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Vandenberg Artificial Reef Attracts Divers to Key West

Divers and snorkelers come to the Florida Keys by the thousands every year to explore America’s only live barrier reef, the Florida Reef System. However the reef isn’t the only thing that pulls divers to southern Florida. Before a string of shipwreck-preventing lighthouses was finished around the late 1880s, the reefs around Key West wrecked thousands of ships. The hulls of these lost vessels provide homes for aquatic life, and interesting places to explore, making reef and wreck diving another popular Key West attraction.

If you are a serious diver, no diving trip to the Key West area is complete with out a reef and wreck dive on the USNS Vandenberg. Key West diving fanatics have created an artificial reef a large number of reef and wreck divers have to say is the best on the planet.

The Vandenberg was a former troop transport ship that was taken to the waters off Key West and intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef for divers and marine life alike. When the 500-foot Vandenberg was sunk a few years ago, it turned out to be the second largest artificial reef anywhere in the world.

A table inside the wreck of the USNS Vandenberg off Key West, Florida | Photo credit: PhotoBucket member goodrollmodel A table inside the wreck of the USNS Vandenberg off Key West, Florida | Photo credit: PhotoBucket member goodrollmodel

Divers can observe each of the marine creatures that now find homes in the Vandenberg, along with the schools of colorful tropical fish that make their way around the ship, which rises to within 40 feet of the surface of the water.

The site is wonderful for novice divers to travel down to a depth of 40 feet, or for experienced divers who may dive down as far as 140 feet. All Vandenberg dives are escorted to the safety of the diver.

It didn’t stop with just the sinking of the USNS Vandenberg. The Artificial Reef of the Keys (ARK) project, took 10 years to formulate, starting with the mission that created the Vandenberg artificial reef. Scientists and marine biologists hope for the Vandenberg to inspire a long-term project involving a huge selection of similar artificial reefs. Divers are just as excited as the scientific community. A lot of divers anticipate these new artificial reefs to be the most fascinating and challenging diving opportunities anywhere.

When booking your Key West dive trips, be sure to come prepared. The Vandenberg requires certification and experience. If you’re using your own equipment be sure to check it thoroughly before every dive. And always obey all the instructions of your dive tour operator. They have the final say on the depth and locations of dives for your safety.

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