Florida Panhandle launches shipwreck trail

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Florida Panhandle launches shipwreck trail

August 15, 2014 - 21:43

Underwater trail showcases Florida shipwrecks and promotes Panhandle tourism. Many of the shipwrecks along the trail were sunk to become artificial reefs, and have become popular fishing and diving destinations in varying depths of water with countless varieties of sea life.

The former aircraft carrier USS Oriskany is sent to the bottom off the coast of Pensacola

The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail is highlighted by an interactive website that features underwater videos of each shipwreck, the locations of local dive shops and the current marine weather forecast.

To guide visitors along the trail, an official passport can be obtained from participating dive operators. The passport contains information about each of the shipwrecks, a dive log to record each stop and a place to validate the visit with an official sticker.

The 12 shipwrecks were chosen by a consensus of local dive operators, based on popular demand, historical context and ecological diversity.

12 selected wrecks

Off Pensacola, the veteran aircraft carrier USS Oriskany is the largest artificial reef in the world, and has become one of the most sought-after diving destinations. Nearby are the U.S. Navy dive tender YDT-14, and the oilfield supply vessel Pete Tide II. San Pablo, a freighter that hauled fruit from Central America, was sunk in a secret military operation during World War II. In shallower water, a series of three Coal Barges offer a great location for divers to practice their skills and learn about marine life.

Off Destin, the tugboat Miss Louise is a perfect destination for novice and intermediate divers. Off Panama City, the oilfield supply vessel Black Bart is intact from the top down between 40 and 85 feet of water. Two navy tugboats, USS Accokeek and USS Chippewa, offer exciting dives to 100 feet. At another site, the FAMI Tugs, one tugboat is situated on top of the other.

A visit to USS Strength, a World War II minesweeper that survived both a midget submarine attack and a kamikaze raid, includes making friends with the resident goliath grouper. Off Port St. Joe, the steamer Vamar was made famous as a support ship for Admiral Richard Byrd’s 1928 Antarctic expedition before sinking under mysterious circumstances in 1942.

The trail

The Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail was funded in part through a grant agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Coastal Management Program, by a grant provided by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To learn more about the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, visit www.floridapanhandledivetrail.com.

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