Shipwreck Park Pompano is the latest twist to the area known as the “Wreck Diving Capital of the World”. Greater Fort Lauderdale has been claiming that title for decades and with over 100 wrecks off a 26-mile coastline, it is difficult to challenge the claim. The Greater Fort Lauderdale area is an informal area roughly the same as Broward Country Florida and includes the cities of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Hollywood which are all on the coast. The Shipwreck Park is a Private/public charitable not for profit organization funded by the City of Pompano Beach and the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park. The purpose of the organization is the ongoing expansion of the artificial reef system with additional sunken ships and rotating underwater art installations. The first project of Shipwreck Park was the purchase of the 324-foot long tanker Newton Creek, with its preparation and placement on the sea bottom.
The Lady Luck
The Newton Creek is now called the “Lady Luck” and sits upright in 120 feet of water just one mile off shore. The ship was bought at a public auction from the City of New York. The Newton Creek was a sludge carrier. The City of New York operates a number of sewage treatment plants, however, not all of the plants can reduce the sewage to a level that it can be used for the creation of fertilizer. The Newton Creek would collect the sludge from waste treatment plants and transport it to the Newton Creek Waste Treatment Plant. The plant would further treat the sludge and sell it to fertilizer manufacturers.
Greg Harrison, Chairman of Shipwreck Park, stated for a press release:
“Our mission, starting with Lady Luck, is to preserve the reef ecosystem by developing this underwater cultural arts park as a significant dive attraction. We think divers worldwide will love this new artificial reef, and we expect the popularity of Shipwreck Park to take pressure off of the natural coral reefs nearby.”
The transformation of the ship from a sewage carrier to the Lady Luck dive site in itself is an amazing story. Sinking a ship this size is an activity that can take years after the ship is obtained and a cost between five and six million dollars. The Lady Luck was officially purchased in April 2016, towed to Florida, prepared and sunk within just over 3 months. The two principals each put up a reported $312,500 of which $100,000 went for a government unit to government unit purchase of the vessel. The conversion was a little over budget and the balance was raised by fund-raisers and recruiting additional small sponsors. Dennis MacDonald, a local artist, created the casino themed art also within the time frame.
The Lady Luck has been prepared so that divers can explore 16 staterooms, the captain’s deck, galley, engine room, and the tanker holding bays. The main deck has had added a faux casino and will host underwater art exhibits.
Isle Casino general manager Rob Wyre. Said in a press release at the beginning of the Lady Luck project:
“Imagine the photo ops divers will enjoy. They will be swimming up to poker tables, card sharks and slot machines on the ship’s deck, a cascade of gigantic dice and an octopus dealing craps, among other artworks.”
Florida has a few large wrecks such as the Adolphus Busch, the Spiegel Grove and the USS Oriskany who have shown that a large shipwreck can attract divers who in turn help improve the local economy. I talked to Greg Harrison the Assistant City Manager of Pompano Beach City who is the city’s prime participant. He told me that the number of divers visiting Pompano Beach is up with the sinking of the Lady Luck and has helped improved the occupancy rates of the local hotels. Restaurants, night clubs and other business that tourists use are also showing increases in customers. The Lady Luck is the focus point of the Shipwreck Park concept. The wreck is already the home of a variety of marine life. As time goes on, corals will take hold and transform the ship. The other 16 wrecks all located within a few miles of each other each also play a role in attracting divers. The combination of wrecks give divers of all skill levels multiple dive sites to choose from. Divers can come back for years and still experience something new. Here is a brief listing of the rest of Shipwreck Park.
- Sucre also called the Johnny Morris is a 237-foot long freight dived by tech divers. She sits in 175 to 225 feet of water.
- Miller Lite is another tech diving site sitting in 100 to 165 feet. The wreck site is named for the sponsor who funded the sinking. The 207-foot freighter is also known as “the Captain Mark”. Built in 1957 and named the Mini-horn she had a 30-year career with difference names before be sunk in 1987.
- Mariner II Barge is a steel tug 80′ long in 110′. She sits upright in 126 feet of water. Mariner II Barge & and a nearby Tug were sunk on May 1, 1993.
- Union Express The Union Express is a 170′ long Freighter. Built in 1959 in Germany, she spent most of her life as a coastal freighter in the North Sea. She later worked carrying food and supplies around the Caribbean and South America. Unfortunately, some of the supplies were illegal and she was seized with illegal drugs onboard. She sits in 80 to 110 feet of water on her side broken into two. She is within swimming distance of the Mariner II barge.
- Mary St. Philip is a steel tug 80 feet long tug boat. She was sunk with the Mariner II Barge and is often referred to as the Mariner II tug. 50 to 70 feet deep. In the right conditions, you can do a drift dive that includes the Mariner II Barge.
- Rodeo 25 is a 250 foot long Dutch Freighter the Windward Trader. She was sunk May 12, 1990, as a part of the Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo’s 25th anniversary. One of the most popular wrecks.
- Quallman Tugs et al. The site is also sometimes called the “Bone Yard”. There are two 32 foot tugs that were sunk here on January 4, 1985. Later two steel sailboats were added and some additional material.
- RSB-1 is a 160-foot long tender sitting in 80 to 108 feet of water. Her superstructure is a haven for massive schools of fish. RSB-1 was renamed the Jim Torgerson,
- RBJ and the Corey N Chris are dived together by technical divers. The RBJ was a dredge that was built in 1942 for the U.S. Army and named BC-246. The 226-foot long dredge was to be sunk next to the Corey N Chris, however, she came down on top of the Corey N Chris which had been sunk two years earlier. Hurricane Andrew caused the dredge to break apart. Today the bow is on one side of the Corey N Chris and the bow the other.
- Corey N Chris is 130′ long and sits upright bow facing west. The depth at the bow is 255 feet and the stern depth is 270 feet
- Renegade is a Dutch Freighter 150′ long, sitting in 190 feet of water.
- Lowrance is a 420-foot long freighter that sits in 210 feet of water reaching up to 140 feet. Sunk as the Mazo she was renamed to Lowrance, the name of the company that paid for her cleaning.
- Captain Dan is the renamed Hollyhock a 175 feet long Coast Guard Tender. Sits in 80 to 100 feet of water.
- Guy Harvey is an 185 feet long and 30 feet wide freighter that sits in 100 to 144 feet of water. Experienced deep divers and tech divers only.
- SS Copenhagen was a steamer 325 feet long with a beam of 47 feet is in shallow water. The ship was built in 1898 and has been underwater for over 100 years.
- Caicos Express is a Dutch Freighter that is 188 feet long and a beam of 29 feet. She is a technical dive sitting in 240 feet of water.
The South Florida Divers website has more information on the ships that make up the Shipwreck Park. The also have additional information on the other wrecks and reefs in the area. They also show maps created from high-resolution Depth Sounding (LADS). It clearly shows the reef contours and the ship wrecks.
If you are looking for an interesting range of ships to dive consider the Shipwreck Park.