Wreck Dive Sites
Benwood (20-40 ft, OWD)
The Benwood was built in England in 1910 and sunk in 1942 when it collided with another ship. She lies between French Reef and Dixie Shoals on a bottom of low profile reef and sand in depths ranging from 25 to 45 feet.
The Benwood, built in England in 1910, was owned by a Norwegian company and registered as a merchant marine freighter. She was 360 feet long with a 51-foot beam. She carried ore and was armed with 12 rifles, one four-inch gun, six depth charges, and 36 bombs.
On the night of April 9, 1942, the Benwood was on a routine voyage from Tampa, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, carrying a cargo of phosphate rock. Rumors of German U-boats in the area required her to travel completely blacked out with the Keys coastal lights three miles abeam. The ship Robert C. Tuttle, also blacked out, was traveling in the same area, bound for Atreco, Texas.
The bow of the Benwood collided with the port side of the Tuttle. The Tuttle was not in immediate danger, but the Benwood’s bow was crushed and taking on water. The captain turned her toward land and a half an hour later gave orders to abandon ship. The next day the keel was found to be broken and the ship declared a total loss.
Spiegel Grove (65-130 ft, AOWD)
One of the hugest intentionally sunken wrecks of the world is waiting for you. 510 feet in length and greater than 80 feet across her beam, she will usually require divers to make two dives just to see her outside structure. Although diver safe, you should not enter her hull without proper Wreck Diver certification and training or without a guide. She original came to rest on her starboard side from a botched sinking effort, but in 2005 Mother Nature helped us out and Hurricane Dennis rolled her upright. The profile of the dive starts in about 70 feet of water and bottoms out about 130 feet, with the best parts of the dive accessible between 70-90 feet. The Spiegel Grove is the backbone of the artificial reef system that has formed in this area. Algae, sponges and coral mingle and lots of fish species create an enormous biodiversity in this region. Divers may see goliath grouper, barracuda, large jacks, and a colony of gobies. This is considered to be an advanced dive.
USGC Duane (60-120 ft, AOWD, DM)
She is a 327 foot Treasury class US Coast Guard cutter. Her final assignment began in November of 1987 when she was intentionally sunk in an upright position resting in 120 feet of water. She was built in 1936 and served valiantly in both peace and wartime. The main deck lies at 100 feet and the crows nest can be reached at 60 feet. She is a great site for Wreck and Deep Diver specialty training. Look for the bull sharks and massive display of barracuda fish and also find the American Flag next to the smoke stack as it makes a great photo.
USGC Bibb (70-130 ft, AOWD, DM)
Sister Ship to the USCG Duane, she lies in 120 feet of water, is 327 feet long and she is on her starboard side. For a fun dive at the Duane you should have minimum the advanced level, because the beautiful dive lead you into the deep and you must think about the current of the Golf Stream. She starts at 70 feet and goes down from there. The current can make her undividable at times. Find the Jolly Roger flag at the end of the crows as it makes a great photo.
The propellers are a must-see and the crows nest stretches away from the wreck and sits in the sand. The main superstructure has plenty of openings however the swim-throughs are generally vertical on this wreck.
Sunk in 1987 and provided with plenty of nutrients from the gulfstream this wreck is covered in colorful corals. Divers can follow the mast to the crows nest. Goliath Groupers, Bull Sharks and schools of Barracudas are often spotted here.
This dive is recommended for advanced divers with deep diving experience. Depth is 110 to 130 feet and currents can be very strong.
Information courtesy of NOAA: http://floridakeys.noaa.gov