Key Largo, Florida is home to many wrecks that scuba divers get the pleasure to explore. The Spiegel Grove is one of the most spectacular wrecks to dive in Key Largo.
History of the Spiegel Grove
The Spiegel Grove was a U.S. Navy landing ship dock. She was commissioned in 1956 and decommissioned in 1989. The Spiegel Grove is named after the estate of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States, located in Fremont, Ohio.
The sinking of the Spiegel Grove
In 2002, the Spiegel Grove was sunk to serve as an artificial reef, but sadly the sinking did not go as planned and she sank 6 hours early, landing upside down. Shortly after, they were able to tip her on her starboard side so that divers could enjoy the ship. However, in 2005, a hurricane swept through the Keys and turned the ship upright! Now you can visit the ship in the correct orientation. She lies in 130 feet of water with a minimum depth of 45 feet. She is 510 feet long and 84 feet high.
Who can dive the Spiegel Grove?
Before heading out to the Spiegel Grove, make sure you have the experience to do this dive safely. This is not a beginner’s dive. This is an advanced dive due to the currents, depths, and the potential for wreck penetration.
Our group from Dive Utah had the pleasure of diving with Scuba Fun and Horizon Divers. Both companies are really fun and great to work with. We had a divemaster guide us to the most interesting parts of the ship.
We headed out early in the morning, but the dive site was not too far from the harbor. As we were on the boat out to the dive site, there was excitement and a little tension as we knew we were probably going to have to deal with currents. The Spiegel Grove and some of the other wreck diving sites are known to have so much current at the surface that in some pictures you can see divers holding onto the mooring line in a horizontal position because the current is pushing them.
Much to our delight, as we arrived, the currents were in our favor. Our boat anchored to the mooring ball and each diver jumped in holding onto the rope. At the surface, we never let go of the rope because doing so could get us caught in a current. We pulled ourselves hand over hand to the mooring line and descended down to the ship.
As we approached the Spiegel Grove, the crane was the first thing visible, then the outline of the ship became apparent. She was so long that we could not get a view of the entire ship, but the visibility was pretty good (> 60 feet). With minimal current, we let go of the line and were off descending to the deck. The ship was full of coral and fish. There were barracuda everywhere! They seemed to like my shiny, silver regulator. Looking into crevices, we saw some eels.
As we swam alongside this massive beauty, many parts of the ship were very intact and rich in life. There were several places that offered easy swim-throughs. For those inexperienced with wreck diving, these were easy penetrations as you could see light the whole way through with the exit visible the entire time, both above us and in front of us.
As we approached the stern, the old gunnery with 3 3” 50 caliber twin mounts was still visible, now full of fish and coral. As we swam around the stern, we slowly ascended to the top of the ship where many barracuda and horse-eye jacks graced us with their presence. While on this dive, we even branched off to teach a wreck diver class, taking measurements of part of the wreck.
As we came back to our ascent point, we gently ascended holding onto the rope, looking back down on the massive, beautiful Spiegel Grove. Our group did a deep stop at 40 feet and continued on to our safety stop at 15 feet. We were greeted with a battery of barracuda sitting just off our line staring at us. At least we had something to watch while doing our safety stop!
As we hit the surface, the current had picked up, but we easily worked our way back to the boat while holding onto the lines. After a surface interval, we were able to get back in for a second dive that allowed us to explore more of the ship.
A dive site worthy of many trips
I would go back to the Spiegel Grove again! Clearly, many dives are needed to see this truly massive ship. For those that are experienced wreck divers, this ship is like a playground full of interesting passageways inside just waiting to be explored!
The Spiegel Grove: a must dive for advanced divers visiting the Keys!