Fifteen years ago, the former U.S. Navy amphibious ship Spiegel Grove was sunk to create an artificial reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
To mark the occasion, divers this week installed a plaque on the side of the vessel that identifies the final 250 people — out of 1,000 — that contributed US$250 toward the sinking project.
The 510-foot/155-meter-long ship was originally planned to have been sunk on May 17, 2002, but it suddenly began taking on water hours before it was supposed to be sunk and rolled over.
Rob Bleser, one of two volunteer project managers, said:
“When the sinking went awry it was difficult for everyone to take, especially me. But we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We wanted it to be the most famous wreck in the world and here it is on every TV channel for weeks and weeks.
“We couldn’t have gotten it any better.”
The ship was eventually, officially sunk three weeks later, but wound up lying on its side 130 feet/40 meters below the surface. Twelve years later, the effects from Hurricane Dennis wound up pushing the vessel upright.
Since its sinking, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation surveyed the Spiegel Grove for seven years, and more than 200 different fish species have been identified.
The History of Diving Museum in Islamorada is holding a special exhibit commemorating the project, slated to run through September 4th.
For more info on diving the Spiegel Grove, check out fla-keys.com.