Key West's Vandenberg Artificial Reef Celebrates First Birthday

By: Terry Tomalin


It has been one year since the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg was scuttled off Key West, creating one of the best near shore wrecks in the world for scuba divers. A variety of local sea life have made a new home on the old Navy ship, giving divers a rare view at the underwater world of the Florida Keys.
Thousands of arrow crabs, many bigger than a human hand, currently scout the ship's surface and stairwells, while about 75 large barracuda patrol the superstructure. A large goliath grouper has parked itself on the bow, and a green moray eel lives in one of the cubbyholes mid-ship near an elevator shaft.

The Vandy's steps and railings and are now covered with Gorgonian corals, sponges and sea urchins.  You will also find shrimp, lobster and assorted other creatures from bow to stern. To date, local divers have documented 113 different species of fish on the old troop transport ship that once tracked the U.S. space program's launches off Cape Canaveral, while they eavesdropped on Russian missile launches during the Cold War.

The Vandenberg represents the southernmost part of the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, a series of intentionally sunk vessels that begins off Key Largo with the former Navy landing ship dock Spiegel Grove. For more details on the Vandenberg and accommodations in the Keys, click here.


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