Un diario fotográfico del Spiegel Grove

El vigésimo aniversario de un ambicioso logro.

EL LARGO Y EXTRAÑO VIAJE DEL Spiegel Grove began in 2001 over beers at Sharkey’s Bar in Key Largo, Florida. Several Bibb y Duane estaban reflexionando sobre qué harían diferente la próxima vez. Habían hundido con éxito el par de patrullas de la Guardia Costera de 100 metros (327 pies) como arrecifes artificiales en 1987, pero todos acordaron que el siguiente barco sería más grande. 

Former Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary manager Bill Harrigan said plenty of large, derelict vessels were in the Navy’s mothball fleet along the James River in Virginia. He went to look for us, and I remember the day he called to say he’d located one. “I found it, Steve. Five hundred and ten feet long, lots of decks and doors and companionways to swim through. Giant well dock at the stern that will probably hold schooling fish. All we gotta do is get it donated, clean it, tow it, and sink it.” Yeah, Bill — that’s all. 

“… All we gotta do is get it donated, clean it, tow it, and sink it.”

Por el vigésimo aniversario del hundimiento del. anniversary of sinking the Spiegel Groveesta retrospectiva fotográfica muestra su evolución de un antiguo buque de la Marina a un ecosistema de arrecifes completo.

Launched in 1955 and decommissioned in 1989, the ship was named for former President Rutherford B. Hayes’ estate and sailed with 18 officers and 330 enlisted crew. The Navy donated it to the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, which worked with the Upper Keys Artificial Reef Association to clean contaminants and mitigate the predictable hazards to divers. Primary funding for the project came from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

Limpiar el Spiegel Grove y lograr que la Guardia Costera y la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (Environmental Protection Agency) se pusieran de acuerdo en que estaba listo para ser hundido en aguas del Santuario Nacional Marino de los Cayos de la Florida (Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, FKNMS) fue una experiencia bastante difícil. Un riguroso estudio submarino garantizó que no se dañaría ningún arrecife de coral natural, y el sitio debía ser lo suficientemente profundo como para nunca suponer un peligro para los barcos que pasaran por encima. El proyecto finalmente superó el presupuesto original, por lo que varios operadores de buceo de Cayo Largo tuvieron que firmar pagarés con bancos locales para financiar la finalización de la preparación. Recuperaron el dinero mediante la venta de medallones de buceo a turistas que querían bucear en los arrecifes artificiales locales.

Once the ship anchored on location off Dixie Shoal, 6 miles offshore from Key Largo, there was still work to do. Local volunteers did last-minute cleaning and welded open or removed doors that might later prove hazardous to divers. Boats shuttled crews of workers to the site for a week’s worth of preparations necessary to get final Coast Guard authorization to sink the Spiegel Grove.  

Because of the FKNMS waters’ ecological sensitivity, it was never possible to sink the vessel with controlled explosives, which risked killing fish or marine mammals in the area. Instead, water pumped into the ship would intentionally scuttle it. It’s possible that some of the watertight bulkheads gave way and flooded the engine room, but whatever the cause, the ship rapidly took on water while the bow was still trapping air, and it turned turtle. The stern rested on the seafloor when the day was over, and the bow was still above the surface. May 17, 2022, was the official 20. aniversario oficial del hundimiento, tal como estaba ese día.

Over the years the wreck has acquired an impressive patina of sponges and deep-water gorgonians. According to a Reef Environmental Education Foundation census, it hosts an amazing variety of marine life — at least 166 tropical fish species. 

Recuerdo que mi primera conversación con la Guardia Costera después de que el Spiegel Grove became stuck as something like, “You need to understand something. You don’t have a shipwreck. You have a hazard to navigation. This needs to get fixed, or we’ll arrange to have it blown apart. It is unacceptable like this.” Organizers had already committed $1 million to sink the ship, but now there was more to be done. Another $250,000 was added to the budget for Resolve Marine Group to find a way to put the Spiegel Grove on the seafloor. They worked with a task force of local volunteers for three weeks to deploy massive lift bags. The idea was that if tugboats pulled while the bags lifted, the ship might roll over and land upright on the bottom. On June 10, 2002, the ship finally sank, but not upright — it came to rest on its starboard side.

El Spiegel Grove descansó de esa manera por tres años, pero aun así fue un naufragio sumamente exitoso. Las cifras estimadas sugieren que hasta 50.000 buzos por año visitaron el naufragio en ese tiempo.  

On July 9, 2005, Hurricane Dennis swept along Florida’s Gulf Coast, generating massive waves. The storm passed about 125 miles to the west of Key West yet still generated strong winds and storm surge all the way to Key Largo. 

La combinación del oleaje, la corriente y la depresión superficial detrás del naufragio dio lugar a las condiciones perfectas para que el Spiegel Grove to roll perfectly upright. Seventeen years later, it remains upright in 134 feet of water, with the top of the wheelhouse around 60 feet deep and the first of the swim-throughs just a bit deeper. Over the years the wreck has acquired an impressive patina of sponges and deep-water gorgonians. According to a Reef Environmental Education Foundation census, it hosts an amazing variety of marine life — at least 166 tropical fish species. 

El Spiegel Grove comenzó con ambición, se sumió en complicaciones y emergió como uno de los puntos de buceo en naufragios más populares de los Cayos de la Florida.

Explore más

Bucee en Spiegel Grove en este video.

© Alert Diver — Q2 2022

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