the bottom. Experienced divers can swim inside the entire length, passing through the holes that were cut in the bulkheads. This wreck is part of a popular Wreck Trek. The 2nd wreck is the Belzona II; a 90’ tug was built in the early 1900s and carried refugees during the Cuba Boat lift. She was also intentionally sunk in 1991 and lies in 60’ of water. During Hurricane Andrew, she was shaken about and lost her roof. She lies 147’ from the Belcher Barge at 189 degrees. The 3rd wreck is the Belzona; an 85’ tug boat sitting upright in 70’ of water. She was used throughout the Bahamas before she was harmed by a fire and intentionally sunk in 1990. She lies 228’ away at 150 degrees. Close by at 114’ and 87 degrees lies Belzona III. This 100’ tug lies in 85’ of water and was sunk in 1991 to complete the Belzona Triangle. She was built in 1953 and used for towing. In 1989, engine failure lead to her demise. The longest trek is to the wrecks of the H.A.V Parker III, a 120’ barge, and the Schurger’s Barge, a 90’ barge. They both lay together 386’ and 8 degrees away. The final swim is back to the Belcher Barger 254’ away at 287 degrees.

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KEY LARGO DIVE SITES

BENWOOD (55') She is a 285’ ship built in 1910 and sailed with a crew of 38 with 12 rifles and one four-inch gun. The actual sinking of the Benwood, which occurred in 1942, has been a subject of much controversy. One account goes as follows... the freighter was torpedoed during World War II by a German submarine off the Florida Keys. As she sailed in search of shallower waters, she was again hit, this time by a passing ship, the Robert C. Tuttle. Five shells on board exploded and ended this ship's possibility of being salvaged. A second more likely account claims the two ships, the Benwood and the Tuttle, collided. Rumors of German U-boats in the area required her to travel completely blacked out. The Robert C. Tuttle, also blacked out, was traveling in the same area, bound for Texas. The two ships were on a collision course, and the bow of the Benwood collided with the port side of the Tuttle. After she sank, her bow was destroyed to avoid navigation hazards and her hull was used for bombing practice. Goatfish, grunts, moray eels, glassy sweepers, snapper, lobster, grouper and hogfish frequent this wreck. The site is home to a healthy collection of sea fans, sea whips, brain coral, sponges and fire coral.

 

EAGLE (115’) This freighter that was obtained by the Eagle Tire Company after a fire rendered it no longer useful for cargo transport. Islamorada dive shops and tourism interests worked together to have the Eagle become an artificial reef and popular dive spot off Lower Matecumbe Key. The ship was cleaned, and holes blasted in the sides before it was sunk in 1985. The ship settled in 110’ of water on her starboard side. A hurricane in 1998 broke the ship in half. Mooring buoys are located at its bow and stern. Divers should descend on the mooring lines as the current can be quite strong. A smokestack, crow's nest and mast are all intact. Because its profile reaches 40’ and there is great visibility, divers will need to descend only 65’ to reach the ship. There are several places where advanced wreck divers can penetrate the ship. It is generally well-lit and divers report seeing amberjacks, grunts, silversides, jewfish, nurse sharks, and cobia. The masses of coral that have grown on the ship are well-developed. Spiny oysters and sponges abound.

 

MOLASSES REEF (30’) This is the most visited dive site in the United States. It is home to massive brain coral, star coral, and other large barrier corals. Caves and ledges provide homes for lobsters, crabs, moray eels, parrot fish, angelfish, filefish, turtles, rays, and nurse sharks. Local legend suggests that Molasses is named for a barge that grounded here many years ago carrying a cargo of molasses barrels, but much of the strewn wreckage is probably from a wooden hulled Austrian ship named Slobodna, run aground here in 1887.

 

NORTHERN LIGHT (190’) This 300’ Great Lakes steam freighter, after the owner attempted to commit insurance fraud by setting fire to the ship, sank in 1930. The exact position of this wreck was not known until 1989 when a group of local divers positively identified the site, previously known as the "Elbow Wreck," as that of the Northern Light. The wreck lies in two parts in 190’ of water. The bow is upright in the sand with its anchor hanging on the starboard side, still secured by its chain to the winch. Aft of this is a cargo hold full of modern anchors left by fishermen unable to retrieve them after having set them into the wreck. Further aft is the stern of the ship upside-down on top of the midships; the rudder, turned hard to starboard, is within 145’ of the surface. Penetration is easily conducted on this wreck, as divers can enter on one side, swim aft of the boilers, and then turn to head back out on the other side passing the large boilers. Portholes with glass intact, still adorn the hull of the wreck on either side. Seldom visited, the wreck has developed a good amount of coral growth and attracted numerous fish and other sea life in the 70+ years since her sinking.

 

USGC BIBB (130') This wreck is a former Coast Guard ship built in 1937. The Bibb served in patrols and as a convoy escort during World War II. She took part in the invasion of Okinawa and was in service in Vietnam. The 327-foot vessel had a beam of 41 feet and drew 13 feet of water. The ship is in pristine condition. In 1987, the Bibb and another cutter, the Duane, were stripped and prepared for sinking. The doors above the main deck were removed, but the hull was sealed. The Bibb rests on her starboard side, and the port railing can be reached at 95 feet. Penetration is not recommended as there are many possible entanglements and obstructions, and often extremely strong currents. The Bibb is close enough to the Gulfstream to have incredible visibility and some very large marine life. Sharks and Goliath Grouper are routinely spotted here, as are hordes of smaller fishes and barracudas. For the advanced wreck diver, the Bibb is a dive not to be missed!

 

USCG DUANE (130') She is a 329-foot cutter that was decommissioned on August 1st, 1985, as the oldest active U.S. military vessel. The ship was intentionally sunk on November 27, 1987, to create an artificial reef. This ship was sunk deep down to ensure that it would not conflict with navigation in the area. The Duane lies outside of the reef line and can have a ripping current. Because of its deep depth and strong currents this is a dive for advanced SCUBA divers with wreck-diving experience. Many consider the Duane to be the perfect wreck dive. Before sinking, the ship's hatches were opened, and the holds pumped full of water to sink the ship. The Duane sits upright on the sandy bottom at 120 feet offering nearly 70 feet of relief. On clear days the outline of the hull can be seen from far above. The crow's nest and mast become visible just 50-60 feet below the surface. Many decks and rooms were intentionally left open to allow divers room to explore the interior of the cutter. Bring a dive light if you plan to penetrate the interior. The hull structure is completely intact with the original rudders, screws, railings, ladders and ports. This wreck is even more impressive because the waters are so clear that visibility is often 100 feet. It is closer to the Gulfstream than most wrecks and reefs and some very large fish such as barracuda, amberjack, and cobia are often spotted swimming around the wreck.

 

USS SPIEGEL GROVE (140’) In 2002, the USS Spiegel Grove was the largest vessel ever intentionally sunk. She is a 510’ landing ship dock. To give a better visual understanding of the immensity of this ship, she is roughly equivalent in length to two football fields. Named after President Rutherford B. Hayes's Ohio estate, she was launched in 1955. The sinking of the Spiegel Grove is an extraordinary tale. Her sinking was scheduled for Friday, May 17, 2002 at approximately 2:00pm. However, she had a mind of her own and prematurely began to sink, rolled over, and remained upside down for several days with her bow protruding from the water. A salvage team managed to fully sink the vessel three weeks later, but she came to rest on her starboard side rather than keel-down as hoped. Later efforts to right the ship failed despite the best efforts of all involved, including two very determined tugs. Then three years later, much to the surprise of the entire diving community, Hurricane Dennis righted the 510’ ship with seas over 20’ and a driving current. She now rests with her keel in the sand, fully dignified and ready for new adventures! The Spiegel Grove is the backbone of the artificial reef system that has formed in this area. Algae, sponges and coral mingle with 130 species of fish to create enormous biodiversity in this region. Divers may see Goliath Grouper, barracuda, large jacks, and a large colony of gobies. Mooring buoys allow divers an easy tie-in and a steady hold. The lines are attached to the ship and allow divers to travel down them until they reach the hull. This is a very popular site. Divers will need multiple dives to become oriented and it may take countless dives for one to be able to experience all that this massive vessel has to offer. This is a great dive for using multi-level diving techniques and offers an incredible opportunity for exploration and excitement. This is a dive not to be missed. The reef formation that has arisen is impressive and has fostered growth of much pelagic life.

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KEY WEST SITES

BAJA CALIFORNIA (114’) This 265’ Honduran steamship was built in 1914 and was used to transport bananas ventilated rather than cooled. In 1942 she was torpedoed just forward of midships and sunk by the German submarine U-84 while heading from New Orleans to Key West, with a general cargo including tobacco. Three of her crew members were killed in the incident. The main wreckage now rests at 114’ and rises to within 92’ of the surface. She sits upright with a 40-degree port list and her decks have collapsed. The Baja California's bow section is severed and lies 50 yards away from her main wreckage. This wreck is great for artifact hunters and is often frequented by large fish.

 

CAYMAN SALVAGER (90') This 187’ steel-hulled buoy tender was built in 1937 for the Coast Guard. Later in her life, she was a freighter and cable layer. The US Government seized this vessel carrying Cuban refugees during the 1979 Mariel boatlift. In 1985, she was awaiting her fate when she sank unexpectedly at the dock. She was raised and prepared to be sunk again as an artificial reef in 300’ of water, but she prematurely sunk while being towed to the site in just 90’ where she currently resides. She settled on her side, but was kindly righted a few months later in 1985 by Hurricane Kate. Penetration is possible, but is considered dangerous. It is recommended that divers who desire to pursue such a mission do so during a return dive and not on the first exploration.

 

JOE’S TUG (65’) Is the story of Joe’s Tug an act of piracy? No one really knows for sure, well almost no one, who took this 75’ steel hulled shrimp boat from the Key West harbor and likely we never will. In keeping with the time-honored tradition plaguing many ships that sank off the Florida Keys, this wreck manifests its own set of strange oddities. She originally sank at the dock, was refloated, cleaned and prepared for scuttling. However, she never ended up at her intended destination. But unlike other wayward vessels, she didn't simply sink before reaching her final resting place, she was stolen. Late on the evening before her scheduled departure for Miami, unknown suspects towed her out of the harbor and while in route to their mystery destination, she took on water and sunk in about 65’ of water directly atop of a federally protected reef. In 1998, Hurricane George swept through the Key West bringing strong winds and waves which eventually broke the old shrimp boat apart. The remnants of the bow and stern are positioned about 30’ apart. What is left of Joe’s Tug attractively offsets the brilliant colors of tropical fish, vibrant coral and sponges that surround her.

 

USNS GENERAL HOYT S VANDENBERG (145’) She is a 522’ retired Air Force missile-tracking ship intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef off Key West in May 2009. The bottom of the ship's hull rests on sand in depths that average 145’ but the ship is so massive that the superstructure begins about 45 feet below the surface. Last used by the U.S. Air Force to track missiles and spacecraft became the world's second-largest intentionally sunk artificial reef. Preparation for sinking had taken months of inspections and cleanup to remove contaminants. Workers hauled off more than a million feet of wire, 1,500 vent gaskets, dozens of watertight steel doors, 81 bags of asbestos, 193 tons of potentially cancer-causing substances, 46 tons of garbage that could come loose and float to the surface, 300 pounds of materials containing mercury and 185 55-gallon drums of paint chips. The cleanup was performed at two Norfolk, Va., shipyards before the boat made the 1,100-mile voyage, arriving in Key West on April 22. Permitting was required from 18 local, state and federal agencies. The Vandenberg began as the Gen. Harry Taylor and was later commissioned by the Army as a transport vessel, ferrying troops and supplies from San Francisco to island bases in the western Pacific Ocean in 1944. In 1945, it carried troops home from Europe near the end of World War II. It was later used by the Navy as a transport ship, and was transferred to the Air Force in 1961, when it was renamed the Vandenberg. For about 20 more years, the ship served as a missile tracker throughout the height of the Cold War and was retired in 1983. The world’s largest intentionally sunk artificial reef is the 888’ USS Oriskany, sunk in 2006 off the coast of Pensacola Beach in the Florida Panhandle. The sinking of the 522’ USNS Vandenberg moves the 510’ Spiegel Grove off Key Largo to third on this impressive list.

 

USS S-16 (260’) Commissioned in 1920, this 231’ submarine was the first vessel to become a member of the Key West Ghost Fleet. Equipped with four 21” forward torpedo tubes and one 4” 50 caliber deck-gun, this submarine was originally built to safely navigate through water at a depth of around 200 feet. She was decommissioned in 1935, but in 1940 was brought back into service to patrol the Caribbean waters and observe merchant vessels. In 1944 she was decommissioned again, but being outdated with limited depth capability S-16 was eventually used as target practice. In 1945 this sub was properly prepped and intentionally sunk 18 miles south of Key West. She's intact with her outer hull not showing the usual signs of erosion and deterioration. The S-16 does have a slight list to starboard which allows her bow to rest above sand level allowing movement under her bow and it is easy to inspect her torpedo tube doors. Her hatches are open, which makes it possible to enter the forward torpedo room and larger aft generator room.  Her conning tower looms high above her hull where there is another open hatch leading to the control room. For those with technical certification, wreck diving the USS S-16 is a "must do" while visiting Key West.

 

USS CURB (185’) This 210’ long naval salvaging tug was launched in 1943 and after being involved in war-related missions and salvaging duties, she was decommissioned in 1946. She was purposely sunk in 1983 as an artificial reef. The wreck lies upright in 185’ with the top of the wreck at 130’ and there are many opportunities for penetration with openings that allow divers to explore the lower deck as well as rudders and shafts. The interior is filled with fine silt that can be easily stirred up and although it is common to find high visibility, sediments and silt often challenge clear sight. It is important to note that there are several vertical surfaces as well as monofilament lines that make this dive potentially hazardous. Due to the depth and difficulty of this dive, the only form of diving that should be done on this site is technical decompression diving.

 

USS WILKES BARRE (230’) This 610’ Cleveland class light cruiser (CL-103) was launched in 1943 and her armament consisted of twelve 6-inch guns, twelve 5-inch guns and a battery of 40 20-mm anti-aircraft guns. The Wilkes Barre saw quite a bit of action during World War II where she first screened aircraft carriers in 1945 as their planes bombed Tokyo. This air raid was only a diversion for the American invasion of Iwo Jima. Soon after she was called in to assist in the shore bombardment of Iwo Jima. She quickly responded by destroying pillboxes, ammunition dumps, fortified caves, and turned back one Japanese counter attack. Steaming east of Okinawa, gunners on the Wilkes Barre bagged her first enemy aircraft, a Judy dive bomber. On Easter Sunday, the Wilkes Barre supported the largest American amphibious assault in history, the invasion of Okinawa where she shot down a Val dive bomber and three Zeke fighters. She also participated in the fire-fighting efforts aboard the fleet carrier USS Bunker Hill after two kamikazes had crashed into the carrier's deck starting an inferno that enveloped the entire after deck. In 1946, the USS Wilkes Barre sailed for the United States where she had received four battle stars for her World War II service and was decommissioned in 1947. In 1972, this fine ship was used as the subject for underwater explosive tests. The explosion broke the ship in two and her stern sank quickly, but her forward section needed an additional scuttling charge to send it to the ocean's floor. The cruiser now serves as an artificial reef and both bow and stern sections remain intact. Her stern sits on an even keel and her bow rests on its starboard side. Her superstructure can be reached at 145’ and this huge wreck abounds with marine life, artifacts and a fascinating history. Because of her deep resting spot, the Wilkes Barre should only be penetrated by very experienced technical divers with proper training, experience and equipment.

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MARATHON KEY SITES

SOMBRERO REEF (30’) Prior to the Civil War, the 142’ Sombrero Key Lighthouse was constructed 8 miles offshore. The innovative screw-pile lighthouse is still fully functional and in service. Sombrero Reef is one of the largest and surely the most magnificent coral reefs in the Middle Keys, home to some of the best spur and groove reef formations in all the Keys. The amount of coral is breath-taking. As soon as you descend, gorgonians, brain, finger and lettuce corals can be seen. Schools of colorful tropical fish, southern stingrays and nurse sharks make their home on this reef. The reef is a Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) and strictly regulated.

 

THUNDERBOLT (115’) Originally named the USS Randolph; she was built for the US Army as a cable laying boat. She later served FP&L as a research ship to attract and study lightning, hence her name Thunderbolt. This 188’ military ship was sunk “by divers for divers” in 1986 and sits perfectly upright. Her superstructure is now coated with colorful sponge, coral, and hydroid, providing refuge and sustenance to large angelfish, jack s, and a variety of deep-water pelagic creatures. With huge twin propellers, divers can descend into the engine compartment beneath large arches in the main deck. Her bow is dominated by a huge horizontal cable reel.

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POMPANO SITES

ANCIENT MARINER (70’) This 165’ former Coast Guard Cutter Nemesis (WPC-111) was built in the 1930s and during WWII she was used as a sub-chaser and a convoy escort. She was decommissioned in 1964 and eventually remodeled to resemble an African steamer and becoming Fort Lauderdale's first floating restaurant, but was made infamous due to an outbreak of hepatitis that infected 97 patrons. At the time it was the largest food-borne hepatitis outbreak in Florida history and the restaurant was forced to close. In subsequent years, new investors tried to operate the restaurant under a variety of names such as Anchorage Seafood, Chapman’s River Raw Bar, and Cutters. However, none were able to financially stay afloat. Abandoned, the former cutter was acquired by the Broward County Artificial Reef Program and was sunk in 1991 to help in the formation of an artificial reef. Because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew, this ship offers opportunities for penetration at almost all levels. This dive is especially worthwhile for those interested in exploring the interior of this vessel. Off her bow lies the Berry Patch wreck, as well as the remains of the Chuck-A-Luck (formerly the River Queen) and the C-Note.

 

CAICOS EXPRESS (240’) This 188-foot Dutch coastal freighter was built in 1956. In 1981, she was sold to Cox Shipping Lines where she was placed in service between Miami and Turks and Caicos. In addition to hauling cargo, she was featured in four episodes of the television action series Miami Vice. She was eventually purchased by Broward County to be scuttled as an artificial reef, which occurred in 1985. The vessel settled on the bottom in 240 feet just two minutes after explosive charges were detonated. With a stern wheelhouse and aft engine room, the Caicos Express is basically a clone of numerous other freighters scuttled off South Florida. Several large spools of thick cable are scattered about the holds. The following year, Broward County also sunk 160 pari-mutuel betting machines about 200 feet away from the wreck.

 

CAPTAIN DAN (110’) Next to Captain Crunch, Captain Kangaroo and Captain Morgan, the Captain Dan is among our favorite Captains. This 175-foot-long ex-USCG buoy tender, then the mission ship Good News and later renamed the Captain Dan was sunk as an artificial reef in 1990. During her long career, she received commendations for her service in WWII and at just 70 feet below the surface with the wheelhouse the easiest to reach. A lot of care was taken in preparing her for sinking with huge holes were prepared between the forepeak, cargo hold and engine room which now provides excellent access and penetration of the wreck.  With all the levels, passage ways, cabins, etc. this is one of the busiest wrecks in the area. See it once or see it many times-- it's always a treat. Taking only 15 minutes to arrive at the destination, the Captain Dan is one of the area’s most popular wrecks. Since her deployment, abundant gorgonian colonies and other encrusting organisms have made this wreck their home. Visibility on the Dan is generally very good with an average of 60'. However, it is susceptible to moderate to strong currents. If you decide to take a spin on this wreck you will not be disappointed.

 

CLINTON (170’) This 150’ sunken dredge is somewhat of a secret in the area. It is not well known and therefore rarely visited creating the perfect sanctuary for abundant marine life. Scuttled in 1995, she is a large wreck with a lot of debris on the main decks. There are lots of uprights and masts still standing erect. Extensive colors cover the railings and all surfaces making the Clinton a great tech dive. In addition, it's close proximity to the Miller Lite wreck (due north and a little to the right) create an exceptional opportunity to do both dives on the same dive!

 

GUY HARVEY (145’) This 198’ Dutch coastal freighter was used extensively by a variety of owners. Unfortunately, due to fatigue and neglect, she was abandoned at Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1997. She was towed to Fort Lauderdale to become part of the Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo artificial reef site. Before being scuttled, Guy Harvey, who helped fund this artificial reef project, painted billfish and sharks on her wheelhouse and hull. She currently lies upright and intact, encrusted with organisms that have long since covered Guy Harvey’s paintings.

 

HYDRO ATLANTIC (175’) Built in 1905, this 315’ workhorse started her hopper dredge career as the USS Delaware for the US Army Corps of Engineers constantly keeping shipping channels clear from shoaling and safe for navigation. She was sold in 1950 and rebuilt to work on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel project to construct man-made islands for the tunnel. In 1987 as she was being towed to the scrap yard, the poorly maintained pumps used to keep the 82-year old ship afloat gave way and the dredger quickly settled beneath the surface. The bow faces proudly to the south and she sits upright. Her forward mast can be reached at 100’ and her deck is at 145 feet. The bridge and superstructure present several levels to explore. Just past the single stack, divers will encounter the engine room skylights. Inside, divers will discover several catwalks, a large panel of gauges and controls that were used to power the ship’s dredgers. The boiler room is on the opposite side of this area. The HydroAtlantic is one of the most visually stunning wrecks in South Florida. Her depth offers a wonderful opportunity for initial technical training, but even old salty tech divers will enjoy this dive. Be prepared for strong currents and an abundance of monofilament fishing line on this site.

 

JIM ATRIA (135’) She is a 240-foot Dutch freighter built in 1961. In 1972 she was employed to make runs throughout the Caribbean. In 1982, as she was pulled away from the dock on the Miami River in preparation for a departure to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, she immediately took on a severe starboard list. She eventually sunk to the mud bottom of the river where she blocked river traffic for four days. Apparently there was a mistake in the calculations from kilograms to pounds causing the freighter to be loaded with 300 tons of cargo, about 160 pounds more than the vessel’s 139-ton rating. After she was refloated and left abandoned by her owners, she rusted at the dock for five years before being acquired by the Broward County Artificial Reef Program. Today she lies 5 miles north of the Port Everglades Cut. Although she was sunk at 110 feet, the force of Hurricane Andrew blew her offshore to a depth of 135 feet where she sits upright with her two masts intact. The roof of the wheelhouse on the portside begins at 95 feet but has since collapsed. There are several openings that can be explored.

 

KEN VITALE (70’) This 132’ oil rig supply boat was sunk in 1998 and sits upright in about 100 feet north of the Jay Scutti, a 97’ Holland tug boat. With a well-planned dive, it is possible to see both wrecks, but make sure you take your air consumption into consideration as the Jay Scutti is about 120' away. Originally named the Tracy, it was renamed in honor of Ken Vitale, a well-known scuba instructor that died of a heart attack after a dive on this wreck. This is a great dive on a fully intact wreck that is very popular for wreck diving classes with easy penetration into the wreck. The inside is dark and requires lights; however, it is quite large and spacious inside.

 

LADY LUCK (125’) This 324’ sewage tanker rises to nearly to 60’ from the surface at her mast. The Lady Luck has been prepared so that divers can explore 16 staterooms, the captain’s deck, galley, engine room, and the tanker holding bays. You might notice on your descent the Lady Luck logo on each side of her stack, welcoming you to the world's first underwater casino complete with a mermaid waitress, giant dice, octopus dealers, slot machines and card sharks alike. You can swim down and find an open seat at a table to gamble and have a great photo opportunity. Be careful your dealer may be a little fishy! The ship's web of pipes and structures makes for a great fish haven and back drop. Stop by the bridge for a panoramic view of the ship. Scuttled in 2016 thanks to generous donations from the Isle Casino and the City of Pompano Beach.

 

LOWRANCE (210) This 420’ former refrigerated freighter had a mechanical breakdown and became stranded in Port Everglades where she rested for three years until she was sunk as an artificial reef off Fort Lauderdale in 1984. The marine electronics company Lowrance donated to the cleanup for sinking, hence the final name. The Lowrance is a massive sight underwater. She sits upright with significant vertical relief with the main deck at 165' and the shallowest parts at 150’ to the surface. The upper decks have experienced significant collapse in recent years, but the Lowrance offers a fantastic circuit through the engine room by entering a hatch on the main deck that leads to a hallway, eventually ending up above the engine room. Gorgonian-choked skylights above allow ambient light to trickle down onto the catwalks that line the perimeter of the room. Dropping down, divers can work their way around equipment, eventually exiting through one of several large holes cut out during the vessel’s preparation for sinking or via a smaller hole produced by explosive charges that sent her to the bottom. Miles of fishing line adorn the wreck, so entanglement can be a problem so it is wise to carry a cutting device. Large fish are usually spotted as you descend on the wreck. This is a deep dive and requires technical training.

 

MERCEDES (100’) The most famous of Fort Lauderdale's wrecks is this 198’ freighter. She received national attention, when on Thanksgiving Day in 1984 during a terrible storm she lost her anchorage and ran aground against the seawall of an exclusive Palm Beach seaside mansion. Abandoned by her owners, she was left on the beach for three months until a salvage company hired by the state of Florida successfully removed her. Then, in a public relations feat, Broward County surprised the industry by somehow managing to acquire the vessel away from the Palm Beach artificial reef groups. She was stripped and cleaned, and holes were cut in her sides and bulkheads. She was loaded with 350 pounds of TNT, floated out to the chosen spot and spectacularly sent to the depths with brilliant pyrotechnics, explosions, and festivities. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew swept through the area with massive devastation and almost tore her in two. The wreck was partly broken amidships and has since separated even more. However, she's still a beautiful dive the still intact bow now faces north on the outside of the third reef system.

 

MIRACLE OF LIFE (140’) This freighter class ship is 167' long and 39' wide. Her bow points to south and the forward wheel house rises to 100 feet. There is a 14' bronze angel statue just behind the wheelhouse at 120 feet. Originally named The Miss Lourdies, she has a checkered past. In 2008, U.S. Customs discovered 154 kilos of cocaine and seized the ship and later that year offered the vessel to the Broward County Artificial Reef Program for sinking. Artificial Reef Coordinator Ken Banks decided on a permitted location on the Palm Beach / Broward County line. The permitting and sinking was a joint effort between Palm Beach & Broward Counties and private donations. Daniel Fasano, the largest contributor was inspired by a life-saving bone marrow transplant and created the "Miracle of Life Foundation". The wreck was also re-named the Miracle Life.

 

MILLER LITE (165’) This 206’ German built freighter was purchased in 1987 by the Broward Department of Natural Resource Protection and cleaned for sinking. Funding was also donated by Miller Lite, hence the name and was sunk in 1987. She sits upright at 165 feet with the deck at 145 feet. While the front bulkheads of the wheelhouse have collapsed, the rest of the wreck is intact. The engine room is fairly large and easy to navigate. Remember that penetration into any shipwreck should only be done by those with proper training, experience and wreck diving equipment. Scuba equipment like powerful dive lights, navigation reels, dive knives as well as redundant air supply like a pony bottle or doubles are standard gear for wreck divers. Due to her depth, this wreck should only be visited by experienced technical divers.

           

OKINAWA (70’) The Okinawa LT 1970 (11651) is a 107' Army Tugboat. Her bow points to the south and she is sitting perfectly upright at 70' with 35' of relief at the top of the pilot house. Okinawa was sunk as the 18th vessel in Shipwreck Park Pompano Beach. Renowned artist Dennis McDonald created a whimsical dive bar onboard called the Midnight Sun with the name chosen by Finlandia Vodka, the sinking project's largest sponsor. The dive bar includes sea creatures and a magical mermaid holding a Gazing Globe. As you look into the globe you see your reflection reminding all of us we need to be the stewards of the ocean. Penetration into the opening in front of the wheelhouse and swim into the engine room and up and out through the dive bar are easily accessed!

 

RBJ (270’) One dive, two wrecks! Corey N Chris is 130' long and sits upright with her bow at 255' and her stern 270' while the RBJ is 226' long and rests draped across the mid-section of the Corey N Chris. Ronald B Johnson (RBJ) ran aground in Kingston Jamaica and was abandoned by her owners. In 1988, the RBJ was supposed to be sunk next to the Cory N Chris. Instead, she maintained her track record of running into things and landed on top of the Corey N Chris at mid ship. Hurricane Andrew caused the RBJ to split leaving the stern on one side and the bow on the other. Hurricane Andrew caused the RBJ to split leaving the stern on one side and the bow on the other. If you like deep, this is the dive for you. You never know what you'll see...big critters!

 

RENEGADE (200’) This 150’ Dutch freighter was built in Holland in 1951. The charter fishing boat Renegade won a fishing tournament in 1985 and donated their winnings to sponsor an artificial reef. She was sunk in deep water in 1985 and today the Renegade rests in 190 feet of water.

 

REBEL (110’) This 150’ Dutch freighter was confiscated for drug smuggling. At a federal auction, she was purchased by an environmentalist attorney who gave her over to the Broward County reef program. She was renamed Rebel after the buyer's dog and sunk to create an artificial reef in 1985. She sits intact and upright at 110’ with her bow pointing north. Her deck is located at 80’and her prop is in place. Divers will find that she is easily penetrated. She houses a variety of sea life and is a great dive for the curious or exploratory diver.

 

RODEO 25 (130’) This 215-foot twin-masted Dutch freighter was sunk in 1990 as part of the Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo’s 25th anniversary celebrations and over 100,000 spectators watched as she dropped just on the outside of the third reef line. She landed on the seabed upright in 130 feet of water with the main deck at 100 feet and the masts rise to within 52 feet of the surface. The wreck lists significantly to starboard with her bow almost over on her side. The hull forward of her stern superstructure is collapsing. Because the Rodeo 25 lies at the limit of recreational diving, she makes a good practice dive for technical divers. She is deep enough to practice the ins and outs of the ups and downs and still get decent bottom time as a no decompression dive. This is one of the most colorful wrecks in the area with soft corals and sponges adorning the hull of the ship. There are plenty of fish throughout this wreck and plenty of pelagic fish such as barracuda keeping you company.

 

RSB-1 (120’) This 160’ tender was built in 1966 for the U.S. Navy as a range support ship. She was used by the Naval Warfare Center in Fort Lauderdale to deploy and test acoustical listening devices that were designed to detect enemy submarines and other vessels. RSB-1 was used in 1973 to help rescue two people trapped in a mini-sub that sunk off Key West, Florida. The RSB-1 is a memorial to James Torgerson, a former Broward sheriff’s Bomb and Arson Unit member who was battling bone marrow cancer at 59 years old. Broward County chose to memorialize him with a wreck as he helped sink many of the South Florida wrecks we dive today. Torgerson also spent 23 years in the navy where he learned to scuba dive. In 1994, Torgerson ignited the 10-minute fuse himself which detonated the 49 pounds of explosives used to sink the wreck off Pompano Beach. Once the explosives knocked holes into RSB-1’s hull, it took only three minutes of water rushing into the vessel until it sunk below the surface. She landed upright in 120’ with her bow facing north. The large holes in the hull make this an easy wreck to penetrate with the deck at 90 feet.

 

SEA EMPEROR (70’) The Sea Emperor was formerly a hopper barge that was donated as part of a fine levied on a dredging company that destroyed some reef habitat off Palm Beach County. She was filled with large concrete culverts and then sunk off Boca Raton. When the barge sank it flipped, scattering the culverts and landing upside down creating a fantastic playground for fish and divers alike. The Sea Emperor is 171' long and 45' wide. Penetration on this wreck is safe and there is light and access to surface in every chamber. Inside the wreck and to the east lie 1600 tons of concrete drainage culverts. This site is also referred to as the “Aqua Zoo” because it is home to Goliath Groupers, moray eels, southern stingrays, nurse sharks and hundreds of other fish. Just 300 feet to the south of the Aqua Zoo lies the United Caribbean wreck. You can easily follow a trail of rock and coral between the two wrecks and make this dive a two-wreck dive.

 

SKYCLIFFE (200’) Built in Japan in 1961, the Erimo Maru was a 318’ coastal freighter that changed hands in 1977 and was renamed Sea Venture and sold again in 1983 and sailed as Skycliffe. After experiencing issues in New Orleans, she was purchased for use as an artificial reef and towed to Fort Lauderdale for cleaning and sinking off Boynton Beach. At a cost of $150,000, she was the largest and most expensive Palm Beach artificial reef project to date. She sits upright in 200’ and her massive superstructure rises 70’ from the bottom. The engine room is massive and a large access hatch allows access to the interior. The wreck has abundant marine life and is popular with fishermen who have inadvertently decorated the shipwreck with an abundant amount of monofilament line.

 

SUCRE (225’) This 237’ freighter is sitting up-right on the continental slope with her bow pointing south. She was built in Germany in 1957 and eventually ended her career in Pompano Beach as an artificial reef in 1996. Sucre is another sponsored wreck by the Pompano Fishing Rodeo and she is also called the Johnny Morris. She is intact with a great structure good for penetration. Beams and railings are totally covered with corals. The engine room is very roomy. This wreck has become home to many lion fish. Because of her depth, we recommend this for tech divers only.

 

UNITED CARIBBEAN (75’) She is a 150’ long coastal freighter that she ran aground in 1993 just off the coast of New York while carrying 228 Chinese illegal immigrants. Each immigrant had paid $30,000 to be smuggled into the United States. Ten of these immigrants jumped overboard to save themselves, but drowned trying to swim to shore. This event brought media attention to the smuggling ring that was behind this operation and they were brought to justice. She lies slightly southeast of the Sea Emperor with a 500 trail of concrete debris creating a pathway between the two wrecks. The ship's profile is to about 45 feet. Much of the sea life from the Sea Emperor has branched off and inhabited this wreck as well. The cargo area and upper decks of United Caribbean are good spots for beginning wreck divers to explore. A door leads into the lower decks. The lower areas should be explored only by advanced, experienced wreck divers.

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WEST PALM BEACH SITES

ANDE (195’) Built in Japan and originally named the Takasago Maru #5, this vessel was called by many names during her career. Carib Carrier (1970), New Providence (1972), and finally Jed Carrier (1988) as a Jamaican-flagged lumber hauler to various Caribbean ports. After several court cases between insurance and lumber companies, she was sold to Palm Beach County and renamed Ina Carrier. In 1996, an explosives ordinance team placed 24 six-pound plastic explosive charges within the hull of the Ina Carrier to produce a pyrotechnic display for the media and boats attending the scuttling of this 293’ coastal freighter. She was renamed after Ande Monofilament Fishing Line, the sponsors of this artificial reef. She sits north of the Lake Worth Inlet and is largely intact with the tower starting at a depth of 115 feet. After the passing of several hurricanes in 2004-2005, the Ande was ripped in half. While her forward section sits upright, the stern section lists almost 90 degrees on her port side. There is usually find a very strong north current on this dive site making a quick descent to the bottom ideal. Large pelagic animals like bull sharks are frequent guests. This is a favorite among local tech divers.

 

BLUE HERON BRIDGE (20’) This easy shore dive is located on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway and north of Peanut Island at Phil Foster Park, this area is special for the fabulous sea life that lives around the Blue Heron Bridge pilings. You can see schools of large fish, colorful tropical fish, urchins, huge starfish and barracudas. Sea creatures are abundant amongst the bridge supports and a small reef near the Intracoastal Waterway channel. Water clarity varies greatly here. It’s best to visit on an incoming tide when clear ocean water comes in and the entire area is flooded with clear blue water. It looks like the Caribbean! Plan to dive from about an hour before high tide until about an hour following. This is also when the current is manageable. An outgoing tide forces brown brackish water out of local canals. Visibility is poor during an outgoing tide.

 

GOVERNOR’S RIVER WALK (90’) is composed of four confiscated coastal freighters sunk as a group at a depth of 90’ about one-mile SE of the Lake Worth Inlet. These vessels were seized by the Department of Homeland Security as part of a two-year sting operation that involved a coordinated effort of over 279 officers from more than a dozen federal, state and local law enforcement agencies known as “Operation River Walk” on the Miami River. As a tribute, Palm Beach County and U.S. Customs presented a 2,000-pound ship’s propeller to Governor Jeb Bush in appreciation for his support in taking a hard-line on drug smuggling as well as the development of local fishing and recreational diving opportunities. The four ships include the Sasha Boekanier, Gilbert Sea, St. Jacques, and Thozina, averaging approximately 180’ in length. The Gilbert Sea and St. Jacques were unique as their wheelhouses had seascape murals painted on them by popular local artist Doug Bolly. In addition, the Thozina and St. Jacques were “sister ships” built a year apart at the same shipyard in Germany with identical wheelhouses, masts and forepeaks. The final resting place for these two ships is now less than two hundred feet apart.

 

HOLE IN THE WALL (150’) Hole in the Wall is a beautiful hole in the reef starting at 135’ deep at the entrance and the exit comes out at about 150’ deep into a shark aggregate field.

 

JUPITER WRECK TREK (85’) The Esso Bonaire III is a 150' harbor tanker sunk in 1989 with the bow facing south. It is one of three wrecks that make up the drift dive known as the Jupiter Wreck Trek located northeast of Jupiter Inlet. Built in Honduras in 1926, the ship was seized by U.S. Customs after 55000 pounds of marijuana were discovered on board. The wreck is at a depth of 85 feet and is one of three wrecks near which make up the Jupiter Wreck Trek. The other two wrecks are the Miss Jenny and the Zion Train. The wreck remains intact and resting on its keel. It is covered with corals and gorgonians and a very popular spot for local marine life such as barracuda, sharks and Goliath groupers.

 

MIZPAH CORRIDOR (85') This is defiantly one of the best dives in Palm Beach County. The bulk of the corridor is composed of three wrecks (Mizpah, PC1170, and Amaryllis) that line up to form an amazing 1700-foot drift dive. The first wreck, the Mizpah, was sunk in 1968. She's a 185' Greek luxury liner, showcasing three distinct levels that Goliath grouper love to congregate in. Next in line is the PC1170, an old patrol craft measuring 160' in length. Also sunk in 1968, the PC1170 is split in two pieces under the bow of the Mizpah. Following a large rock pile, the Amaryllis is the third in line on this dive. Only the hull and bottom deck of this 450' ship remain as the other decks were removed to salvage the boat after it washed ashore during a hurricane. The China Barge is the fourth in line on this amazing site, although most divers don't reach it before needing to ascend.

 

PRINCESS ANNE (100’) Once used to shuttle people and automobiles across the Chesapeake Bay, this 350’ ferry was sunk in 1993. The vessel sits upright, and an excellent multilevel dive profile was created when storms pushed the upper deck west, doubling the width of the site. Although it has only been in the water a short time, the wreck has already established itself as one of the best wreck dives in Florida. Nestled near a beautiful reef system, those who are not trained in wreck diving have plenty to see outside of the ship. Schools of jacks, barracuda, and the occasional shark swim through the surrounding waters and corals cover the structure of the wreck. Divers can explore open rooms, some over 100' in length, intact staircases, and other parts of the ship. Divers often have a seat at the marine head for a photo or a rest break.

 

SHARK CANYON (85’) Home to resident Caribbean Reef and Nurse Sharks, it’s not uncommon to spot Bull Sharks, Hammerheads, and the occasional Lemon Shark. This site used to be a shark feeding area, and although shark feeding was outlawed, and the practice was discontinued, the sharks have made the canyon their permanent home. It's a great dive! It is an inshore double ledge system with the deeper ledge at about 87’ and the top ledge rising to 65’ with a plateau between the m at 74’. Schools of spadefish, jacks and many other colorful tropical fish cover the reef. Loggerhead, Green and Hawksbill turtles, as well as the very rare Leatherback turtle have all been spotted here. There are Goliath Groupers, moray eels and stingrays just to name a few others.

 

TOYBOX AND PLAYPEN (60') This dive site begins as you drift onto a large barge sitting perpendicular to the current. Goliaths and the occasional bull shark frequent this wreck. Following the wreck is the Playpen, an artificial reef composed of concrete culverts and telephone poles. Divers always report schools of barracuda, colorful tropical fish, and droves of spiny lobsters.

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STUART SITES

KERRY DILLON TUGBOAT REEF (195’) Scuttled in 2018 off the Treasure Coast of Florida, this 100' tugboat honors Kerry Dillon (of Sea Rover Services) who passed suddenly. Kerry has played a major role in the deployment of many artificial reefs along the Treasure Coast. SHIP partnered with Artificial Reefs International, Inc., to create this reef which provides great fishing and a unique diving experience. Please join us in celebrating his legacy.

 

USS MULIPHEN (180’) This Andromeda Class (AKA-61) attack cargo vessel served in WWII and most notably supported the invasions at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. After the war, she saw service in the South Pacific and Alaska. In 1969, she was designated LKA-61 and eventually decommissioned in 1970. The Mighty Mule, as she was called, ended her 26-year career as the longest continuous active-duty vessel in the history of the US Navy. She’s a massive vessel, largely upright and intact, but the 2004 hurricane season split her in two pieces. With a starboard list, the main deck of this 460’ wreck rises to 145’ on the portside and 160’ on the port side. Numerous cargo compartment and her superstructure make for extensive penetration potential. Her bow points eastward making her an easy target with generally northbound currents.

 

USS RANKIN (135’) Commissioned in 1945, this 460’ Tolland Class attack cargo ship (AKA-103) was designed to carry troops, landing craft and supplies. She was involved in both the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns during WWII. In 1958, the Rankin participated in the amphibious force that landed 5,000 U.S. marines at Beirut, Lebanon at the request from the Lebanese Government to avert a civil war. She also operated in Cuban waters during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Ultimately, she was scuttled six miles off St. Lucie Inlet in 1988 as an artificial reef. In 2004, Hurricane Francis significantly impacted the wreck by breaking the vessel in half and devastating the forward sections. However, the stern section remains largely intact. Divers reach the wreck's superstructure at 70 feet, while her main deck is at 95 feet. Because of the location of the wreck, dive conditions vary a great deal. Sometimes the current from the flowing gulf stream can make it difficult for divers to explore the wreck comfortably, but on other dives the current may be slight. The visibility here is often excellent, and a wide assortment of sea life frequents the area.

 

WICKSTROM (190’) Built in 1944, this 180’ long freight supply vessel (FS-553) served the US Army Transportation Corps. Her first captain was Erle Halliburton, who went on to start Halliburton Oil Services, which became infamous for the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion in 2010 long after Erle passed away in 1957. She was sold several times after 1960 and eventually fell into disrepair at the docks along the Miami River. She was inactive for several years before being scuttled as an artificial reef in 2002. Her main deck rests at 160’ with her bow pointing south towards the Tree Barge approximately 500’ away. This site lies along the Gulf Stream which washes a generally significant current over the wreck, particularly during the summer. Abundant fish life frequent this site and deep-water ivory tree coral has established itself on the wreck.