Some of the most enjoyable diving you may ever do is wreck scuba diving. Because travel by ship was the only way of going from continent to continent prior to development of air travel, and because the technology used on ships and in weather forecasting was not advanced at all (go figure), many ships sank in waters around the world providing dives that are interesting and fun.
In fact, there are so many Florida wreck scuba diving spots available, it will be difficult to choose which ones to dive. Hurricanes, coral reefs, shoals and pirates all helped sink the ships that are dotted around the Florida coast. And, many of the wrecks are in fairly shallow water.
During the Spanish colonial period, the Florida Straits were the most frequently used passage for ships to access the Gulf Stream to get the boost of these fast-flowing currents for their trip home across the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these ships were never to return safely home, because they encountered hurricanes, reefs, or pirates. One family ??ª?discovered??ª? one of these wrecks recently between Florida and the Bahamas in about 50 feet of water only to find out that it had already been claimed by a salvage company.
One great wreck scuba diving destination is Pensacola in the Panhandle of Florida. There are lots of ships within a small area. In Pensacola Bay, eleven ships became victims of a hurricane in the year 1500. The colonists that were settling on the shore at what is now known as Pensacola Bay were unloading vessels when the massive storm overtook them. Of course, there were no storm warnings like we have today and they were taken by surprise. The result of the loss of the eleven ships was to soon become the demise of the colony which only lasted 60 years.
The Trinite is another great wreck dive. This French wreck lies off St. Augustine and went down during a storm in 1565 while the Frenchmen were preparing to attack the Spaniards who had colonized this part of the northeast Florida coastline. (No ship. No attack. The conflict was averted.) Today you can not only scuba dive the wreck at St. Augustine but you can also see other sites like the nation’s oldest school house and oldest drug store, tour the fort as well as get in some fun in the sun.
You can do some wreck scuba diving at the resting place of the Tierra Firme fleet. Two ships from the fleet of 27 vessels, the Atocha and the Santa Margarita, went to their watery graves along with 380 sailors during a hurricane in 1622. The fleet had more than $250 million in cargo among them and the Atocha proved to be quite a profitable salvage job once it was located and now you can see it for yourself along with her sister ship in the Florida Keys.
In 1700 the Henneta Marie, a slave trade vessel that had unloaded slaves in Jamaica and was in Key West to load sugar from the plantations sank. Today you can visit Key West during your diving vacation and see the oldest known wreck of a slave trading vessel that has been identified by name.
While you are in the Florida Keys, go see the San Pedro which was one of the last vessels from the New Spain fleet to cross to what is now the United States. In 1733, this ship was victim to a hurricane along with several other ships traveling with her. There are wrecks covering over 80 miles of the Florida Keys ocean floor from this storm. The Spanish salvaged this ship only to find that she had been burned to the waterline so that pirates could not loot her.
In 1713 a vessel named Urca de Lima owned by the Spanish ran aground on a shoal off Florida’s Atlantic coast during a hurricane. There were nine other ships lost during this hurricane but because the Urca de Lima was grounded and did not sink like the others, she was used as a supply ship to provide for the survivors of the other shipwrecks as well as the one remaining French vessel that had been accompanying the Urca de Lima. Over 1,000 men lost their lives in this tragic hurricane.
You can still find shipwrecks under the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s eastern coast as well as some in the calmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico which run along the western shore of Florida and the southern edge of the Florida Panhandle.
Florida is a great place to go wreck diving and you will find the waters warm enough to even dive in the winter. In fact, the winter is the peak season in this southern state. You can obtain discount rates if you choose to travel to Florida during the off-season which is May through November. You’ll also enjoy less crowded areas and beaches with fewer visitors.
As you plan your diving vacation in Florida, be sure to have all your dive equipment checked by a professional so that you won’t experience any problems while visiting a wreck. If you do not want to take your own dive gear, there are many dive shops located along the coastlines of Florida ready to provide for your every need.
If you want to ensure finding wrecks, charter a local boat and captain. These captains know exactly where to visit quickly and easily to locate the wrecks you want to visit. These locals can also point out other places of interest to see and things to do in the area during your stay.
While wreck scuba diving, remember that safety must always come first when in the water. Don’t take unnecessary chances. Be sure to stay with your dive party and your trip will be a great success.