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The Spiegel Grove Wreck


The 510-foot Spiegel Grove, a retired U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock, is the largest ship ever intentionally sunk to cultivate a coral reef. The vessel was sunk on June 10, 2002, and was opened to the public on June 24, 2002.

The ship lies on its starboard (right) side in 130-feet of water six miles off Key Largo at 25° 04.00 N; 80° 18.65' W. It rests with a slight 15-degree list toward an upright position.

"It looks like a natural ship wreck because of the way it's sitting," said diver Rob Bleser, project manager for the Spiegel Grove sinking, representing the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce Artificial Reef Committee, which coordinated the endeavor.

The ship is available to divers, snorkelers and glass bottom-boat tours. Mooring buoys float over it, providing easy tie-off points for boaters.

Diving instructors call the Spiegel Grove a multilevel dive, meaning experienced, open-water certified divers can explore the hull and parts of the decks at depths of 45 to 60 feet. Advanced divers, experienced with overhead environments, can tackle interior spaces. Meanwhile, because much of the wreck is more than 80 feet above the bottom, it is visible to snorkelers and even glass-bottom boat passengers.

Dive aficionados say the ship can be compared to a large museum, requiring scuba divers to make several trips to fully appreciate it because of the size. "The ship is so large you can dive a hundred times and still not see everything," Bleser said.

The Spiegel Grove was named for the Fremont, Ohio, estate of 19th U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes. It was commissioned in 1956 and decommissioned in 1989. It was one of eight vessels in the Thomaston Class of Landing Ship Docks, or LSDs, that transported troops and landing craft around the globe. At its stern, the Spiegel Grove was equipped with a 170-foot-long, 45-foot-wide and 40-foot-deep well deck for military landing craft.

According to "Sea Classics" magazine, the Thomaston LSD was able to carry 18 officers, 330 enlistees and 325 troops. With steam turbine-powered engines fore and aft, the vessels traveled at speeds up to 23 knots. The Spiegel Grove was equipped with two, 50-ton swivel cranes for moving steel gratings over its well deck. The Spiegel Grove's hull is 84-feet wide, and rises to within approximately 45-feet of the ocean's surface. Mooring buoys float near the wreck, providing easy tie-off points for boaters.

"The fact the ship is laying on its side allows a larger portion of the ship to be available in the 48 to 62-foot range," Bleser added.

The Spiegel Grove's helicopter platform encompasses about one-third of the stern with its cranes situated midway along the structure.

Plaques recognizing the sinking project's primary supporters and the first 1,000 purchasers of gold-brushed Spiegel Grove dive medallions were placed on the interior of the pilot house.

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More information on the Spiegel Grove and links to Key Largo visitor information are available on this website. Visitors are encouraged to contact the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, at 1-800-FLA-KEYS, Ext. 1. Elsewhere, dial 305-451-1414.

Contact: Andy Newman

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