Wreck Dives: Thunderbolt Wreck

Thunderbolt Wreck Marathon

Thunderbolt is endlessly fascinating to explore, both inside and out. Offshore, Marathon is surrounded by Sombrero Key and Coffins Patch, two no-take zones belonging to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, but it is Marathon’s most popular wreck, the Thunderbolt — which happens to be among the Florida Keys’ oldest — that attracts wreck aficionados. (via Scubadiving.com)

Thunderbolt Wreck Marathon Wiki

USAMP Major General Wallace F. Randolph, sometimes also known as MG Wallace F. Randolph, was a 188.2-foot (57.4 m) mine planter built by the Marietta Manufacturing Company, and delivered to the United States Army Mine Planter Service in 1942.

MGRandolph - Thunderbolt Wreck

courtesy of Wikipedia

The ship was transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1951, placed directly into the Atlantic Reserve Fleet without being commissioned classed as the auxiliary minelayer ACM-15, then reclassified minelayer, auxiliary (MMA)[3] and named MMA-15, and finally given the name Nausett without any active naval service.

After being stricken from the Naval Vessel Register, the ship was transferred to different owners, and eventually was scuttled off the coast of Florida as an artificial reef and fish aggregating device.

The site is currently known as the Thunderbolt Wreck, and is considered to be an excellent and challenging dive site for advanced divers.

Eventually, Thunderbolt was donated to the Florida Keys Artificial Reef Association, and the vessel was scuttled 4 nautical miles (7.4 km) south of Marathon, Florida and Key Colony Beach, Florida on 6 March 1986.

The wreck sits on a flat sandy bottom 120 feet (37 m) below the surface of the water, nearly completely intact. The condition of the wreck and the abundance of marine life in and around the wreck make it an excellent dive site.

The main superstructure was cleared of most entanglement hazard prior to sinking, so she provides ample opportunity for penetration. Her lower decks are largely clear of debris, although they can be very silty, and the many openings and exits in the deck provide easy entry and exit points.

Coral growth on the Thunderbolt is extensive, although less than similar wrecks like the USCGC Bibb and USCGC Duane. Bait fish, barracuda, mackerel, snapper, permit, pompano, jacks, and resident goliath grouper, are often seen on the wreck, as well as the occasional black grouper and reef sharks. (Read more at Wikipedia)

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