The 510-foot Spiegel Grove off Key Largo is arguably the most popular wreck in the Florida Keys. At the time of its sinking in 2002, the Spiegel Grove was the largest ship intentionally sunk as a coral reef for divers. This retired Navy vessel, is home to some 160 species of marine life.
Sinking Of The Spiegel Grove
Red tape and financial problems delayed the sinking of USS Spiegel Grove for several years, but the ship was finally moved from Virginia to Florida in May 2002. The total preparation and reefing cost was $1 million. The ship sank prematurely on 17 May 2002. During the planned sinking, volunteer work crews dropped her 12-ton anchors and flooded her ballast tanks with water.
But the ex-Spiegel Grove settled too soon and suddenly started rolling to her starboard side, forcing workers to abandon ship – and their equipment. She sank several hours ahead of schedule, ending up upside-down on the sea bottom and leaving her bow protruding slightly out of the ocean and her stern resting on the ocean floor.
On 10–11 June 2002, at an additional cost of 250,000 dollars, the ship was rolled onto her starboard side by Resolve Marine Group which pumped air into the port side hull tanks to displace at least 2,000 tons of water, used air bags with 350-400 tons of buoyancy, and two tugboats.
On 26 June 2002 the wreck was finally opened to recreational divers. In the next week, over a thousand divers visited the site. There were 50,000 dives a year done on the ship during just the first two years.
The ex-Spiegel Grove is located on Dixie Shoal, 6 miles (10 km) off the Florida Keys in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Her exact location is 25°04′00.2″N 80°18′00.7″WCoordinates: 25°04′00.2″N 80°18′00.7″W. For a scuba diver, this ship is a whopping 510 feet long and 84 feet wide; it is said you can dive this wreck 100 times and still never see the entire thing.
Her top deck is about 60 feet below the water’s surface. The vessel’s hull, which is a labyrinth inside, is as much as 135 feet under water, and silt can get kicked up and reduce visibility inside to almost zero, which can cause disorientation. The depth of the wreck requires that divers have an advanced diving certification.
In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis shifted the former USS Spiegel Grove onto her keel, right-side-up, which was the position originally intended when she was sunk. Full article on Wikipeda