MIAMI DIVE SITES
ALMIRANTE (135') One of the older wrecks off the coast of Miami, this 200' steel refrigerated freighter was scuttled in 1974 after her owners abandoned her on the Miami River. Prior to her sinking, the City of Miami removed her superstructure for scrap and towed her out to sea for one last time. She sits upright with her stern twisted to port thanks to Hurricane Andrew 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, goliath groupers, and many other varieties of pelagic life call this ship home.
ANDRO (100') This 160’ luxury yacht built in 1926 and was used by its amateur marine biologist owner, Harry P. Bingham, for expeditions to the Pacific coast of Central America and the Gulf of California to facilitate deep-sea trawling and research; a taxidermist’s room and laboratory were located on the main deck. Her last expeditions to the Bahamas and Bermuda ended in 1927. The vast collection of 3000+ specimens, 200 of which were previously unknown, were donated to Yale University. Later in life, she was converted to a patrol boat for World War II to be used to chase submarines. After the war, she served as a freighter along the Atlantic coast and was eventually seized by Customs for transporting 15 tons of marijuana. Scuttled in 1985, the once proud yacht now sits in the sand with her bow on her starboard side. 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.
ARIDA (88’) Originally built as a military Landing Craft Infantry (Large) or LCI(L), which were designed to deliver soldiers quickly during an amphibious assault. The exact service history is unknown, but like other shipwrecks in the area, she was pummeled by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The main section of the almost upside-down wreck has collapsed on itself. The wreck still attracts abundant marine life.
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. This site could also be the beginning of a single, long drift dive to the Radio Tower pyramids, sections of radio towers once used by Radio Mambi. that broadcasted anti-Castro, anti-communist sentiment, along with Spanish music content to Cuba. Included in the drift are the wrecks of the Matthew Lawrence, Larsen Barge, Miss Karlene, Patricia and the John Koppin Barge.
BELCHER BARGE II (120’) Not much is known about this 85' steel barge scuttled in 120-feet of water
BELCHER BARGE (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.
BELCHER WRECK TREK (75') This is a popular Wreck Trek. Starting at Belcher Barge, a 195’ steel barge that was sunk in 1985 by four explosions at each corner and the barge turned over on its way to the bottom. 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’ tugboat 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.
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.
BELZONA ONE (68’) Renamed several times during her career, she eventually was heavily damaged by a fire and donated to Miami-Dade County for use as an artificial reef. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew sheared off her upper deck, which is now lying in the sand next to the hull. She lies in close proximity to two other tugs, the Belzona Two and Belzona Three, as well as the Belcher Barge.
BELZONA THREE (85’) The last of three tugs donated by Belzona America, the 105-foot tugboat was built in 1953 and worked for over 45 years until her engine gave out and it was deemed too expensive to refurbish. The Carinthia was renamed Belzona Three and sunk in 1991 100-feet due east of Belzona One and 150-feet east-southeast of Belzona Two. She is the largest and most intact of the three tugs.
BELZONA TWO (60’) Built in 1915, this 75’ tugboat was assigned to the US Navy in 1917 (ID-1789) for potential use as a patrol craft in World War One but was never enrolled. During her long career, she changed hands many times and was rumored to be involved in the Mariel Boat Lift. Eventually scuttled in 1991, she lies 150-feet west-northwest of Belzona Three. Typically, there are rebar stakes in the sand guiding divers between the various wrecks. While the tug is largely intact, Hurricane Andrew peeled open the amidships area.
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.
BETEK AR PEN (110’) Reportedly the remains of this 70-foot former dive boat was scuttled in 1997 and rests immediately west of the St Henry Express.
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 (120’) This 183’ passenger freighter traveled to Cuba as part of a Freedom Flotilla during the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980 and was expected to leave the communist island with up to 5,000 refugees thought to be headed for Florida. However, the freighter was intercepted by the US Coast Guard 37 miles south of Cuba as it steamed for the Cayman Islands. She was escorted to Miami and searched, but the vessel held no exiles and was occupied only by its seven crewmen. She was seized by the US government and was sunk in 1983 as an artificial reef. Today, she is a testament to the power of an intense hurricane. Less than ten years after her deployment, Hurricane Andrew smashed the hull of the wreck. The aft bridge superstructure was ripped from the lower hull and stern and the rest of the hull was folded in half. 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 officials found cocaine aboard. The drugs were discovered under a waste oil tank in the forward cargo hold. She was scuttled using explosive charges in 2001 where she sits upright and intact along with M/V Miguana and M/V Etoile de Mer to create the US Customs Reef. The small wheelhouse and superstructure grace the bow of the vessel. Swimming west off the stern, divers will encounter the wreck of the Miguana.
C-ONE (70’) This former 110’ Navy tugboat 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 tugboat 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.
CARMEN (60’) She is a 45-foot steel hulled tugboat scuttled By DERM in 1999 in 65-feet of water
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.
CONCEPTION (71’) The 164’ Dutch coastal freighter changed ownership and names many times over the years until in 1991 she became a fixture on trendy South Miami Beach. The vessel stacked high with trucks, bicycles, rice, beans and other cargo, was in route to Haiti when it experienced engine problems, forcing it to drop anchor off the coast of Miami. The crew had been working on the issue for two weeks when strong winds and high seas battered the crippled ship. The anchor eventually gave way and the freighter was thrown up on the beach. Almost two months she remained there subject to lawsuits, looters, and graffiti. She was eventually towed and scuttled, but shortly afterwards Hurricane Andrew ripped the ship into two pieces. The wreck is part of a wreck trek that includes the C-One, Lady Carmen, and the White Coast, as well as a barge and numerous concrete modules. Divers can easily visit all wrecks in a single dive.
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' general cargo 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. She lies just to the north of the tugboat Rio Miami and to the West of the Sarah Jane.
DOC DE MILLE (150') This 287' steel refrigerated freighter was purchased by Fish & Game Unlimited for $15,000 for use as an artificial reef. She was 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 with F4-D Phantoms from the 93rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of Homestead Air Force Base dropping concrete. Unfortunately for the Air Force two-thirds of the practice bombs missed their target, but 200 pounds of explosives rigged aboard by the Dade County Metro Bomb Squad quickly did the task of sinking one of the best wreck dives off Miami-Dade County. She inconveniently lies midway between Miami and Key Largo, making for a long boat trip from either site, but it’s worth the price of admission. The ship’s stern superstructure remains intact and managed to avoid damage in 1992 during Hurricane Andrew, but the bow broke away from the rest of the wreck. Hurricane Irma collapsed the bow section in 2018. While the wreck itself is impressive, the abundant marine life is perhaps the marquee attraction. Dozens of goliath groupers are a common sight and large schools of eagle rays are not uncommon along with the occasional shark sighting. Just to the south lies the 115’ freighter Hugo’s April Fool and to the north rests the 155’ freighter Berry Patch. Don’t forget to look for the many concrete practice bombs used in the sinking laying off in the sand.
ESMERALDA (190’) Built in 1897, 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 as the personal yacht of millionaire Julius Fleischmann, the son of the founder of Fleischmann & Company, an industry giant yeast firm. Julius also served as the mayor of Cincinnati. She was known as one of the fastest and most attractive yachts that sailed along the east coast. After three decades, the yacht was sold in 1924 and renamed the Esmeralda and moved to Miami. The Esmeralda sank two years later off the Miami Municipal dock, now Bicentennial Park, during a category 4 hurricane in 1926 that claimed many other vessels. Of the six passengers aboard the Esmeralda when she sank at her mooring, only one survived. The hurricane claimed over 300 lives in South Florida. Esmeralda was raised from the bottom in 1927 and then unceremoniously towed to sea and disposed. In 1994, she was accidentally discovered by divers following a trip to the Mystic Sea. Their anchor was fouled and the dive boat drifted off that wreck and the northbound current snagged their hook into a second wreck. Once the divers descended, they discovered the yacht and very conspicuous artifacts indicating that the vessel had sunk unexpectedly. Several Ashcroft gauges and the bronze engine manufacturer plaque were recovered, but nothing that positively identified the wreck. Further research came across documentation that confirmed it was the Esmeralda. Even after decades below, her hull is largely intact, but the deck and bulkheads have deteriorated. Portions of her upper deck remain off her starboard side. Numerous artifacts remain on the site including portholes, light fixtures, large tubs and sinks mostly resting in the stern of the ship. The engine can still be found within the machinery spaces towards the stern. Undoubtably, more artifacts remain within the wreck, but most are buried by considerable sediment. The wreck is home to large grouper and hogfish, while the occasional sailfish might be spotted during decompression stops especially during the spring.
ETOILE DE MER (135') The “Star of the Sea” is 80’ steel hulled fishing vessel converted to an inter-island freighter used to carry dry cargo. In 2001 while moored on the Miami River, Customs Inspectors received an anonymous tip about suspicious activity onboard. Officials 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 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. It’s a short swim east off the bow to reach the bow of the Miguana. The Tacoma is approximately 500 feet to the northwest.
FISH HOLE (45') This is a natural recess in the seabed 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!
GIMROCK ATLAS RECYCLING BARGE (112’) There is very little information available about this large 195' steel barge sunk in 1998 in 112-feet of water.
GIMROCK 504 BARGE (248’) Not much is known about this 100-foot steel barge that was sunk in 2004
GIMROCK BARGE (165’) The barge is grown over and in great shape. The inner barge is all on the North side and makes a nice habitat for fish. Look for southern stingrays at the South side in the sand and many lionfish around the wreck and around the debris in the sand.
HAV PARKER III BARGE (70’) A part of the Belcher Barge wreck trek, the wrecks of the H.A.V Parker III, a 120’ barge, and the Schurger’s Barge, a 90’ barge lay together near the wreck of the Belcher Barge 254’ away at 287 degrees
HOPPER BARGE (234’) This 175-foot barge was scuttled in 1971
HOPPER BARGE (163’) This 150-foot New York garbage barge rests about five miles southwest of Key Biscayne. She was sunk in 1981 in 163 feet of water. Over the years this wreck has attracted a huge number of large schooling fish.
HUGO’S APRIL FOOL (145’) The 115’ freighter, formerly named Danbo, was scuttled in 1988 and now sits upright and generally intact though sections of her superstructure have collapsed. She rests approximately 250 feet south of the Doc de Milly.
JUPITER STAR (165’) It is unclear how she became known as Jupiter Star as this name does not appear in the vessel’s documentation history, but she was named the Cleve Jones Jr after the founder of the Jones Boat Yard as a memorial. Built in the Netherlands in 1956, this 226' steel cargo freighter changed ownership multiple times and was converted into a livestock carrier on 1961 for the purpose of carrying horses. With a capacity of 202 horses at a time, she carried more than 50,000 horses between Amsterdam and Lithuania. In 1966, she was re-fitted to her original general cargo configuration. 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.
KEY BISCAYNE WRECK TREK (85’) The current tends to run to the North most days, so up to 6-9 shipwrecks may be executed in two recreational dives or a single technical decompression dive. The South Seas (75’), Princess Brittney (85’), Paraiso (70’), Rio Miami (70’), DEMA Trader (70’) and the Proteus (75’) await your adventure! The tekkies might add Sheri-Lyn (110’), Ophelia Brian (110’) and/or the Biscayne (60’), but an underwater diver propulsion vehicle (DPV) might help your navigation efforts. This area is full of amazing animal encounters including Goliath Groupers, sea turtles, stingrays, and in the distance a lurking reef shark. Some of the wrecks in this line up were sunk some time ago so they are covered in corals and sponges which create beautiful habitat for fish and photos.
LANDING CRAFT – LCI (202’) Not much is known about this 150-foot steel Military Landing Craft scuttled in 1969
LARSEN BARGE (45’) A part of Koppin Memorial Reef, this 60’ steel barge was sunk in 1999. The site is dedicated to a deceased Miami motorcycle patrolman. Several other barges are nearly, including Billy’s Barge, Police Barge and the Police Barge #2. Nearby there are large and small concrete pipes known to be excellent building blocks to support coral growth, especially for gorgonians and stone corals. Most of the concrete structures came from the building of Rickenbaker Causeway which connects Key Biscyane to the City of Miami.
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.
MARY STAR OF THE SEA (210’) This 138’ Panamanian freighter initially sunk in rough seas in 1990 at anchorage about one mile off Miami in 27’ of water with her mast protruding from the water, but the five-man crew was rescued by the Coast Guard. Coincidentally, the sinking occurred just three days after the Raychel sunk a short distance away in the shipping channel. The abandoned vessel affectionally named “Mary Star of Debris” was moved from her site to another site to serve as a deep-water artificial reef after being split in half prior to deployment. A relatively short distance separates the two sections and both sections can be visited as one section is to the northeast from the southernmost section and the technical divers are assisted by the current or scooters.
MIAMI RIVER BARGE - ZT 202 (120’) There is very little information available about this rather imposing 210' Intermediate bulk container barge. She sits upright and fully intact 400' east of the Sheri-Lyn.
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 aboard. 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. Miguana now rests between the larger Brandywine, which can be found by swimming east off the stern, and the Etoile de Mer, which lies west off the Miguana’s bow. The wreck has easy access into its interior where divers can view the engine.
MISS KARLENE (55’) This 85’ trawler was scuttled in 1989 as an artificial reef off the coast of Miami. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped the vessel open and the wreck now lists heavily to one side with only her bow and stern recognizable. She is part of the Miami Wreck Trek, which also includes the 65’ tug Patricia resting a short distance away. This site could also be the beginning of a single, long drift dive to the Radio Tower pyramids, sections of radio towers once used by Radio Mambi. that broadcasted anti-Castro, anti-communist sentiment, along with Spanish music content to Cuba. Included in the drift are the wrecks of the Matthew Lawrence, Larsen Barge, John Koppin Barge and two M60 US Army Tanks.
MISS LUCY (224’) This 38’ pushboat was built in 1965 in Louisiana and was sunk as an artificial reef in 2001.
MYSTIC ISLE (185’) Built in 1942 as the first all-steel, all-welded passenger boat of its kind on the Great Lakes. This stout 103’ boat had room for 335 passengers and 20 autos per trip. She served until 1950 and was purchased by Fisher Island Ferry District of New York. In 1979 she was transferred to Fort Lauderdale and converted into a fishing vessel. Later, in 1984, she was seized by the US Coast Guard carrying a huge load of marijuana. She was towed into the Miami River and later scuttled in 1986 as an artificial reef. She sits upright, intact and easy to penetrate through the large automobile opening in her hull just below the wheelhouse. Just off the stern and to the north lies the wreck of the yacht Esmerelda. It is possible to visit both wrecks in a single technical dive if the northern current is flowing.
NARWAL (115’) This 136’ coastal freighter was built in the Netherlands in 1939 and plied her trade until she eventually outlived her usefulness. She was acquired for use as an artificial reef off Miami in 1986. She used to be an excellent dive site until Hurricane Andrew visited South Florida in 1992, the massive hurricane obliterated the Narwal, breaking her into several large pieces. Over time, the wreck has further collapsed and now consists of flattened hull plates in the sand.
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.
O.L. BODENHAMER (372’) This “Liberty” ship is named after as former US Army Major and former National Commander of the American Legion. She was built in New Orleans in 1944 for the US Army Transportation Services. The EQ2-S-C1 type freighter (E for Emergency, C for Cargo, 2 indicating size of 400-450 feet, S for steam propulsion, and C1 for the particular design) was a representative of how fast these vessels could be built in World War II in about 43 days. She was 442 feet in length and after a brief service in WWII, she was laid up ban eventually deemed obsolete. Her superstructure was razed and she was scuttled off Miami in 1976. Due to extensive scrapping of the vessel, she now resembles a giant canoe on the bottom and offers little to divers except depth and structure.
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.
OPERATION RIVERWALK WRECK TREK (150’) In 2001, US Customs agents seized over 10.000 pounds cocaine valued at over $88 million from inbound freighters on the Miami River. Operation Riverwalk was a joint task force set up to deter drug smuggling on the Miami River. Members included federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. In addition to the drug seizures, the freighters involved in these smuggling operations were also seized. In 2001-2002, three of the ships were scuttled as artificial reefs to create a living monument to honor those who protect America's boarders and coastlines- past, present and future. Today, the result is a wonderful wreck trek of the Miguana, a 101’ garbage scow, the Tacoma, a 165' steel freighter and the Etoile de Mer, an 80’ steel inter-island freighter. Each lie together to create a triangle with each shipwreck no more than 150’ apart offering an opportunity for advanced certified divers or for the technical divers to explore.
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.
OSTWIND (275’) Ostwind, German for “east wind” was built along with her sister ship, Nordwind in 1939 and commissioned by Adolph Hitler as an Olympic racing vessel following a poor showing in the 1936 Olympic races. The 84-foot racer was never able to compete at the 1940 Olympics and was later seized by the US Navy towards the end of WWII. She now sits off the South Florida coast as a monument to the 937 Jewish refugee passengers aboard the SS St. Louis -- refugees who were denied the right to enter this country in 1939. The yacht did not come to rest there without considerable trouble. At the commemoration ceremonies in 1989, the yacht got cut loose early and came to rest on a coral reef Becoming more trouble than it was ever worth, a lot of wrangling and some donated money later, the vessel got moved to the site for which it was originally intended be due east of the Doral Hotel. The yacht is now an artificial reef, 2.5 miles out in about 275 feet of water. Other than advanced trimix, divers need not apply.
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.
PIMELIOUS (135’) Little is known about the history of the Pimellous. Numerous spelling variations appear in records though none have been found to reference a former vessel. When sunk in 1971, the approximately 120‐ foot long vessel, perhaps a converted barge, consisted of a flat, featureless hull, with a large crane truck parked on the stern deck. Since its deployment, the wooden decking of the vessel has been consumed, leaving just the steel support beams in place. The crane truck can be found resting in the sand off the wreck, though the cab of the truck has long since rusted away.
PINK FLOYD – THE WALL (80’) There’s nothing like a dive with a frenzy of fish and little critters all doing their best to hide from the currents that constantly replenish the reef with an abundance of nutrients. Many forms of marine life can be sustained in these subsequent biodiversity hotspots. You’ll find a vast array of animals in these places, from sponges and sea fans to stingrays and lionfish as well as tons of color in reefs. This offshore reef is found just two miles offshore and you can literally drift from one end to the other with no effort needed on the right day!
PIONEER ONE (215’) The 195' Pioneer 1 was scuttled off shore near Fowey Rocks and the wreck of the Blue Fire. At the same time, twenty-six steel tanks were sent to the bottom which have now settled in the sand around the vessel. Little is known of the vessels construction or service history.
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 critters 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. Built in 1957, this 218-foot general cargo freighter, 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.
RAILROAD BARGE (163’) This 100' railroad barge was sunk in 1980
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 TOWER WRECK TREK (55') Where else could a diver visit six wrecks, two Vietnam-era US M-60 Army Tanks and a cluster of radio tower pyramids? The nineteen steel and concrete pyramids were cut and sunk in 1988 to attract marine life and to create a popular dive spot off Miami Beach. The radio tower was originally used by Radio Mambi to transmit anti-Castro, anti-communist sentiment, along with Spanish music content. The broadcasts were also popular with the Cuban community in South Florida. The pyramids rest in 50 feet of water, each rise about 20 feet from the bottom where schooling fish have great chances to grow and breed which offers great photo opportunities. Drift to the north to visit the wrecks of the Patricia and Miss Karline or head south for the Matthew Lawrence shipwreck while the two Vietnam era M-60 US Army Tanks are to the southeast. This trek also features three barges (John Koppin, Larsen Barge, & one other) & several artificial reef rock piles.
RADIO TOWERS (55') These pyramids are from sections of radio towers once used by Radio Mambi used to transmit anti-Castro, anti-communist sentiment, along with Spanish music content. The broadcasts were 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, each rise about 20 feet from the bottom where schooling fish have great chances to grow and breed which offers great photo opportunities. This site is also drifted along with three shipwrecks (Patricia, Miss Karline & Matthew Lawrence), three barges (Larsen Barge, John Koppin Memorial & one other), two Vietnam era M-60 US Army Tanks & several 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. Rebar stakes lead off the bow to the wreck of the nearby Paraiso III.
ROSSMERRY (240’) Approximately 300 pounds of explosives sent the 190’ freighter to the bottom off North Miami Beach. Little is known about the vessel’s construction and service history.
SAN RAFAEL (282’) Scuttled before Miami-Dade County had established a formal artificial reef program, specific information on this vessel is apparently unavailable and it is unclear if San Rafael was the actual name of the vessel when it was in service.
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.
SIR SCOTT (220’) This 250’ general cargo freighter was built in 1958 and carried her shipments under Spanish, Panamanian and Greek ownership until 1984 when her new Cayman Islands owner stripped her of engine parts and anything aboard of any value and left her abandoned in the Miami River. She was acquired and donated to Miami-Dade County to be sunk as an artificial reef. Following a detonation of several hundred pounds of dynamite, she now rests upright and intact south of Fowey Rocks and three miles east of the Ragged Keys and has developed into a spectacular deep-water reef.
SPIRIT OF MIAMI (75’) The retired Boeing 727 jetliner was billed as the jewel of Miami-Dade's thriving artificial reef program. But almost as soon as the "Spirit of Miami" was scuttled 17 years ago, vandals unbolted steel cables attaching it to the bottom of Biscayne Bay and made off with souvenirs. Tropical Storm Gordon snapped it into pieces in 1995. Rolling free on the sandy bottom, the pieces scattered, and the reef that had been sunk with national fanfare disappeared, pretty much forgotten. One of the wings remains in the sand about 500 feet northeast of the original deployment site off Key Biscayne.
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. In 1942, she was sold to the US Navy and commissioned as USS Girasol (PY-27) and was dispatched to the Pacific Theater for patrols. The ship changed hands over the years and in 1962 was converted to a restaurant and cocktail lounge on the Miami River adjacent to the well-known Tony’s Fish Market. In 1971, 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. The wreck of the freighter Princess Brittany lies 250’ to the north.
ST HENRY EXPRESS (113’) This 120’ vessel has little growth on it and, overall, does not have much appeal for the average diver. She rests between the Tortuga, which is found 300 feet to the south, and the Betek Ar Pen, which is 150 feet to the north.
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 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.
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.
STEANE ANNE 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. The wreck of the Tarpoon rests 1,200 feet to the north.
STEEL DECK BARGE (111’) There is very little information available about this 120'' steel barge sunk in 2002 in 111-feet of water
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.
TARPOON (65’) As a memorial to Mike Kevorkian, the owner of Tarpoon Diving Center in Miami, the 150’ Haitian freighter Medor Herode was scuttled in 1988. She was severely impacted by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 which moved the vessel several hundred feet and broke her into several pieces. Due to the wreck’s proximity to the reef, the scattered debris is typically enveloped by schools of fish.
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 FREEZE (135’) This 207’ refrigerated freighter was built in 1959 and was owned by Trans Caribbean Lines and managed by Trans Caribbean Agencies Inc. of Miami. In 1983, in dramatically poor condition, she set sail from Ecuador to Miami loaded with 200 tons of shrimp valued at $1.5 million dollars. Due to her condition, she was forced to stop in Panama for repairs that never happened. Several months later with the cargo of badly decomposed shrimp, she was towed to Miami to face numerous lawsuits claiming negligence. While on the Miami River, she was abandoned, vandalized and slowly stripped until she was worthless. In 1984, she was scuttled. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped the starboard side of the hull open, bent the hull 90 degrees at amidships and stripped the pilothouse from the hull. The is extensive penetration possible, but care should be taken due to fallen electrical cables and general deterioration.
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.
USCGC LOTUS - WAGL-229 (230’) Built in 1920 for the US Army Quartermaster Department, she was named in honor of Col. Albert Todd, a distinguished artilleryman and commander of the Eastern Artillery District as a Mine Planter. She was decommissioned in 1924 and transferred to the US Lighthouse Service until she was absorbed into the US Coast Guard as USCGC Lotus. During World War II, the tender laid buoys and anti-submarine nets to assist convoys rallying at Newfoundland, and later conducted standard work in the Caribbean and was decommissioned by Coast Guard in 1947. After a period of service with private owners, the Lotus was abandoned on the Miami River. In 1971: Miami‐Dade County, in an effort to remove some of the derelict vessels along the Miami River, loaded the rusting Lotus with explosives and had it blown up at sea approximately two miles offshore. She is a 110' steel ship with over 30’ of relief. She is upright and intact with pretty lines, despite over 100 years of age.
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.
WALKE Q (282’) One of several wrecks deployed as an artificial reef of Miami prior to the establishment of an official Miami-Dade County program. As a result, there is a general lack of specific data on the vessel and its deployment.
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.
WHITE COAST (68’) This small tugboat was scuttled in 1995 and is very close to the C-One tugboat, the Lady Carmen tugboat, and the freighter Conception. All are within easy swimming distance.
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, passageways, 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.
CASTOR (110’) Built in 1970, this 250’ shelter-deck coaster would change names fourteen times over the next three decades before ultimately being renamed Castor in 1998. In 1999, she was stopped north of Venezuela by the HMS Marlborough. The boarding party found almost 8,700 pounds of cocaine in one of the shipping containers, which at the time was the twelfth largest seizure on record. The Castor was escorted to Miami where she was abandoned by her owner and became derelict. Scuttled in 2001, this shipwreck rests with its bow oriented towards the south. Her main deck is at 90’ and she has been transformed into a vibrant tapestry of colorful marine life. Portions of her starboard hull and wheelhouse have collapsed due to the hurricane season of 2004.
COREY N CHRIS (270’) This is noted as one of the most unique technical dives in South Florida. Consisting of two wrecks on a single site, the 130' Corey N Chris sits upright with her bow facing west. This former dredge was built in 1942 for the U.S. Army and named BC-246. After a hard career and rusting away she was sold to Broward County to be scuttled as an artificial reef in 1986. The 226' RBJ is sitting with its bow facing south, draped across the midship of the Corey N Chris. This freighter was built in 1955 and after running aground in Kingston Jamaica was abandoned by her owners. Also sold to Broward County, she headed to Pompano to join the Corey N Chris. In 1988, nearly 2 years to the day, the RBJ was sunk next to the Cory N Chris. But instead, she maintained her track record of running into things and landed on top of the Corey N Chris at mid ship. Initially, the hull of the Ronald B. Johnson was fully supported by the Corey N Chris; while the freighter rested on the bottom. The RBJ was suspended at an angle of nearly 45 degrees, rising to within 120 feet of the surface. After years of natural forces, Hurricane Andrew finally split the RBJ in two, leaving the keel of the freighter collapsed fore and aft of its bisection with the Corey N Chris. If you like deep, this is the dive for you. You never know what you'll see...big critters!
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.
IMOR (170’) She was an 84’ trawler built in 1958 in Poland. This fishing vessel was later converted to conduct oceanographic research for the Polish government. She was stripped and scuttled in 1991 as an artificial reef. The Imor sits upright with her bow pointing to the south.
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 tugboat. 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.
MARINER 2 - TUGBOAT (125') This 110' steel tug is sitting upright south of the Mariner II Barge. If the current is right you can drift from one to the other, following a cable connected to 10' box 100' south of the barge. Grouper are seen here occasionally. The ship's original name was the Mary St. Phillips. The tug was sunk along with the Mariner II Barge. You can easily swim between the two on the right current.
MARINER 2 – BARGE (125’) This 110' barge is pointing south and surrounded by sand and coral rubble. There is a cable attached to the bow leading south to a 10' square box, keep going and you will come to the Mariner II Tug. These two vessels were sunk simultaneously. Lots of big fish swim to and from these wrecks, some have sited Billfish here on occasion.
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 wheelhouse 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!
PAPA’S WRECK (260’) Built in 1955, this 170' coastal freighter changed names many times util 1988 when US Customs discovered an illicit cargo of marijuana hidden aboard the vessel. She was sold at auction and was renamed Papa's Wreck after the new owners grandfather, Muncy Yates. She was scuttled in 1989 as an artificial reef off Hillsboro Inlet. She sits upright and intact.
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.
RONALD B. JOHNSON (270’) This is noted as one of the most unique technical dives in South Florida. Consisting of two wrecks on a single site, the 130' Corey N Chris sits upright with her bow facing west. This former dredge was built in 1942 for the U.S. Army and named BC-246. After a hard career and rusting away she was sold to Broward County to be scuttled as an artificial reef in 1986. The 226' RBJ is sitting with its bow facing south, draped across the midship of the Corey N Chris. This freighter was built in 1955 and after running aground in Kingston Jamaica was abandoned by her owners. Also sold to Broward County, she headed to Pompano to join the Corey N Chris. In 1988, nearly 2 years to the day, the RBJ was sunk next to the Cory N Chris. But instead, she maintained her track record of running into things and landed on top of the Corey N Chris at mid ship. Initially, the hull of the Ronald B. Johnson was fully supported by the Corey N Chris; while the freighter rested on the bottom. The RBJ was suspended at an angle of nearly 45 degrees, rising to within 120 feet of the surface. After years of natural forces, Hurricane Andrew finally split the RBJ in two, leaving the keel of the freighter collapsed fore and aft of its bisection with the Corey N Chris. If you like deep, this is the dive for you. You never know what you'll see...big critters!
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.
SUCRE (215’) This 237’ German-built freighter was seized by US Coast Guard in 1994 after finding300 pounds of cocaine onboard. Sucre is another sponsored wreck by the Pompano Fishing Rodeo. She is also called the Johnny Morris, after the President of Bass Pro Shops. Her life as an artificial reef began after she was scuttled in 1996. She is sitting up-right on the continental slope with her bow pointing south. She is intact with a great structure good for penetration. Beams and railings are totally covered with corals. The forward portion of the vessel consists of two large vacant holds, each with its own cargo crane on deck that affords an interesting photo opportunity, while the aft superstructure and very roomy engine room allows for penetration. The forward bridge bulkheads have collapsed, which has produced an odd vacant area surrounded on each side by the intact bridge wings. Due to the depth, this wreck has become home to many invasive lionfish. Because of her depth, we recommend this for tech divers only.
UNION EXPRESS (110’) Built in 1959, this 160’ coastal freighter was escorted into Miami and impounded in 1990 after the US Coast Guard found drugs hidden onboard. The Dutch coaster was acquired for use as an artificial reef and scuttled in 1992. Officially known as Mariner 1, the ship lies in 110’ of water. Hurricane Andrew broke the wreck into two sections while collapsing her amidships and forward cargo holds. The bow rests on her port side, while the larger and more interesting stern section lies over to her starboard side. The Mariner II barge can be found about 400’ slightly to the north.
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.
WEST PALM BEACH SITES
AMARYLLIS (90’) For three years, this 442’ Greek-owned freighter slowly rusted apart on Singer Island after Hurricane Betsy beached her in 1965. Eventually the US Army Corps of Engineers cut the superstructure from her hull to lighten the load and she was pulled off the beach. She was towed offshore and allowed to sink. Because of the extensive scrapping, she now resembles a 400-foot canoe. With her bow facing southward, she is part of the Mizpah Corridor (See MIZPAH CORRIDOR).
ANA CECILIA (90’) She was put to rest in 2016 about a mile off of Singer Island. The ship is part of a wreck trek called The Mizpah Corridor, including the Mizpah, China Barge, Amaryllis and the Brazilian Docks. This 170’ freighter was used as a cargo ship carrying humanitarian goods to Havana from Miami. She was the first to make a direct US to Cuba voyage since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Once the transport operation shut down in 2013, the ship changed hands and took on a new job. The Ana Cecilia made headlines for the second time in 2015 when she was seized by the US Government for smuggling 413 kilograms of cocaine from Haiti. During August through October, she houses many Goliath Groupers who aggregate in the area during their spawning season. Since her sinking, she has become a home to sponge and soft coral growth and more dense fish populations. There are large cutouts in the decks and companionways making easy swim throughs for adventurous divers. If underwater photography is your niche, you are going to want to add this site to your gallery, as the cutouts allow beautiful ambient light to penetrate many areas of the wreck’s interior. The five plaques mounted on the ship are a remembrance of local mariners who lost their lives. Three plaques belong to Deputy Fernandez Jones, his stepfather Willis Bell, and Jones old son Jayden who drowned after their boat capsized off of Martin County. The remaining two plaques are named for Austin and Perry, two boys who went missing in 2015 after leaving Jupiter Inlet.
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.
ESSO BONAIRE III (90’) Built in New Jersey in 1939, this 146’ bulk-oil tanker was intercepted in 1989 by the US Coast Guard fifty miles east of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas carrying a cargo of 50,000 pounds of marijuana hidden in her holds. The vessel was stripped down and cleaned by Palm Beach County and holes were cut in the hold to facilitate the scuttling. However, after being towed to the site, she partially flooded and refused to sink. Eventually, the contractor hired to deploy the vessel used a tugboat to ram the vessel to help send it to the bottom. As a part of the Jupiter Wreck Trek, she currently rests upright and hosts a significant number of goliath groupers and lemon sharks.
GILBERT SEA (90’) The Gilbert Sea, a 176’ coastal freighter, was seized by the US Customs Service and US Coast Guard after 74 pounds of cocaine worth $630k was found inside paint cans and a 55-gallon oil drum with a false bottom. The forfeited vessel was sold to Palm Beach County and scuttled in 2002. She is the furthest north of the fours wrecks that comprise Governor’s River Walk (See GOVERNOR’S RIVER WALK).
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 Sha Sha Boekanier, Gilbert Sea, St. Jacques, and Thozina. 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. 800 tons of deployed concrete bridge material connect the wrecks. Since their deployment, all four freighters have been significantly impacted by hurricanes, which have flattened their cargo holds and torn their hulls in half. The wrecks offer a fantastic diving experience and it’s not uncommon to observe massive goliath grouper, sea turtles, sting rays and sharks while drifting a northbound current.
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.
KORIMU (230’) Also known as the Celtic Crusader, this 260’ freighter (IMO number 7022497) was built in 1970 in the Netherlands. After changing owners a few times, she was employed to transport cargo between Caribbean and Central American ports. She eventually became derelict along the Miami River and was scuttled in 2007 as an artificial reef. She lies intact, upright, and resting with her bow pointing southward in an area known for significant currents. In these cases, divers should seek the refuge of the cargo holds and stern superstructure. Regardless, due to the significant vertical relief, the wreck is a treat to explore.
MIZPAH (90’) This 185’ beautiful Greek luxury yacht was built in 1926 for James Elverson Jr, owner of the Philadelphia Enquirer, at a cost of $1.3 million. In her service she took part in many adventures, including polar expeditions, a treasure hunt in Costa Rica and a mysterious scientific cruise to the Galapagos Islands. In 1942, she was turned over to the US Navy for war service as the USS Mizpah (PY-29). The addition of armaments prepared her for duty as a patrol boat. After the war, she was sold and used as a coastal freighter until 1967 where she ended up in Tampa with a broken crankshaft, became a derelict, and was destined for the scrap yard. She was discovered and donated to the US Army Corps of Engineers for use as an artificial reef and was scuttled in 1968. She sits upright with her bow pointing north. Portions of the hull have collapsed due to numerous hurricanes. The wreck is part of the Mizpah Corridor with PC-1174, the Amaryllis and a large barge all connected by a trail of rock and concrete. The northbound current allows divers to easily drift all the wrecks in one dive (See MIZPAH CORRIDOR).
MIZPAH CORRIDOR (85') This is defiantly one of the best dives in Palm Beach County and is comprised of six wrecks to drift over. The current tends to run to the North most days so the boat will drop you first in the line on the Ana Cecilia. The Ana Cecilia is new to this site, she was sunk in 2016 and it didn’t take long for the Goliath Groupers to make her their new home. This 170’ freighter has many cargo areas that have been modified for diving. Follow the rebar 300’ to the north and you will be at the next wreck in this trek, the Mizpah. The 185’ Greek luxury liner was sunk in 1968. The Mizpah is upright and intact except for a split forward of the upper deck. About 100 yards from the Mizpah to the north is the PC 1174, a 165’ military patrol craft sunk in 1968. It rests upright in two sections. After you pass this wreck you will encounter a rock pile path and it will lead you to the next wreck, the Amaryllis. The 441’ Amaryllis ran aground in 1965, during Hurricane Betsy and was sunk in 1968. Divers tend to find sea turtles on this wreck and an occasional reef shark swimming by in the distance. After the Amaryllis, still travelling to the north, you will find the China Barge that’s flipped over and past this is the Brazilian Docks which is piles of concrete dock rubble and culverts. Both sites offer opportunities to encounter moray eels, nurse sharks, and lots of tropical fish.
PC-1174 (90’) This 165’ military patrol craft was commissioned as the USS Fredonia (a PC-461 class submarine chaser) and was sunk in 1968. It rests upright in two sections (See MIZPAH CORRIDOR).
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.
SHA SHA BOEKANIER (90’) This 185’ European coastal freighter was built in 1962 in Germany. In 2001, during an anti-narcotic sweep of vessels moored in the Miami River, US Customs agents discovered 100 pounds of cocaine hidden in the engine room. She was scuttled in 2001 as the first and southern-most of four vessels sunk as part of Governor’s River Walk. The 2004-2005 hurricanes flattened the cargo hold and separated the bow and stern; the latter rests adjacent to the bow of the St. Jacques (see GOVERNOR’S RIVER WALK).
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.
ST JACQUES (90’) While working a route between Haiti and Miami, she was twice found attempting to smuggle cocaine into the United States. She was eventually seized and scuttled in 2002 as part of the four wrecks of Governor’s River Walk, she was originally upright and intact, but the active 2004 hurricane season pummeled the freighter and separated the bow and stern from the collapsed cargo holds. Both sections list at abstract angles presenting a great dive experience. She is located between Sha Sha Boekanier to the south and a concrete rubble pile to the north. The rubble pile trails off north towards the freighter Gilbert Sea. The third freighter, Thozina, is slightly to the east and past the concrete road barriers and an anchor chain resting in the sand (see GOVERNOR’S RIVER WALK).
SUN MARINER (70’) Built in 1964 in Louisiana, this 51’ tugboat was sunk with the Marsha T and the Sea Inspector, just north of the Palm Beach county line. During late February and early March, this shipwreck is known for its hammerhead sightings.
THOZINA (90’) In 2002, this 174’ freighter became the fourth vessel deployed as a part of Governor’s River Walk. She was seized in 2002 by the US Customs Service after narcotics were discovered aboard. She lies just to east of, but in between, the Sha Sha Boekanier and the Gilbert Seas. A large pile of rubble was added just off the starboard bow (see GOVERNOR’S RIVER WALK).
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.
ZION TRAIN (90’) Launched in 1961 in the Netherlands, this 164’ coastal freighter operated under several owners until 1996 when Benjamin Darvil of Belize purchased her. It’s believed that Esso Bonaire regularly smuggled almost 900 pounds of cocaine per month from Haiti into South Florida. In 1997, while docked in the Miami River, her captain and four crew members were murdered aboard. The freighter was sold to a Honduran company and a short time later she grounded on Miami Beach after her anchor broke loose during a storm. Although refloated and towed into the Miami River for repairs, her new owners refused to pay the $100,000 repair bill, abandoned the vessel, and she was seized by US Marshals. The rusted freighter was scuttled off Jupiter in 2002 were she originally rested upright and intact until Hurricane Frances broke her in half and moving the wreckage over a mile south from its original position. The bow now rests hard over her port side while the stern section lists to starboard. As part of the Jupiter Wreck Trek with Miss Jenny and the Esso Bonaire, this trio hosts many goliath groupers and lemon sharks.
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.
QUEEN OF NASSAU (200’) She is a 111-year-old 200’ Canadian Steamer located just 3 miles off Alligator Lighthouse and 5 miles off Islamorada. She was powered by two large triple expansion engines and could cruise at a top speed of 22 knots. She was part of a small fleet of ships responsible for protecting Canada’s fishing interests. She was considered the fastest vessel in the Canadian Fisheries Protection Service (CFPS). In 1915, she was christened HMCS Canada and used to survey for mines and protect troop convoys headed to England in the Royal Canadian Navy. In 1924 a land developer in southwest Florida, bought her and renamed her the Queen of Nassau with a failed plan to turn her into a passenger vessel providing service from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas. In 1926, disaster struck while in route from Miami to Tampa. She began taking on water and the ship could not be saved. The 18 crewmembers abandoned ship and shortly after 7pm the Queen of Nassau slipped below the waves stern-first to its watery grave. Now, after nearly 89 years, she has become a spectacular dive site for technical divers who are trained to dive to her depths. She lays upright and is mostly intact and has more coral growth then you can imagine!
USCGC 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!
USCGC 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.
WHISTLE BUOY (220’) Also referred to as the Harris Freighter, her build is very typical of what you would expect a 170’ freighter to be. She has become a very good example of what an artificial reef is supposed to become with numerous tropical fish, larger pelagic species and a variety of game fish that inhabit the area. Coral, spiny oysters, and ocean sponge also encrust sections of her structure. This vessel was intentionally sunk, so it's likely that the scuttling charges were responsible for a section of the bow being severed from the stern. This break in the ship occurs about 50 feet from where the wheelhouse once stood. At the stern, the freighter's wheelhouse which has fallen and is now crumpled backwards. There is also an interesting debris field surrounding the ship which is rather large with two very large square based towers about 45 feet in length, lying on their sides.
VICTRIC (300’) She was a 165' wooden schooner barge with a stern deckhouse built in 1911. Little is known of this ship's past; in fact, her identity wasn't even determined until 2000. Due to extreme depth and a variable current which can range from none to strong, she's also one of the rarely explored Florida Keys wreck diving sites. History does not reveal the reason behind her sinking in 1944, but her cargo carried 130,000 gallons of molasses syrup. In fact, her may also have provided one of the most famous Key Largo diving spots with its name - Molasses Reef. If you have the technical certification required to descend to her chilly depths, you'll find the molasses containers positioned on her port and starboard sides. The structure is surprisingly big since it is primarily made up of the large pots, but divers will find scattered bits and pieces of wood, the occasional porthole, her windlass, and small pieces of machinery and fittings. The mast is in the sand on one side and the steering section is lying just off the main structure. This wreck certainly warrants more dive time to fully understand all that is left.
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 LARAMIE RIVER (185’) LSM(R)-501 is a Class Landing Ship Medium (Rocket) built towards the end of WWII in 1945 and was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. She was decommissioned in 1948 and laid up in the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, Florida Group. In 1955 she was named the USS Laramie River LSM(R)-513 and later reclassified as an Inshore Fire Support Ship (LFR-513) in 1969. She was eventually struck from the Naval Register in 1973 and sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service (DRMS) to Boston Metals Company for demilitarization and resale. She was purchased by a Key West company for use as a Caribbean coastal freighter. While her official fate is unknown, many experts believe she was scuttled off the coast of Key West in 1983. She sits upright and is generally intact.
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 counterattack. 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.
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.
AMAZONE (90’) This 225’ Dutch freighter was built in 1922, but while carrying cargo along the US coast, hostilities led to the outbreak of WWII. As a result, she stayed stateside and was re-painted, equipped with life rafts, and outfitted with a 3.7” stern gun for defense. In 1942 she left Curacao and Haiti bound for New York with her holds full of coffee, sisal, cocoa, dried orange peel, oil burners and mail. On May sixth, torpedoes from the German submarine U-333 inflicted crippling damage and as fire spread across the ship, the order was given to abandon the ship. Twenty crew members survived, but fourteen perished in the attack and sinking. The wreck of the Amazone was the twelfth victim in nine days and had now become a navigational hazard. She was both wire-dragged and leveled with explosives by the US Coast Guard soon later. Today the bow is easily identifiable with her anchors in place. Amidships, the boilers can be found buried in the sand with the engine just aft. From this point divers can follow shaft alley to the stern, which rests upended and stripped of her screw. Marine life is abundant and string rays can often be found in the sand. While small and of low relief, this wreck site is an entertaining dive.
DAVID T (80’) Originally built as a US Navy Landing Craft Repair Ship, this 200-foot long converted freighter was sunk as an artificial reef off Fort Pierce in 1982. Some say that too many explosives were used, and the vessel was actually blown apart instead of sinking intact. The wreck is now scattered in 80 feet of water.
HALSEY (80’) The SS Halsey is a 435’ freighter built in 1920. In 1942, she was headed to New York from Texas with a cargo of 80,000 barrels of fuel oil, gasoline and naphtha. Just before dawn as the ship moved north along the coast of Florida, she was struck amidships on her port side by a torpedo for the German submarine U-333. After the initial explosion the Halsey split in half and burst into flames. All 32 of her crew abandoned ship in two lifeboats and were later towed to Gilbert Bar Coast Guard Station by a local fishing boat. The crew had been nearly asphyxiated by the toxic naphtha fumes. As a side note the U-333 (Fiedler) was sunk in July of 1944, by the HMS Starling off Sicily Isles. The wreck is broken into three pieces with her bow upright and her anchors in place. Swimming aft, large sections of wreckage provide interesting swim-throughs. The keel of the hull gradually slopes down and disappears into the bottom. The large and mostly intact stern section is in in-line with the keel but separated by 60’ of sand. Turtles and eagle rays make frequent visits to this site and divers should also take note of various patches of debris found off the main wreck site. The site is also known as Two Freighters and Southeast Wreck. There is a small landing craft inshore in 35-feet of water and in between the Halsey and the Amazone are the remains of a crane and four barges. The crane and barges were in the process of salvaging the Halsey when they got caught in a storm and sunk.
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.
USS ORISKANY (210’) A one-of-a-kind diving experience, this sunken aircraft carrier USS Oriskany is the largest artificial reef in the world. In 2006 a Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team detonated 500 pounds of C-4 explosive charges strategically placed on 22 sea connection pipes in various machinery spaces. The ship sank stern first 37 minutes after detonation into the Gulf of Mexico. As was intended, the ship came to rest lying upright. Built shortly after World War II, the “Mighty O” served primarily in the Pacific, earning two battle stars for service in the Korean War and ten battle stars for service in the Vietnam War. USS Oriskany was sunk in 2006, 22 miles south of Pensacola in more than 200 feet of water. Nicknamed “the Great Carrier Reef,” the site is one of the most popular diving destinations in the United States. With a myriad of pelagic and sedentary marine life, opportunities for underwater video and photography are superb. Water depth to the top of the ship is 80 feet, and the flight deck is at 145 feet. There’s plenty of ship to explore above 100 feet, making this a unique dive for a variety of skill levels.
MONKADA (95’) The Monkada was the third and final Koni II-class frigate ordered by the Cuban Navy (Marina de Guerra Revolucionaria). The Koni class is the NATO reporting name for an anti-submarine warfare frigate built by the Soviet Union (Project 1159T). She was designated 255 (SKR-201) and was commissioned in 1988. The armament consisted of two twin 76mm AK726 gun mountings and two twin 30mm AA guns, four SSN-2 anti-ship missile launchers, with depth charge and mine racks fitted at the stern. When it became time to retire the ship, the Cuban Government decided to have her scuttled as an artificial reef in 1998 at Parque Submarino Cayo Piedra del Norte. It is rumored that Fidel Castro promoted the project, being an avid diver himself. It remains unclear why, just prior to the scuttling, the hull number was changed from 383 to 383 and had led to some confusion to the exact identity of the wreck, as the dive site is now most commonly referred to as Patrol Boat 383. The wreck is resting upright on a clear, sandy seabed. The wreck has a very nice appearance since all weaponry (guns, rocket launchers etc.) are still fitted.