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Spiegel Grove Wreck Righted in Storm
After Three Years, Spiegel Grove is Finally Upright, Courtesy of Hurricane Dennis

Posted Friday, July 15, 2005

Spiegel Grove Wreck Righted in Storm

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KEY LARGO, Florida Keys -- What man could not achieve, nature apparently has for the largest intentionally sunk ship in the world.

The Spiegel Grove is now in an upright position, apparently courtesy of Hurricane Dennis, whose core stayed at least 100 miles west of the Keys island chain.

It's a position project organizers have dreamed of since the retired 510-foot Navy Landing Ship Dock prematurely sunk and rolled over May 17, 2002, leaving the ship's upside-down bow protruding above the water.

Three weeks later, a salvage team managed to fully sink the vessel on its starboard side.

For more than three years, the Spiegel Grove has been the most popular artificial wreck in the Florida Keys and home to more than 160 different species, according to Lad Akins, executive director of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Rob Bleser, the volunteer project director, Monday afternoon after he surfaced following a dive on the newly oriented Spiegel Grove. "Nature took its course and put it where it belongs."

Bleser said the ship is still facing in an easterly direction and has not changed location.

"This will mean a whole new dive for those that have dove it before," Bleser said. "It's orientation is now less confusing for new divers and it's a big deeper dive now.

According to Matt Strahan, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service Office in Key West, the waves above the Spiegel Grove wrecksite could have been has high as 20 feet Friday afternoon.

"While we don't have the equipment in the Keys to accurately measure wave height, when Dennis was southeast of Cuba it would have produced very high waves that computer models project could have reached Key Largo," said Strahan. "Waves that high in close proximity to the reef can produce unusually strong currents with tremendous force."

The Spiegel Grove is positioned in 130 feet of water, about six miles off Key Largo. The ship, designed to carry cargo and craft for amphibious landings, was retired by the Navy in 1989.

Bleser says there have been about 75,000 sport dives on the wreck since it opened to divers.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials say they will temporarily close the wrecksite to divers to analyze stability and replace lost mooring buoys.

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