Upper Keys Artificial Reef Foundation
106000 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL 33037
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The Spiegel Grove Sinking
15th Anniversary Celebration
March 30 - September 4, 2017
The USCGC William J. Duane, known simply as the Duane, is a 327ft Coast Guard Cutter that was named after the Secretary of the Treasury under President Andrew Jackson. She was built in 1936 along with six other Coast Guard Cutters.
The Duane had a very storied career. She served patrol duty in the North Atlantic and Viet Nam. She served convoy escort duty in 1942, served as the flag ship for Major General John O’Daniel who headed Operation Dragoon during the D-Day invasion and assisted in the sinking of a German U-Boat. The Duane has a connection to the history of the State of Florida. She served escort duty during the Mariel Boat Lift which brought thousands of Cuban Refugees to the Florida Keys in 1980. Her proudest accomplishments were the hundreds of lives saved during her service.
The Duane was sunk in 1987 and quickly became the number one wreck dive in the United States of America. She sits upright in the sand at a maximum depth of 125ft. Her deck is at 100ft. and the top of the crow’s nest is at 50ft. You can see most any of the varied reef fish that Key Largo offers. The really exciting part of diving on the Duane is the squadron of Great Barracuda that patrol the area and the pelagic species that just might swim by such as Bull Sharks and the occasional Whale Shark in the early spring.
This chain of coral islands is legendary for its lore of pirates and sunken treasure, but today countless visitors have discovered the real treasure of the Florida Keys lies just offshore, its world-class diving and snorkeling.
The waters offshore of Key Largo offer great diving on the third-largest living coral barrier reef in the world. Visitors to Key Largo quickly understand why it is the "Dive Capital of the World.”
Key Largo was one of the first areas in the world to dive into conservation of its marine habitat. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was founded in 1960 and the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary was created 1975. As a result, the reef has been protected for more than four decades. And in the mid-1990s, the entire island chain was given additional protection as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This designation has provided a uniquely rich coral environment where the 600 species of tropical fish are numerous and friendly - a veritable paradise for diver and snorkeler.
Key Largo is best known for its shallow reefs and deep wrecks. The shallow reefs provide world class diving for scuba divers of all ages and skills. The deep wrecks offer some of the best wreck diving found anywhere.
The Benwood was a British freighter built in 1910. She is 360 ft. long with a 51ft. beam. She is a casualty of World War II, in that she was running without lights so as to not be seen by German U-Boats when she rammed into the 544ft. tanker Robert C. Tuttle which was also running without lights. The Captain of the Benwood, knowing she was going to sink, ran her aground where she sits today. He wanted to save his cargo of phosphates and hopefully salvage his ship. The cargo was saved but the Benwood was too badly damaged. US Navy used her for bombing practice through the remainder of World War II and on into the Korean War.
The Benwood was eventually blown up to prevent a navigation hazard. The Benwood is now one of the premier shallow dives in the John Pennekamp National Marine Sanctuary. She lies is around 35 ft. of water with the deepest point being 45ft. at the bow section. You will see large schools of Midnight Parrot Fish, large Moray Eels, Nurse Sharks buzzing around the area, and a huge abundance of Micro-organisms such as Feather Duster Worms and Christmas Tree Worms.
The shallow depths, great visibility and lack of current make the Benwood a great dive for any level of training. She can even be enjoyed by snorkelers.
The waters offshore of Key Largo offer great diving on the third-largest living coral barrier reef in the world and the famous shipwrecks of Key Largo. Visitors to Key Largo quickly understand why it is the "Dive Capital of the World.”
The USCGC George M. Bibb, known locally as the Bibb, was named after the Secretary of the Treasury under President John Tyler. She was built in 1936 as a part of a group of seven vessels that included the Duane. The 327ft. long Bibb lies on her starboard side. She was sunk the day after the Duane in 1987.
Like the Duane, the Bibb rescued many hundreds of people from disasters at sea. One of the Bibbs most famous rescues was of 202 survivors off the Merchant Marine ship SS Henry Mallory on a single day in 1943. She served patrol and escort duty in the North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Viet Nam and the Pacific Ocean. In 1945 the Bibb served as the landing operations flag ship in the invasion of Okinawa.
The Bibb rests on her starboard side. As you descend, you will touch her gunwale around 100ft. and the deepest part in the sand is at 135ft. The Bibb is very much coral and sponge covered with a myriad of fish life living in and around this warship.
The following dive operators will be happy to take you to the Spiegel Grove on the “big day” , and all the famous reefs and wrecks in the Keys any day:
Quiescence Diving Services
Sea Dwellers Dive Center
Amy Slate’s Amoray’s Dive Resort
Florida Keys Dive Center
Rainbow Reef Dive Center
Conch Republic Divers