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South Florida Divers, Inc. presents:
the sinking of
The Spiegel Grove 
Monday, May 20, 2002 update
Diver Bill Harrigan surveys the propeller of the Spiegel Grove, Sunday, May 19, 2002, after the retired 510-foot Navy Landing Ship Dock sank upside-down and several hours ahead of schedule Friday off Key Largo, Fla., in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Key Largo Chamber of Commerce and salvage officials outlined plans Monday to reorient the vessel to provide a more suitable artificial reef. 
(AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Stephen Frink) 
Photos from 
Rodale's Scuba Diving
courtesy of 
Stephen Frink/WaterHouse
Click here for a very cool interactive Sun-Sentinel graphic:
How it should have sunk...how it did sink...video footage...

Miami Herald's Susan Cocking: Spiegel Grove raised a foot higher
Miami Herald's Susan Cocking: Contract signed to finish sinking of ship
Sun-Sentinel's Steve Waters: Contract signed to right ship
Spiegel Grove raised a foot higher; 
plans unveiled for turning the ship over

Posted on Mon, May. 20, 2002 03:28 pm EDT


The contractor hired to try to sink the Spiegel Grove upright on the ocean floor off Key Largo began work Monday by raising the bow of the ship about a foot higher above the surface.

Workers from Resolve Towing and Salvage of Port Everglades borrowed a small barge from TowBoat U.S. to deploy a diesel-powered air compressor to pump air into the bow so that it remains about 50 feet above water. The ship is stable, upside down, and anchored in about 130 feet of water six miles off Key Largo with its stern on the bottom.

Meanwhile, Resolve's dive support vessel is expected to leave Port Everglades for Key Largo Tuesday morning carrying personnel and equipment needed to flip the ship over on its side. That barge likely would be on station by Wednesday or Thursday, according to Resolve President Joe Farrell.

Farrell plans to pump at least 2,000 tons of air into the hull along the port side and roll the ship up on its side using 350 to 400 tons of air bags and two tugboats. He estimated the cost at about $250,000. He couldn't give a specific time frame for completion, but said it would take at least a week. Setting the ship upright will be challenging and even more expensive, according to Farrell. He figures that will require a large barge with hydraulic lift jacks and chains that would be fastened to the sunken cranes on the Spiegel Grove to roll it over.

''We've raised and rolled over a number of ships, but this is right up there with the toughest you can have,'' Farrell said. ``It took weeks of engineering to sink it and we're trying to unsink it and they made it very sinkable.''

The eight-year effort to sink the Spiegel Grove, a decommissioned U.S. Navy landing ship dock, has already cost more than $1 million. The funding came mostly from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, but was supplemented by private donations, a boat raffle and sales of commemorative dive medallions priced at $250 and $10.

The project's co-commander, George Garrett, director of marine resources for Monroe County, said Monday that the Ocean Reef Community Association has pledged $100,000. He said Friends of the National Marine Sanctuary also have indicated a willingness to help, but didn't pledge a specific amount.

Representatives of two local banks, TIB and First State Bank of the Florida Keys, told Key Largo Chamber of Commerce officials they would extend the terms of loans for the project.

© 2002 miami and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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Contract signed to finish sinking of ship
No guarantees, towing firm says

Posted on Mon, May. 20, 2002 03:01 am EDT


The Key Largo Chamber of Commerce signed a contract Sunday with Resolve Towing and Salvage of Port Everglades to try to set the partially sunken Spiegel Grove upright and complete its sinking.

The retired Navy ship sank prematurely Friday morning as volunteer work crews flooded its ballast tanks with water. Since then, the 510-foot ship has been lodged upside down in 130 feet of water about six miles off Key Largo, its bow sticking up about 50 feet above the surface.

Resolve President Joe Farrell said he will have a dive support vessel alongside the ship by Wednesday or Thursday to start assessing what it will take to roll the vessel over on its side, then turn it right side up. Farrell could not say how long the salvage operation might take.

Chamber officials interviewed representatives of three salvage companies Friday afternoon and chose Resolve because of its 20-year track record, according to Stephen Frink of the chamber's artificial reef committee. The parties spent the weekend hammering out a contract, which was signed Sunday.

Resolve was involved in the 1996 recovery of the ValuJet airliner that crashed in the Everglades and has deployed 80 ships as artificial reefs. Most recently, the company refloated a container ship that ran aground, blocking the entrance to the Port of Miami-Dade.

Farrell said redeploying the Spiegel Grove will be a challenging job, and he won't guarantee the ship can be set upright, as chamber officials are desperately hoping.

Farrell said the first step is to locate all the ballast tanks and holes where water has come into the ship and figure out how to introduce air into flooded compartments. Then hundreds of tons of air bags will be attached to the sides of the ship in an effort to roll it onto its side. Many of the holes drilled to flood the ship will have to be patched. Farrell didn't want to specify exactly what would be done to set it upright.

''I don't want to say we can definitely do this,'' he said. ``We've been in business 20 years and never failed on a job. I want to be cautious.''

The Spiegel Grove -- touted as the largest vessel ever sunk deliberately to create an artificial reef -- would have a much wider appeal as a dive site if it sits upright on the bottom. Upright, it would be accessible to all levels of scuba divers and would be visible to snorkelers and glass-bottom boat passengers. Upside down, the wreck could be explored only by highly trained scuba divers with experience in overhead environments.

Both Farrell and chamber officials declined to disclose the amount of the contract.

On Sunday, Frink explored the Spiegel Grove with a crew from Ocean Divers of Key Largo to shoot photos and try to recover equipment and tools lost when the ship went down Friday.

''It was very cool,'' Frink said. ``It's so massive. We had pilot fish. We saw some tarpon and barracuda. When we finish doing what we're doing, I'm even more convinced this is a world-class situation.''

The effort to sink the Spiegel Grove has taken nearly eight years and cost more than $1 million, with money coming from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council and the sale of commemorative dive medallions and tags.

The prematurely sunk ship does not pose an environmental threat to the ocean or nearby natural coral reefs, said Lt. Commander Dave Score, Upper Keys region manager for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2002 miami and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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Contract signed to right ship

-- Steve Waters 
Posted May 20 2002 

Project managers for the Spiegel Grove artificial reef have signed a contract with a Fort Lauderdale-based salvage company to right the 510-foot Navy ship and send it to the bottom in 130 feet of water off Key Largo as originally planned.

Spiegel Grove sank unexpectedly Friday morning before explosives could be placed on board and detonated. The ship, which had been filled with water to partially submerge it, sank on its own and turned over so that its stern came to rest on the bottom with its bow protruding about 20 feet above the surface.

Resolve Towing and Salvage was awarded the contract by the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce. The plan is to pump air into the ship and use lift bags to float the stern off the bottom, then use tug boats to roll over the ship. Spiegel Grove would then be sent to the bottom, ideally in an upright position so that divers of all abilities could explore the different levels of the ship.

"They have a lot of engineering to do," project spokesman Andy Newman said Sunday, adding that the cost of the salvage contract was not revealed. "They're working on it now and they hope to start the serious work by mid-week. Then they're looking at another week to roll it over." 

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel 

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Go to next day (May 21)

Go to Spiegel Grove Starting Page

Spiegel Grove Chronology

May 14: History, photos, & Key Largo arrival 
May 17: Breaking news & photos of the sinking
May 18: More stories & sinking sequence photos
May 19: Early plans to right her are forming
May 20: Underwater photos & interactive graphic
May 21: Exclusive eyewitness story
May 22: Crew heads south to begin work
May 23: The Lana Rose is on the scene
May 24: Efforts delayed due to weather
May 25: Project Chairman resigns, then talks
May 26: Spiegel Grove is not the first...
May 27: Salvor reveals righting plans
May 31:  Rolling date set.  Graphics & map
June 1:   Volunteers help salvor
June 2:   Work nearing completion
June 4:  A Friday flip?
June 5:  Use your mouse to right the ship!
June 6:  Sinking moved to Monday
June 7:  Attaching the lift bags
June 8:  Weather changes plans
June 9:  Tugboats arrive for final preparation
June 10: She's on the roll...and goes down
June 11:  Salvors are done...she's on her 
               starboard side...and she is 
               WORLD FAMOUS!

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Thank you for visiting our Spiegel Grove update pages.  Much of the information here is copyrighted by other news agencies, as noted.  This information is presented for the convenience of the members of South Florida Divers, by their newsletter editor, in order to bring all of the news to one central location.  DO NOT use these images or stories for newsletters, web pages, or any other publications.  You may print one copy for your own personal use only. Thank you. 

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