Article and photographs by: Caleb Calloway, SEI Divemaster and Underwater Photographer
The Spiegel Grove shipwreck is located off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. This mega structure was intentionally sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef and dive site. The reef is now a popular destination for scuba divers, marine enthusiasts, and historians alike.
The Spiegel Grove's American Flag
A Navy ship turned artificial reef
The Spiegel Grove, a decommissioned Navy ship named after President Rutherford B. Hayes’, Fremont, Ohio. Commissioned in 1956 and served in several conflicts, including the Vietnam War. Decommissioned in 1989 after a brief stint as a Navy weapons target. The Spiegel Grove officially transferred to the State of Florida in 1998.
The sinking of the Spiegel Grove as an artificial reef was a major undertaking. It involved cleaning the ship of all pollutants and hazardous materials and preparing the structure to be sunk. This wreck can be found (25° 04.00' N; 80° 18.65' W) roughly six miles off the coast of Key Largo. The ship was sunk on May 17, 2002, in about 130 feet of water.
Assistant Instructor Hannah, peeking out from the wheelhouse of the ship
Diving the Spiegel Grove
Scuba divers are drawn to the Spiegel Grove because of the unique opportunity it provides to explore a shipwreck for advanced divers. The ship is now home to a variety of marine life, including schools of fish, eels, and rays.
Diving the Spiegel Grove is not for the novice diver, as the depth of the wreck requires advanced training and experience. However, for those who are qualified, diving the Spiegel Grove can be a spectacular experience. Divers can explore the interior of the ship, swim through the various decks and compartments leaving diver mesmerized by the colors of the coral growth, and even visiting the wheelhouse.
For divers new and old the Spiegel Grove shipwreck is an intriguing dive site that not only provides an exciting adventure for divers but also serves as a piece of history and an important artificial reef. Its story of decommissioning, transfer, and sinking is a reminder of the importance of responsible environmental stewardship and the role that artificial reefs can play in preserving marine habitats.
For those interested in diving the Spiegel Grove, Instructors Sheli and Ryan Plummer host a dive trip every July. The Spiegel is one of the many dives that week!