Biscayne National Park Diving: The Maritime Heritage Trail at the Keys
By Terry Tomalin
A new Maritime Heritage Trail at South Florida's Biscayne National Park will feature a series of historic shipwrecks, spanning nearly a century. Public mooring buoys and waterproof maps to each site will help make it easier for park visitors to dive into Florida’s maritime history.
The 261-foot iron-hulled steamer Arratoon Apcar was built in Scotland in 1861. The ship was carrying a load of coal to Havana, FL on Feb. 20, 1878 when its captain misjudged his position and ran aground at Fowey Rocks. Today, the wreck lies in ten to twenty feet of water. The coral-encrusted hull can still be seen making it a good spot for divers to explore.
The 306-foot Erl King was an iron-hulled three-masted steamer built in Scotland in 1865. The barkentine-rigged steamship carried cargo but it also had first-class accommodations for 50 passengers. On Dec. 16, 1891, en route from England to New Orleans the ship hit a reef. Divers can still see the outline of Erl King’s hull and cargo, a shipment of concrete mix in barrels, can be seen in 18 feet of water on Long Reef.
Alicia, a 345-foot steamer built in Scotland in 1883, left Liverpool, England in April 1905 bound for Havana with everything from silverware to fine wine, a cargo valued at more than $1 million. The Alicia slammed into Long Reef during a storm. Several salvage companies tried to rescue the trade goods which led to a bloody dispute. A second storm ended up sending the doomed ship to the bottom where it now rests in 20 feet of water.
This British steamer Lugano, built in 1882, was headed for Havana in March 1913 with more than $1-million in cargo and 116 passengers when it into a storm and grounded off the Florida Coast. The Miami Herald reported that more than 75 “wrecking” boats were involved in the subsequent salvage operation. The ship now lies in 25 feet of water on Long Reef.
The 112-foot, steel-hull, schooner Mandalay made regular runs between Miami and the Bahamas. The ship, built in 1928, was later turned into a luxury cruise ship, complete with mahogany, brass, ivory and a teak deck. In 1965, the schooner was headed to Miami with 35 people aboard when it ran aground on Long Reef. Scavengers stripped the vessel and the ship is now accessible to snorkelers in Biscayne National Park.
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