Islamorada

Wrakduiken op de Florida's Keys

 

Wreck #1: USCG BIBB

The USS Bibb wreck is a former Coast Guard ship that saw extensive service to her country and took part in the invasion of Okinawa during World War II. The Bibb also served as a convoy escort, protecting cargo ships against enemy attack. The Bibb rests on her side in 130 feet of water six nautical miles offshore from Key Largo. The Bibb is also close to the Molasses Reef, a possible second dive after viewing the wreck. Like the USS Duane, diving the Bibb is not for amateurs or divers who don’t follow dive tables. The current is very strong with divers frequently reporting that they were clinging to the descent lines like a flag flapping in the wind. Divers often have to struggle down the descent line and use the current to drift to another line located at the stern of the ship. In fact, the current can be so strong that masks can be ripped off a diver’s face.

Plenty of dive shops will sail to the Bibb, but few, if any will do anything without proper certification for advanced dives. Unlike the Duane, Florida Keys dive experts don’t recommend entering the wreck of the Bibb due to possible obstructions and entanglements. Expect to spend no more than 15 to 20 minutes at depth and make plans for a three-minute safety stop when surfacing.

The USS Bibb was built as a Campbell class cutter in the Philadelphia Navy Yard and commissioned in 1936 with a crew of 13 officers and 132 enlisted sailors. This class of ship was sometimes referred to as the "327s" due to their length and were named for former secretaries of the United States Treasury. Of these seven ships, two remain as floating museums and two others, the Duane and the Bibb, are part of the Florida Keys Artificial Reef program.

The 327-foot vessel had a beam of 41 feet and drew 13 feet of water. The Bibb was armed with two 5-inch guns, 40 mm and 20 mm cannon for air defense. Twin screws gave her a top speed of 20 knots.

The Bibb and her sister ship were prepared for the Keys artificial reef program and sunk in 1987. The Duane is in shallower water and therefore a more popular dive than the Bibb, but the Bibb is in better condition as a result. Divers can see sea turtles, grouper, nurse sharks, amberjacks, jewfish, cobia and the ever-present barracuda.

The Bibb was built in 1937. After its launch in 1937, one of the first missions of the Bibb was to protect threatened Atlantic merchants from the agressive tensions of the war in Europe. In 1942, the Bibb was outfitted with improved guns and enlisted into the service of the Navy for convoy escort duty. During her career, the Bibb rescued survivors from the S.S. Penmar and Henry S. Mallory, as well as being involved in the Vietnam conflict. Finally, she was decommissioned in 1985 prior to being sunk as an artificial reef.

She is 327 feet long, with a 41 foot beam. She served in patrols and convoy escort duties during WW II, and joined in the battle for Okinawa in 1945. The Bibb served in Vietnam but her real legacy is the Bibb's record of heroic rescues, many conducted under the worst possible conditions. A consortium of diveshops and other organizations arranged for the Bibb and the Duane (the Bibb's sister ship) to be stripped and prepared as artificial reefs and divesites. The doors were removed above the main deck and the lower compartments were sealed. Both ships were sunk in 1987.

Location: Lat 24 59.71 Lon 80 22.77,  Approx. 6 nautical miles offshore, near Molasses Reef tower.

Risks: depth 90 to 130 feet deep, strong current, remoteness; AOWD; The Bibb is known to be a dangerous dive, and those requesting to dive it should be able to present a significant amount of experience. Due to its depth, stiff curents, and side orientation, wreck penetration is not recommended. There are currently no buoys marking the site, and drift diving is a common style for the Bibb.

 
 

The Bibb sits on its side in 130 feet of water. As it is outside the reef line, the current is often quite ripping. This is an advanced dive, and few diveshops will take divers without proper documentation (i.e., log books showing deep dives, Advanced C-cards, etc.). Boats should tie off to the bouys, which are secured to the bow and the stern of the wreck. Divers should always descend and ascend along the anchor line to avoid being swept away by the current. A 15' safety stop is mandatory. Due to the variable depths, this should be considered a multi-level dive. Dive computers are a great aid. Don't forget your divelight either.

Because the Bibb is on it's side, and in deeper water than the Duane, it is visited much less frequently than the Duane. The dive is shorter (due to depth), and penetration is not recommended due to the strong possibility of disorientation or entanglement from loose wiring.

Due to the gulf stream current, visibility is often over 100 feet. Because the Bibb is infrequently visited by divers, it is more pristine than the Duane. The hull is heavily encrusted with corals. Large animals like jewfish, cobia, turtles, big amberjacks, etc. frequent the site. Schools of barracuda hover at about 50 feet, giving you something to check out while you ascend/descend.

Divers will reach the wreck at either the stern or bow anchor line. The port gunnel railing is at 95 feet. Pass along the port side of the ship, minimizing depth where possible. The forward deck has a large circular hatch, marking the ammunition storage area of the gun turret. Always stay alert and look around for the big animals.

Because the ships are virtually identical in construction, and the Duane is upright and shallower, most divers opt to visit the Duane instead of the Bibb. Given the lack of competition for bouys and its more pristine unvisited condition, the Bibb is still an outstanding dive.

Wreck #2: USCG DUANE

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Duane lies upright on a sandy bottom in 120 feet of water one mile south of Molasses Reef off Key Largo. After being decommissioned on August l, 1985 as the oldest active U.S. military vessel, the Duane was donated to the Keys Association of Dive Operators for use as an artificial reef. On November 27, 1987 she was towed to Molasses Reef, her hatches opened, her holds pumped full of water, and down she went to begin her final assignment.

The Duane was built in 1936 at the U.S. Naval Yard in Philadelphia. She was a 327-foot long Treasury Class Cutter, one of seven such vessels, and was named for William J. Duane, Secretary of the Treasury under Andrew Jackson. She had various assignments before being sent to the Atlantic in 1941, where she eventually served with the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Her service included an impressive wartime and peacetime record. On April 17, 1943, she and her sister ship, the Spencer, sank the German U-Boat U-77. She participated in four rescues at sea, picking up a total of 346 survivors. In 1980 she was an escort vessel for thousands of Cuban refugees coming to the United States. Her last assignments included Search and Rescue work and Drug Enforcement.

On a clear day, the outline of Duane’s intact hull can be seen from above. The mast and crow’s nest, protruding high above the hull, can be seen at 60 feet. At 70 feet, just forward of amidships, is the navigating bridge. The superstructure deck is at 90 feet and the main deck lies at l00 feet. The hull structure, completely intact with the original rudders, screws, railings, ladders and ports makes an impressive display.

Marine Life Commonly Observed on this Site:

Watch for these fish and invertebrates: large pelagic fish, barracuda, yellowtail snapper, angelfish, wrasse, damselfish, spotted blenny, butterflyfish, trumpetfish, grunts, winged mollusk, and an occasional sea turtle.

Look for these plants and bottom dwelling organisms: dead man’s fingers, watercress algae, white telesto, cup coral, star coral, finger coral, sea fans, and sea plumes.

Location: Lat 24 59.38 Long 80 22.92; 6 nautical miles offshore, approximately 1 mile south of Molasses Reef tower; 1/2 mile south of the Bibb.

The Duane sits upright in 120 feet of water. As it is outside the reef line, the current is often quite ripping. This is an advanced dive, and few diveshops will take divers without proper documentation (i.e., logbooks showing deep dives, Advanced C-cards, etc.). Boats should tie off to the buoys, which are secured to the bow and the stern of the wreck. Divers should always descend and ascend along the anchor line to avoid being swept away by the current. A 15' safety stop is mandatory. Due to the variable depths, this should be considered a multi-level dive. Dive computers are a great aid. Don't forget your divelight either.

The Duane is one of the most spectacular dives in the Florida Keys. It should be a centerpiece of any dive trip for qualified divers. Visibility is often over 100 feet. Penetration is easy and safe (for wreck-certified divers). The hull is heavily encrusted with corals. Large animals like jewfish, cobia, turtles, big amberjacks, etc. frequent the site. Schools of barracuda hover at about 50 feet, giving you something to check out while you ascend/descend.

Divers will reach the wreck at either the stern or bow anchor line. First time Duane divers should stay as shallow as possible (to maximize downtime). Avoid going deeper than 100' as there is nothing worth seeing any deeper. Pass along each side of the ship, stopping at the wheelhouse in the middle. Some of the easier entry points can yield spectacular penetration experiences as you come face to face with a large Jewfish or Nurse Shark. The forward deck has a large circular hatch, marking the ammunition storage area of the gun turret. Always stay alert and look around for the big animals. The Duane is so cool that 1 tank and 25 minutes is insufficient to satisfy you. People often overstay their air and deco times because they are having so much fun. Enjoy, but beware!

 

Wreck #3 Benwood

 

Location: Lat 25 03.16 Long 80 20.02; 5 nm offshore; From pile at French Reef, travel NW toward a Red Nun buoy for 1 ½ mi. Wreck is halfway between pile and buoy; macrowave tower on 312° bearing

The Benwood sits upright in 50 feet of water. The hull is intact, albeit heavily damaged by the collision and subsequent demolitions by the US Navy. Boats should tie off to one of the four bouys.

This spectacular dive can be enjoyed by nearly all skill levels of diver. The steel wreckage provides a protective maze in which thrive large numbers of fish. The metal sides are coated with coral and sponges. Huge stoplight parrotfish sleep on the wreck, adding to a fantastic night dive experience.

Begin the dive near the bow at 45 feet. Look under the bottom of the hull for moray eels, lobster, and nesting jawfish. Several large grouper and snook call the Benwood home. There are a variety of simple penetration options, but no real penetration is possible. About 100 feet away from the Benwood, along the ledge that runs offshore from the bow, a large anchor from an unidentified wreck rises from the sand.

Overall, the Benwood is a fantastic dive for novice divers, and an excellent night dive for the more experienced. The Benwood is located one mile northeast of French Reef within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. She has a minimum depth of 25 feet (stern) with a maximum depth of 48 feet (bow). The stern houses the engineÕs support platforms and four propeller shaft pillow mounts. One hundred feet southeast of the bow lies an anchor facing seaward. Although its association with the Benwood is questionable, it is still considered a major feature of the site.

Due to the shallow waters, the Benwood is inhabited by a variety of corals and sponges, specifically fire coral, sea fans, and Elkhorn coral. There are also many species of tropical fish ranging from yellow tail snapper, trumpet fish, parrot fish, hog fish, and angel fish. Tom Scott claims that because of the BenwoodÕs easy access, shallow waters, and variety of marine biology, it is considered the most popular dive site in the Florida Keys (Scott, 1994).

The Benwood was built in 1910 at Sunderland, England, but her home port was Newcastle, England and she was registered to Kristiansand, Norway. She has a length of 360 feet, a beam of 31 feet and a water displacement of 3,931 tons. Owned by Skjelbred Company, Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission, this merchant marine freighter was powered by a steam engine yielding 1800 horsepower at 9.5 knots (see Appendix B). She sailed with a crew of 38, and an armament of 12 rifles, one four-inch gun, 60 depth charges, and 36 bombs (Scott, 1994).

Wrecking Event

The sinking of the Benwood has been a controversy for many years with accounts of submarine involvement at the heart of the controversy. According to Scott's research, there is no documented evidence by the Americans nor the Germans of torpedo attack against the Benwood. The more likely explanation follows: On the night of April 9, 1942 the Benwood, under command of Captain Torbjorn Skjelbred, was on a routine voyage from Tampa, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia carrying phosphate rock. Rumors of German U-boats invading the area forced the Benwood to travel the Key coastal lights three miles abeam and completely blacked out. On the same evening the Robert C. Tuttle, 544-feet long and 70.2-feet at beam, traveling to Atreco, Texas, under Captain Martin Johansen, was ordered to travel the Key lights one and one-half miles abeam and was also blacked out. It is reported that at 12:45 a.m. of that same night the Robert C. Tuttle ordered right rudder to turn the vessel starboard due to a black object spotted just ahead of the ship. Captain Johansen sounded one whistle indicating to the object, "I intend to turn starboard." Her signal was not reported to be heard by the Benwood. At 12:50 a.m., the Benwood reported to have sighted a blacked out ship just off starboard in her direct path. Captain Skjelbred sounded the whistle twice indicating, "I intend to turn port." Again, no acknowledgment was heard or reported. In an attempt by both ships to avoid an accident, they had unintentionally set a course for collision. Just before the collision, Captain Skjelbred made final efforts to avoid the Robert C. Tuttle by ordering the engine full astern. It was too late. The bow of the Benwood crashed into the port side of the Robert C. Tuttle.

The Robert C. Tuttle was found to be in no immediate danger. The Benwood however, was flooding due to her crushed bow. Realizing this, Captain Skjelbred, in an attempt to ground and save the ship, turned the vessel toward land. The Benwood took on water too rapidly. A half an hour after the collision, Captain Skjelbred gave the order to abandon ship. On April 10, 1942, the crew of the salvage tug Willet determined that the keel of the Benwood was broken and declared the ship a total loss. Unreported salvaging on the ship over the years prompted John Pennekamp State Park to form a protection program in 1959 to prevent further damage to the wreck. Today, the Benwood is a protected resource under the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary due to changes in the state parkÕs borders in 1973, and the formation of the Sanctuary in 1975.

Archaeological Value

A casualty of many salvage attempts at the time of its sinking, and military target practice until the 1950's, the remains of the Benwood are scattered over a wide area ( see Appendix B). Major sections of hull plating can be seen on the port side where they have been wrenched from the ship's frames. Other metal plates and pieces are also scattered over a 100-foot radius from the hull outline. These are probably pieces of the upper works and superstructure that posed a hazard to navigation. It is said that the Benwood was dynamited to reduce its profile and lessen its threat to modern vessels, but according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there was no evidence of wreck clearing.

The result of these activities as well as the storms and currents that batter the shallow reef has been to reduce the Benwood to about one-third of its former height. Whereas it originally attained a hull depth of 25 feet 4 inches, only about 8 feet of hull can now be measured amidships. The bow is the most intact, forming an impressive 25-foot profile in the water column.

Previous studies have documented wreck elements that may be associated with the BenwoodÕs demise. The remains of a metal cargo mast assembly has been noted some 800 yards away (Brown 1994:6). It is accompanied by a mast partner at a depth of 18 feet. These elements match historic photographs showing the Benwood with its large cargo masts, and they may have been blasted to their present location or carried by the strong currents.

Wreck Features

The Benwood was originally powered by a 342 hp triple expansion steam engine which pushed her along at 9.5 knots (Berg and Berg 1991:97; Scott 1994:33). While the engine, boilers, drive shaft and propeller are missing, the propulsion system can still be visualized from the engine mount and pillow blocks that held it in place (see Appendix B). The engine was situated on a rectangular plate measuring 12' 8" (l) by 6' 3" (w) by 2' 8" (h) (Nuttal 1994). Large bronze bolts with threads still intact are evidence to the dismantling and removal of the engine from its resting place.

Thrust was conveyed from the engine to the propeller along a drive shaft. It was supported by four lead-lined pillow blocks. These are spaced approximately 21'-22' apart which allows the propulsion system to be easily reconfigured (see Appendix B, Nuttal, 1994).

The Benwood's hull structure is mostly intact up to the level of the first deck (see Appendix B). Only a small midships section has had these deck plates removed, exposing the lower frames and keels on. Large steel knees join the deck plate to the outer hull and sides of the vessel. These are massive reinforced triangles of steel which outline the curve of the hull. Thus, they tend to be elongated triangles in the midships region where the hull bows out, and more equal-sided in the bow where the hull rises sharply. The result is that the ship's hull shape can be seen from these knees even though the hull plates themselves are mostly torn free.

The primary deck has been punctured in many places forming a network of "nooks and crannies." These provide important fish habitat but are not large enough to allow diver entry. Several holes enable divers to peer into the cargo hold where ore was carried for many years.

Applying the National Register Criteria

This report takes the position that the Benwood shipwreck MAY BE eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, and should be considered a significant maritime archaeological resource. The reasons for arriving at this evaluation are:

1) It exceeds the 50 year eligibility requirement.

2) The Benwood, constructed in Norway in 1910 and used in an ore carrier, was associated with The U.S. Armed Forces in World War II. It can be argued that the vessel, in spite of its Norwegian registry, was sunk carrying ore for the U.S. military effort on April 9, 1942. This fact provides an important connection to WORLD WAR II, an important event in our history.

3) Two areas of significance can be argued for the Benwood wreck. One is commerce. This merchant vessel was involved in coastal commerce on the Eastern seaboard for many years. She make her lasting important contribution, however, as a support craft for the U.S. military effort.

4) In spite of the fact that perhaps only 10-15% of the vesselÕs structure remains on the main wreck site, a significant additional amount has been noted across a debris field radiating out from the hull. Other associated artifacts such as the bell and captainÕs chair have been located in Key Largo (Scott 1994:38). An adequate degree of integrity has been retained by the hull, engine block plate, pillow blocks, knees and first deck to provide integrity of feeling. Her massive bow, protruding upright from the sand, conveys her historic outline and presence.

5) The Benwood has been described as perhaps the most "dived upon shipwreck on the world" as well as one of the most frequently visited vessels (Scott 1994:33). These facts imply a significance recognized by the public and asssigned to the shipwreck. Its massive hull structure, complete bow, and open condition made for an impressive display. Its setting on Molasses Reef, where it was lost on that dark night, contributes to its significance.

Biological Value

In May 1992, Indiana University conducted field investigations of the Benwood in order to prepare a comprehensive site plan, create a biological inventory, and establish a baseline for biological assessments on two sections of the hull. (Brown 1994) Assistant Professor, William Ruf, of the Indiana University Biology Department, led the biological survey. The team sectioned a 10' x 10' grid pattern on the bow of the shipwreck. The researchers chose this site on the bow for the vast array of aquatic life and the potential growth. The process was repeated on a section of the stern that contained an abundance of fragile Fire Coral, millepora complanata. The four engine mounts were also photographed and biology was noted (see Appendix B). During 1994 field investigations, the bow, stern and four engine mounts were again pictured. Biological data were again gathered by research assistants of the Underwater Science and Educational Resources Department of Indiana University. Field investigations in 1994 and May 1996 indicate that the majority of coral found on the bow section consisted of sea fans and sea whips. In this area, a brain coral and red sponges were also present. The mounts contained predominantly soft corals, including again sea whips and sea fans. The stern section contained fire coral, millepora complanata. A qualitative inventory of fishes present was conducted as well (see Appendix B). Biology at the bow section of the Benwood was most abundant and diverse. An inventory revealed 20 hard corals and 15 soft corals on the bow section alone, including encrusting corals, deep water sea fans, sea whips and gorgonians.

The mount sections of the Benwood contained a large number of corals. Mount #1 contained eight hard corals and 11 soft corals. Mount #2 contained eight hard corals and 15 soft corals. Mount #3 contained six hard corals and 17 soft corals. Finally, Mount #4 contained three hard corals and 16 soft corals. Again, sea fans and sea whips were the prevalent corals. The stern section of the Benwood contained the fewest number of corals monitored. The stern had nine hard corals and eight soft ones. The stern section of the Benwood contained fire coral and one area of star coral. Future investigations may examine why the bow and stern sections differ in the abundance of coral growth.

Because of time constraints, specific naming of the corals is not available. However, an on-going inventory has been maintained at the aforementioned biological monitoring stations. Indiana University will continue to monitor this site for changes in biological patterns. These studies will reveal information about reef ecology at the site, and may lead to a better understanding of human effects on coral reef systems.

       
   
 

 

Wreck #4: USS Spiegel Grove

The first thing sport divers notice about the Spiegel Grove wreck is its immensity. “Imagine a ship lying along the bottom that’s almost two football fields long. That’s the Spiegel Grove,” said Miami scuba enthusiast Jerry Apple, a veteran wreck diver who explored the ship soon after its June 2002 sinking. The retired Navy transport ship was intentionally sunk six miles off Key Largo to form the backbone of a coral-reef ecosystem. It is the largest ship ever intentionally sunk for that reason.

The algae, sponges and corals that are slowly enveloping the Spiegel Grove are wondrously natural. The ship is home to legions of fish from tiny tropicals to large barracuda and jacks. The Spiegel Grove lies on its side, six miles off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Numbered mooring buoys provide easy tie-off points for private boaters and charter dive operators. The buoy lines are shackled to the ship along the length of its 510-foot hull. Divers typically descend hand-over-hand along these lines until they reach the ship. Apple said he reached the side of the Spiegel Grove at a depth of about 45 feet. He said he was impressed by the vastness as he looked along the hull in each direction.

The Spiegel Grove lies on its starboard (right) side with a slight 15-degree list toward an upright position. The side of the hull forms a slightly sloped, horizontal surface that has taken on a yellowish sheen due to the layer of algae and other life that is slowly enveloping it. “It looks almost like a sand desert. The hull stretches so far you can’t see the end,” Apple said. Because the Spiegel Grove measures 510 feet from stern to bow, on even the clearest days it will be impossible to view the entire hull from end-to-end. Apple said he swam to the upper edge of the hull where the ship’s gunwale and rail once guarded its deck. The deck now lies nearly vertical. Peering over that rail was like looking over the edge of an eight-story building, he said. At its broadest point, the Spiegel Grove measures 84-feet wide. “As you look down, you see the superstructure, cabins, winches, all sorts of devices,” Apple said. “An experienced diver will need anywhere form six to 12 dives just to get oriented,” he said. “It looks like a city.”

The Spiegel Grove is so wide that on many days, the view of the super structure will fade into a green-blue abyss. On the clearest days, the sandy bottom will be visible at a depth of about 130 feet. Many divers compare it to a natural underwater wall or cliff. There is no natural formation in the Florida Keys that can match the dimensions of the Spiegel Grove.“Call it the Key Largo wall,” said Joe Clark, general manager of Ocean Divers in Key Largo. Coating the other edge of the hull, where the bottom of the ship once was, is a deep layer of oyster shells. The oysters presumably grew during the 12 years the Spiegel Grove spent tethered in the Navy’s “Mothball Fleet” in Virginia’s James River. In May 2001, Monroe County took ownership of the Spiegel Grove. A month later, technicians towed the ship out of the “Mothball Fleet” to undergo an elaborate cleaning process. Resolve Marine Group of Ft. Lauderdale finished scuttling the ship off Key Largo June 10, 2002.

Apple said he plans to swim along different sections of the Spiegel Grove gunwale on successive dives in order to get acquainted with the vessel. On his first dive, he and his dive partner covered about a third of the ship’s hull at a depth of about 45 feet.“Occasionally, when we saw something interesting, we’d slip down to 65 feet,” Apple said. The Spiegel Grove is an excellent multi-level dive, meaning there is something for divers of all levels of expertise. The ship’s starboard (right) side is imbedded in white sand at a depth of about 130 feet. It’s stern has a cavernous well deck, which now resembles an underwater cave, but which once ferried amphibious landing craft around the globe.“The fact that the Spiegel Grove is lying on its side allows a larger portion of the ship to be available in the middle 48 to 62-foot range,” said Rob Bleser, project manager for the Spiegel Grove sinking, representing the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Artificial Reef Committee.

The Spiegel Grove is on its way to becoming as rich in coral and fish life as any wreck in the Keys. But there always will be one difference.“If I had to use two word to describe it, I would say ‘It’s huge,” said Gloria Teague of Lady Cyana Divers in Islamorada. The 510-foot Spiegel Grove, a retired U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock, is the largest ship ever intentionally sunk to cultivate a coral reef. The vessel was sunk on June 10, 2002, and was opened to the public on June 24, 2002. The ship lies on its starboard (right) side in 130-feet of water six miles off Key Largo at 25° 04.00 N; 80° 18.65’ W. It rests with a slight 15-degree list toward an upright position.“It looks like a natural ship wreck because of the way it’s sitting,” said diver Rob Bleser, project manager for the Spiegel Grove sinking, representing the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Artificial Reef Committee, which coordinated the endeavor.

The ship is available to divers, snorkelers and glass bottom-boat tours. Mooring buoys float over it, providing easy tie-off points for boaters.

Diving instructors call the Spiegel Grove a multilevel dive, meaning experienced, open-water certified divers can explore the hull and parts of the decks at depths of 45 to 60 feet. Advanced divers, experienced with overhead environments, can tackle interior spaces. Meanwhile, because much of the wreck is more than 80 feet above the bottom, it is visible to snorkelers and even glass-bottom boat passengers.

Dive aficionados say the ship can be compared to a large museum, requiring scuba divers to make several trips to fully appreciate it because of the size. "The ship is so large you can dive a hundred times and still not see everything," Bleser said.The Spiegel Grove was named for the Fremont, Ohio, estate of 19th U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes. It was commissioned in 1956 and decommissioned in 1989. It was one of eight vessels in the Thomaston Class of Landing Ship Docks, or LSDs, that transported troops and landing craft around the globe.At its stern, the Spiegel Grove was equipped with a 170-foot-long, 45-foot-wide and 40-foot-deep well deck for military landing craft.According to “Sea Classics” magazine, the Thomaston LSD was able to carry 18 officers, 330 enlistees and 325 troops. With steam turbine–powered engines fore and aft, the vessels traveled at speeds up to 23 knots. The Spiegel Grove was equipped with two, 50-ton swivel cranes for moving steel gratings over its well deck. The Spiegel Grove’s hull is 84-feet wide, and rises to within approximately 45-feet of the ocean’s surface. Mooring buoys float near the wreck, providing easy tie-off points for boaters.“The fact the ship is laying on its side allows a larger portion of the ship to be available in the 48 to 62-foot range,” Bleser added. The Spiegel Grove’s helicopter platform encompasses about one-third of the stern with its cranes situated midway along the structure.Plaques recognizing the sinking project’s primary supporters and the first 1,000 purchasers of gold-brushed Spiegel Grove dive medallions were placed on the interior of the pilot house.

Spiegel Grove At-A-Glance:

Date Sunk: June 10, 2002; Location: 25° 04.00' N; 80° 18.65' W (6 Miles off Key Largo); Maximum Depth: 130 feet Minimum Depth: 45 feet (approximately); Ship Length: 510 feet; Ship Type: U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock; Date Commissioned:1956; Date Decommissioned: 1989; Named For: Ohio estate of US President Rutherford B. Hayes; Date Sunk: June 10, 2002; Date Opened to Public: June 24, 2002; Position on Sea Floor: Lying on starboard (right) side.; Location: About six miles off Key Largo, at 25° 04.00 N; 80° 18.65’ W.; Type of Vessel: Landing Ship Dock (LSD); Class: Thomaston LSD-28 Fleet; Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp., Pascagoula, Miss.; Material: Steel hull, steel superstructure; Overall Length: 510 feet; extreme beam: 84 feet.; Maximum Navigational Draft: 19 ft.; Tonnage: 6,880 tons; Speed: 22.5 knots; Launch Date: Nov. 10, 1955; Sponsor: Mrs. Mary Miller Brinkerhoff (Webb C.) Hayes, daughter-in-law of 19th U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes; Commission Date: June 8, 1956; Awards: Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals (6); Navy Expeditionary Medals (4); Humanitarian Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Meritorious Unit Commendation Ribbon; U.S. Navy “E” Awards; Energy Conservation Award, Golden Anchor Award.; Decommission Date: Oct. 2, 1989; Status: Largest ship ever intentionally scuttled as an artificial reef.; Cost of Sinking Project: $1.25 million; Project Sponsors: Monroe County Tourist Development Council, Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Artificial Reef Committee, Divers Direct, TIB Bank of the Keys, First State Bank of Key Largo, Community Bank of Florida, Capital One and purchasers of $10 or $250 dive medallions.; Ship Cleanup Time: About seven months.; Project Duration: Nearly 8 years

The Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot steam turbine-powered Landing Ship Dock launched in 1955 and de-commissioned in 1989, will be the largest ship ever intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef. This war ship was designed to transport landing craft that carried combat troops to shore. Scuba divers will able to reach the top structure of the ship at just 40 feet below the surface, making this wreck dive accessible to a wider range of sport divers then the Duane or Bibb (2 Coast Guard Cutters scuttled nearby for artificial reefs).

The Spiegel Grove named after the Fremont, Ohio, estate of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States was commissioned on June 8, 1956. She served 33 years until her she ended her active service in 1989.

The Spiegel Grove made headlines several times as she saw duty in Cuba, the Middle East, Caribbean and the Mediterranean. After the Iraqi attack of the USS Stark 1987 by a Exocet anti-ship missile, the

Spiegel Grove towed the damaged ship to safety. In addition, she was part of the task group in 1971, that rescued the Apollo 14 crew. On November 14, 1978, the Spiegel Grove became the first ship in history to land an air-cushioned vehicle in its well deck. During the mid-1980s, just before she was decommissioned, the vessel ran a series of secret missions, deploying surveillance equipment in Grenada and dropping minesweepers in Nicaragua, according to her former crew.

Specifications of the USS Spiegel Grove

D: 6,8880 tons (12,150 fl)

S: 22.5 kts

Dim: 155.45 x 25.6 x 5.4 (5.8 max.)

A: 6/76.2-mm DP (II x 3)-LSD 34 also: 2/20-mm Mk 15 CIWS (I x 2)

Electron Equipt: Radar: 1/LN-66, 1/SPS-10, 1/SPS-6

M: 2 sets G.E. GT; 2 props; 24,000 hp

Range: 5,300/22.5; 10,00/20; 13,000

Boilers: 2 Babcock & Wilcox, 40.8kg/cm² pressure

Fuel: 1,390 tons

Man: 18 officers, 325 men + 318 troops

Remarks: Portable helicopter platform. Can carry 3 LCU, 18 LCM (6) or 9 LCM (6) in 119.2 x 14.6 well deck with 975 m² of vehicle parking space forward of the docking well. Two 50-ton cranes. Originally had 16 76.2-mm DP (II x 8) now have one mount forward to starboard, and two amidships. Two Mk 56 and 63 gunfire-control systems removed in 1977. Last active U.S. ships with SPS-6 air-search radar. Being decommissioned to reserve for retention for possible emergency mobilization; LSD 32 extended in active service two years, was to have decommissioned 30-98-87.

5 augustus 2003,

Ferry van Dorst

 

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