Spiegel Grove, the Largest Florida Keys Shipwreck for Scuba Divers
by: Clint Leung
The latest shipwreck dive site in the Florida Keys for scuba divers is the USS Spiegel Grove. This is a former US Navy Landing Ship Dock that was sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef in Key Largo, much like the Duane and Bibb ships were in the same general area. The Spiegel Grove is 510 feet in length and 84 feet wide making it the largest of the shipwrecks accessible to scuba divers in the Florida Keys. This wreck sits at a depth of 134 feet near Dixie Shoals and the depth at the highest point of the ship is about 60 to 65 feet depending on the tide level.
The Spiegel Grove had been lying on her starboard side after initial sinking and was reported to be a great dive. Hurricane Denis which greatly affected the south Florida area, actually made this wreck dive even better. The waves and surges from the hurricane were strong enough to push the entire ship to an upright position much like how the Duane is sitting. This resulted in better orientation of the ship for scuba divers especially since there are some swim throughs located throughout the wreck.
Most of the scuba dive operators in Key Largo have dive trips to the Spiegel Grove since this site is the latest rage in the local scuba diving. Since it is a deep dive, advance certification is required. Scuba divers can also dive the Spiegel Grove as part of their advance certification course. The dive plan for this wreck is very similar to that of the Duane. The dive site is often in an area with heavy currents so as soon as divers jump in the water, they have to go grab a line and pull themselves towards the front of the dive boat where the line is attached to the descent line. Divers then pull themselves down towards the wreck. Unlike the Duane which has descent lines on both ends of the ship, the Spiegel Grove has three lines since it is a much larger ship. The ascent and safety stop is on these same lines since the currents can be strong at any depth. It is highly recommended that any cameras and other devices are secured by lanyards since losing them in these currents is possible.
As one descends on the Spiegel Grove, one will see just how large this ship is. This will keep many divers excited. Lots of divers in the area have dived the Spiegel Grove before and are only happy to dive it again to explore the different compartments accessible in the wreck. This ship is also unique as it has a large crane in the stern area since it was used as a landing ship dock. For enthusiasts interested in the beauty of shipwrecks themselves, this will be considered a great dive. The only downside to this dive is the amount of marine life on the wreck. Barracuda, large angelfish and other fish can be spotted on the Spiegel Grove but not nearly as many as on the Duane. This is why some divers may still prefer the Duane over the Spiegel Grove if marine life is their primary interest in scuba diving. But the Spiegel Grove is still a relatively new dive site compared to the Duane so in time, the amount of marine life will increase at this site making it even better in the future. Both the Spiegel Grove and the Duane are highly recommended dives for all scuba divers with a minimum of advance certification when diving in the Key Largo area.
About The Author
Clint Leung is a NAUI certified Master and Rescue Scuba Diver. He is also owner of Free Spirit Activewear (www.FreeSpiritActivewear.com) , an online retailer/designer specializing in premium quality scuba diving activewear. Free Spirit Activewear has numerous information resource articles on scuba diving as well as free eCards.