The Statue of Christ of the Abyss – Pennekamp Park / Key Largo Marine Sanctuary
by David Jefferiss
Dive Pennekamp Park with…
Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo
The Statue, or “Christ of the Deep” as it is commonly called is the third bronze from the original mold. The original sculpture, “Il Cristo degli Abissi” is in the Mediterranean off San Fruttuoso between Camogli and Portofino on the Italian Riviera. “Il Cristo degli Abissi” was created by Guido Galletti. In 1954 the original statue was placed near the spot where Dario Gonzatti died in 1947. He was the first Italian to use Scuba gear.
The statue depicts Christ in a pose offering peace. His hands and head are raised toward the surface with the hands approximately 11 feet underwater.
In 1961 Italian dive equipment manufacturer Egidi Cressi commissioned the third casting from the original mold, and donated it to the Underwater Society of America in 1962. On August 25 1965 it was placed in approximately 25 feet of water off Key Largo Florida on Key Largo Dry Rocks. The reef lies approximately six miles North east of Key Largo, Florida Keys, in what was then part of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. While the statue weighs around 400 pounds, the concrete base to which it is attached weighs about 20,000 pounds.
A plaque on the base of the statue dedicates it to the memory of Michael Kervorian who was a pioneer dive shop owner in Miami.
“If I take the wings of the morning
And swell in the uttermost
parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me
1927 In memoriam 1988
Michael M. Kevorian”
For visitors to the Florida Keys, St. Justin’s Martyr Catholic Church in Key Largo provided a way for non-divers to see the statue. They commissioned Ido Demetz of Italy to make a bronze replica that was set in place in 1991. It is located in front of the main sanctuary on US 1 at mile marker 105.5 in Key Largo.
The Dry Rocks
The Statue is positioned on the seaward side of the Key Largo Dry Rocks. The reef is shaped like a hand with sand channels between the fingers. The statue is marked by a pencil buoy and sits in one the fingers. The center of the reef is open and has a good variety of soft corals. Being a relatively shallow dive site the Dry Rocks offer opportunities for snorkelers as well as divers.
Despite the extremely high volume of scuba divers and snorkelers, the coral is in relatively good condition and a wide variety of fish can be seen there including this rare Townsend Angelfish. The Townsend is a result of interbreeding between a Queen and a Blue Angelfish.
The Christ Statue, as well as the many beautiful reefs off the coast of Key Largo, brings thousands of scuba divers yearly to this popular destination, known as the “Dive Capital of the World”.