USS Spiegel Grove is a dive site in Key Largo, that you may not have heard of.
Most people recognize John Pennekamp’s Christ of the abyss iconic image when they think of diving in Key Largo.
But as for this dive site, which is one of the largest of the ships deliberately sunk in the Florida Keys to make an artificial reef, not as much.
But honestly, if you are thinking of going down under the waves in in the Upper Keys area then you can do a lot worse than give this interesting and unusual dive site a go
Of course on this page we will give you the “Diving Highlights in regards to this site, but it would be amiss of us not to firstly give you some idea of the history of this amazing wreck laying about 100 feet under the Key largo Waters and the reasons for it being there in the first place.
Shake Hands Now... Don't Be Rude!
What Is The History Of The USS Spiegel Grove?
The vessel was originally built back in 1956, as a Thomaston-class dock landing ship, and pretty much set to work straight away patrolling the worlds waters on behalf of the american Navy.
Sailing from the Mediterranean, around the Atlantic, and even down to the East Coast of Africa, the naval vessel was used for hauling troops around, and also for good will missions.
It had quite a full and active life until the American Navy decided that it had fulfilled its usefulness after 33 years work, and decommissioned the vessel on the 2nd October 1989.
Sadly like all boats, once their active service had finished they end up somewhere....shall we say less dramatic and the Spiegel Grove was no different, as it spent its last days before being sunk sitting in the James River up in Virginia.
The vessel in active service
Image Courtesy Of http://spiegelgrove.com
Why Did They Sink The Ship?
Such is the fragile eco-system down in this part of the world, that you may consider this a strange thing to do.
But the reefs that surround the Florida Keys ever so often need a helping hand, to keep them flourishing, and according to the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary experts that look after these kind of things, a huge hulking naval vessel seems to be just the thing to give the reefs a boost.
Because of its open portholes and doors situated throughout the vessel, it will once sunk attract a myriad of animals and fish that are looking for a place to hide amongst the shadows and stay safe away from the oceans predators.
An alien vessel like this can quickly become a fishes home, and as it does so much good for the environment, as you can imagine it also provides a welcome boost to the tourism industry catering for the divers of the world, who flock to this area of the Keys to explore a vibrant underwater world such as this.
The Actual Sinking Of The USS Spiegel Grove
For anyone who is interested in the Florida Keys and most importantly the dive sites, you should know that this wasn't the only time that a ship had been deliberately sunk, as the sister ship of the Spiegel Grove, the Vandenberg was also sent to its watery grave along with the USS Oriskany in later years.
However when it was first sent to the bottom, this ship become a bit of a record holder, as due to its size...and it is enormous, this was the largest deliberately placed artificial reef in the world.
Image courtesy of NavSource.
Nothing this big had ever been sent to the bottom before on purpose, just to rust away and get covered by sealife.
However as we mentioned above, since then, both the USS Vandenberg and Oriskany have both suffered the same fate, and both being bigger than it, this one time record holder has now literally sunk without a trace.
I’m not sure why really as this is a very good dive site to explore.
Interestingly even though the ship is not as revered as its mates, the story of how it was sunk and placed into position is one of legend.
You see the ship did not conform to the willing participant in its sinking that you would expect.
When the ship was dragged into place to get ready for its demise, instead of waiting for the authorities who had scheduled her scuttling for the afternoon of Friday 17th May 2002, it decided to bring it forward all on its own.
Yes, instead of bobbing around happily for twenty four hours or so, the ship began to go down, and take on water.
This of course was an unplanned drowning, so instead of being supervised into the perfect position laying hull down on the bottom, it rolled and once it did this, it really went down quickly and ended upside down at the bottom of the sea.
Well I can't imagine how you get a boat which is full of water, so heavier than I could possibly consider back to the surface, but the authorities tried to do so.
Three weeks later the salvage team got in position and tried all they could think of to get the Spiegel Grove into the correct position, but tried as they might they failed at every turn.
With no other option left to them they left the sunk ship as it was, and called it an upside down artificial reef.
So that bit of the story is quite interesting i'm sure you'll agree, but it gets even weirder later on.
You see although the ship had resisted anything that man could do to get it where they wanted it, nature was much more persuasive.
And in 2005 Hurricane Dennis blew into town,and not only did it knock the Florida Keys around a bit, such was its unbelievable power it managed to get the Spiegel Grove sitting in position just as it was originally planned.
Three years later than planned, but still I think that could be considered job done.
What Is The Location Of The Spiegel Grove?
The site can be found on Dixie Shoal, which is about six miles of the Florida Keys coast at Key Largo.
Around the waters of the Keys, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protect this area, so you will have to be aware of the restrictions that they place to ensure the continuing protection of the seas, and marine life.
Check our page here for more about these restrictions.
For those with navigation systems then you should use the following coordinates that will place you right about the USS Spiegel Grove