Wreck Dives: Blackthorn

Blackthorn Wreck Tampa

Located in 80 feet of water, this 180 foot Coast Guard Tender lies about 20 miles offshore in the Pinellas Artificial Reef Site #2.

Broken into 2 large sections that lie upside down, this wreck attracts a large variety of marine life from Goliath Grouper to Whale Sharks.

Not recommended for penetration due to poor visibility from excessive silt, this is an intermediate/advanced dive site. (Adiscuba)

Blackthorn Wreck Tampa Wiki

USCGC Blackthorn (WLB-391) was a 180-foot (55 m) seagoing buoy tender (WLB) which sank in 1980 in a collision near the Tampa Bay Sunshine Skyway Bridge, resulting in 23 crew member fatalities.

An Iris-class vessel, she was built by Marine Ironworks and Shipbuilding Corporation in Duluth, Minnesota.

USCGC Blackthorn (WAGL-391) c1945

courtesy of Wikipedia

Blackthorn’s preliminary design was completed by the United States Lighthouse Service and the final design was produced by Marine Iron and Shipbuilding Corporation in Duluth.

On 21 May 1943 the keel was laid, she was launched on 20 July 1943 and commissioned on 27 March 1944. The original cost for the hull and machinery was $876,403.

Blackthorn was one of 39 original 180-foot (55 m) seagoing buoy tenders built between 1942-1944. All but one of the original tenders, USCGC Ironwood (WLB-297), were built in Duluth.

The Accident: Blackthorn was outward bound from Tampa Bay on the night of 28 January 1980. Meanwhile, the tanker Capricorn, owned by Kingston Shipping Company and operated by Apex Marine Corporation of New York, was standing (traveling with right-of-way) into the bay.

Damage to the Blackthorn from the initial impact was not extensive. However, Capricorn’s anchor was ready to be let go. The anchor became embedded in the Blackthorn’s hull and ripped open the port side above the water line.

Then as the two ships backed away from each other, the chain became taut. The force of the much larger ship pulling on it, caused Blackthorn to tip on her side until she suddenly capsized.

Six off-duty personnel who had mustered when they heard the collision alarm were trapped inside the ship. Several crew members who had just reported aboard tried to escape and in the process trapped themselves in the engine room. Although 27 crewmen survived the collision, 23 perished. (courtesy Wikipedia)

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