Spiegel Grove Shipwreck Dive Site Plan

by Justin Hayes

A Bit about the Spiegel Grove Shipwreck:

The USS Spiegel Grove was originally a Landing Ship Dock (LSD 32). It was sunk of the coast of Key Largo in 2002 to create an artificial reef. The ship measures 510 feet in length and 84 feet across at its widest point. The ship now lies at 134 feet at its deepest point near Dixie Shoals. Its highest point being around 60 feet.

History of the Spiegel Grove:

The USS Spiegel Grove was a Thomaston-class dock landing ship for the U.S. Navy. The ship was named after the estate of Rutherford B. Hayes in Fredmont, Ohio. The Spiegel Grove was first commissioned on June 8th, 1956 under Captain S. Filippone. During its career it was used in hauling troops across the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and for good will missions to the east coast of Africa. The Spiegel Grove was decommissioned on October 2, 1989. The ship sat in James River until 1998 until its title was taken up by Florida to be used as an artificial reef.

The sinking of the Spiegel Grove was very interesting. The ship began to rolling on the starboard side until it was upside down. The ship came to rest on the sea floor upside down with its bow pointing out of the ocean. The ship was then rolled to its starboard side. The ship laid on its side until July 2005 when Hurricane Dennis created a force large enough to put the ship right-side-up!

Location of the Spiegel Grove:

The Spiegel Grove is located on Dixie Shoal which is 6 miles off the Florida Keys located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The exact location of the Spiegel Grove is 25°04′00.2″N80°18′00.7″W.

Water Depth and Conditions:

The depth of the Spiegel Grove is ~ 134 feet at her deepest and ~ 60 feet at her highest point.

Water temperatures range from 65 in Wintertime up to 80 degrees F in Summertime.


This wreck is located a bit from the shore, therefore, the best method of arriving at the dive site is using a dive charter boat. The charter boat will moor with a buoy

Recommended Dive Experience:

This dive can be more demanding due to the depth that can be achieve at the base of the ship and the interior compartments. A diver should have an advanced certification, with experience in wreck diving, as there are often strong currents on this wreck, before attempting this dive.

Penetration dives are NOT advised on this wreck, unless the entire dive team is certified and experienced with penetrating wrecks. At least three divers died while attempting a penetration dive inside the remains of the USS Spiegel Grove.

Equipment needed for this dive:

Normal dive equipment should suffice. Knives are essential as there may be alot of mono filament on the wreck.


The visibility in this area is normally around 30-60 feet+. Good visibility normally makes diving this wreck pretty straight forward provided that you stay outside the ship's interior (going into the ship is NOT recommended unless the entire dive team is overhead trained).

The mooring buoy attaches to many locations on the ship. This dive will assume the boat charter will be moored to the bow buoy (if moored on different buoy, assume the same dive guide using a counterclockwise direction). From here the best way to survey the wreck is to go across the bow to the port side of the ship. From here, swim along the ship observing the remaining depth till the floor and the massive size of the entire ship. Once you reach the stern, swim back over the stern. decrease your depth a bit to observe the second tier of the ship and the wheel house. Once you reach the wheel house, you will be within view of the bow and most importantly the mooring line. At this point you can take picture and observe the cargo area visible from the bow. This cargo area is very small and has two very large exits for safe exploration of the ships interior.

Wildlife divers can expect to see:

Almost immediately after her sinking, the Speigal Grove began to attract all kinds of marine life from large groupers to colorful tropical fish and colonies of anemones.

Divers can expect to see a variety of fish around the Spiegel Grove.

There are over 125 species of fish in the area including: Goliath groupers, snappers, wrasse, jacks, damselfish and surgeonfish.

Keep an eye out over your shoulder into the blue abyss as you dive too.....lots of "mega" fauna is often seen swimming around the Spiegal Grove Shipwreck.

Emergency Contact Information:

* 911 - This will activate EMS in the area

* Coast Guard Islamorada Station: (305) 664-8077

* DAN – 1-919-684-4326
: for issues involving diving accidents

Summary of the Dive:

below is a picture obtained from This is the Spiegel Grove above water with markers at the locations of each buoy with their corresponding depths.