Welcome to the Industrial History of the Florida Keys
- Recreational Diving -
By Jerry Wilkinson

           Diving may not be thought of as an industry but here it is considered as its commercial application to the tourist industry. It can be thought of as free diving, snorkeling, SCUBA and hard-hat diving.
           To begin this series I wish to start with artificial reefs as opposed to the natural reefs.  I am gathering historical data on the existing artificial reefs, but the sinking of the ship Spiegel Grove is unfolding almost before my eyes occurring about 10 miles to the northeast of this computer. As is the Spiegel Grove some of the artificial reefs made with ships were intentionally sent to the bottom while others were not. I wish to thank the media for their images and coverage.

- Spiegel Grove LSD 32 -

Above is the estate from which the ship Spiegel Grove took its name. It was built at Ingalls Shipbuilding Company at Pascagoula, Mississippi. Its maiden voyage was in 1956 to support the 'Eisenhower Doctrine' in the Far East. She was decommissioned in 1989 and mothballed Virginia's James River.

A Black & White photo showing its rear door opened to form an approach ramp.

The Spiegel Grove at its best - at sea.

Above is the Spiegel Grove enroute from the James River for preparation for sinking near Key Largo.

A photo from the FKNMS. More details are: she is 510 feet long, beam of 84 feet, 6,880 tons displacement and the speed of 22.5 knots. She is scheduled to be sank in 130 feet of water six miles east of Key Largo with its top most piece 40 feet below the surface. The upper deck should be about 60 feet down provided she rests upright.

The Spiegel Grove being positioned and prepared minutes before sinking at Dixie Shoals at Latitude 25 - 04.00' Longitude 80 - 18.65' on May 17, 2002. Dixie Shoals is named as the location where the USS Dixie was driven aground by the September 2, 1935 Hurricane.

Stepping back in time to almost the exact location was the Morgan liner Dixie was aground with 231 passengers and 122 crew members. They were off loaded via oar powered boats. No fatalities.

The exact time is not known when the sea water started coming in as shown in the above photograph, but for the one below it was recorder by the camera. An estimate is 10:00 a.m. Most witnesses agree that the total sinking process was about 15 to 18 minutes.

This series of aerial images were taken by Sergio Garcia at the site and published by the Key West Citizen.

The Spiegel Grove rolls to starboard.

The Spiegel Grove has "turtled" bottom up.
The below series were taken by John Welsh on site 5-17-2002.

Evacuating people and equipment once the signal was given.

A view of the well deck work area just before it started to sink Note workers and porty-potty at in the stern area.

A shot down in the well just before debarking.

Taken aboard and as the tug Portmouth was backing away.

The bow just rising out of the ocean as seen from the Portsmouth.

The stern is well under.

Half up and half under.

The Spiegel Grove rests on the bottom upside down awaiting further operations.

After weeks of planning , work and delays because of weather, the Spiegel Grove was prepared to roll onto its starboard side with the assistance of two tug boats, many attached underwater air lift bags, sealed and injected airfilled compartments, and carefully placed holes by contracted Resolve Marine Company. 

The Spiegel Grove rolled from unside down on to its starboard about 6 p.m., June 10, 2002.  Although the ocean depth is about 130 feet, its port (left) side is at about 60 feet below the surface. 
A new recreational dive site is born. 

The Spiegel Grove can be found in the Dixie Shoal area off of Key Largo. The above 1978 chart is of higher resolution and will download slowly. Click to enlarge. 
 Credits to The Key Largo Independent, The Free Press, The Miami Herald, The Key West Citizen, Andy Newman, John Welsh and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Use Back Arrow to return to your previous reading location.
To return to the Cultural History home page,  CLICK HERE.

E-Mail to editor

Return to Historeum