Spiegel Grove Wreck | Key Largo, Florida Keys
USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) was a Thomaston-class dock landing ship of the United States Navy. She was named for Spiegel Grove, the home and estate in Fremont, Ohio, of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States. The Spiegel Grove Wreck is one of the most popular artificial reefs in the world for scuba divers and is located off shore of Key Largo, Florida Keys.
Financial problems delayed the sinking of USS Spiegel Grove for several years, but the ship was finally moved from Virginia to Florida in May 2002. The total in sinking the ship was around $1 million. During preperations for the sinking, she sank prematurely on 17 May 2002. According to Wikipedia… “During the planned sinking, volunteer work crews dropped her 12-ton anchors and flooded her ballast tanks with water. But the ex-Spiegel Grove settled too soon and suddenly started rolling to her starboard side, forcing workers to abandon ship – and their equipment. She sank several hours ahead of schedule, ending up upside-down on the sea bottom and leaving her bow protruding slightly out of the ocean and her stern resting on the ocean floor.”
In June 2002, the ship was rolled onto her starboard side by the efforts of the Resolve Marine Group, and on 26 June 2002 the wreck was finally opened to recreational divers. In the next week, over a thousand divers visited the site. There were 50,000 dives a year done on the ship during just the first two years.
In July 2005,winds from Hurricane Dennis shifted the former USS Spiegel Grove onto her keel, right-side-up, the position originally intended when she was sunk.
Many local dive operators / dive centers were involved in the preparation for the sinking, providing scuba divers on the wreck and topside workers; as well as raising the money for the operation. It would not have happened if not for these Dive Centers and the entire community of Key Largo working together with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for many years. It has turned out to be one of the most successful Artificial Reefs in the world for scuba diving, and a model for others including the Vandenberg in Key West. The loans used for the sinking of the ship were raised by divers and Dive Centers from the sale of annual and lifetime wreck Medallions. A lifetime medallion cost $250 and entitled the buyer to have his or her name inscribed on a plaque on the wreck for scuba divers diving the Spiegel Grove to view. The annual medallions’ cost was $10.
Spiegel Grove Vital Statistics
BUILDER Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation, Pascagoula, MS
COMMISSIONED 8 June 1956
DECOMMISSIONED 2 October 1989
LENGTH 510′ WIDTH 84′ HEIGHT 79′ DRAFT 18′
TONNAGE 11,200 tons SPEED 23.5 knots
WELL DECK – 397′ DEPTH – 17′ WIDTH – 48′
POWER 2 12,000 HP steam turbine engines
GUNNERY 3 3″ 50 caliber twin mounts (original load-out was 6 twin mounts)
BOATS/TRANSPORT CAPACITY: 3 Landing Craft utility (LCU), each 119′ in length & each fully loaded. In addition, 6 LCM6’s can be carried alongside & forward of the LCU’s. By reducing the number of LCU’s to 2 & the number of LCM’s to 5, 10-15 Marine Amphibious Tractors (LVT) can also be carried in the well deck. If desired, a total of 127 2-1/2 ton trucks can be carried utilizing the well deck & superdeck.
In preparing the Spiegel Grove for her new life as a dive site, a lot of attention was paid to making the ship as accessible as possible to divers. Many miles of cabling and ceiling tiles as well as hatches and doors were removed to improve diver safety and reduce the possibility of contamination of the environment. Portholes were enlarged to facilitate entry into the cabins. As a result of these efforts divers can visit most of these areas safely.
This is the First Class Mess
The Captain’s Stateroom still contains the oval table.
The Mess has the bases for the dining tables. The remains of the serving line and dish-washing areas can still be seen. Unfortunately, the loran table and some of the navigation stations have been removed from the bridge by divers, as has a commode that once used to mysteriously find its way around various cabins.
If you plan on diving on the Spiegel Grove Wreck, you can contact Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo for trip schedule and times. Scuba divers come to Key Largo from around the world to see one of the biggest artificial reefs in the world.
Call for Spiegel Grove wreck charter info and reservations with Sea Dwellers Dive Center of Key Largo!