The Hoyt S Vandenberg Will Be The Next Artificial Reef in the Florida Keys

The Hoyt S Vandenberg arrived in the Florida Keys on April 21,2009 and made it to Key West on April 22. The first video shows the ship sinking. The second video shows a tug boat pushing the Vandenberg up to the dock where it can be secured. Work began immediately to prepare the ship for the sinking as an artificial reef. It's located about 6 miles south of Key West in 150' of water. There are six mooring buoys to tie your boat to. The approximate coordinates are 24-28-255 N and 081-43-468 W just south of Channel Marker 32 in Hawk Channel.

Ship Specs

The Hoyt S.Vandenberg measures 523' in length. The beam is 71'6". The draft is 26'6". The displacement is 17,250 tons and it’s 100' tall at the highest point. The crows nest platform measures 10'x30', the tops of the bridges, the communication center and the dish antennas will be 40' from the surface of the water after it’s sunk. This will be great for beginning divers. The decks will be from 45' to 90' below the surface. The 4 decks measure 70' to 100'. There are holes cut measuring 8'x10' on each side to allow divers to penetrate the decks horizontally. There’s 18 stair towers, 11 elevator shafts and cargo hold shafts to give divers vertical access to the wreck. The 25' tall rudder and prop is a great deep dive at 150' for the advanced diver.

The Vandenberg's two iconic tracking antenna dishes were blown off during the sinking. Divers confirm the vessel is sitting in the upright position of the ocean floor.

Hoyt S Vandenberg


The Hoyt S. Vandenberg was first commissioned as a troop transport the USNS General Harry Taylor. Next it was used in World War II, the post war immigration, the Hungarian Revolution and the cold war. After being decommissioned it was used as a Russian Ship posses by an alien life form in a movie called “Virus”. The Russian lettering can still be seen on the Hoyt S Vandenberg. It was then returned to the James River Reserve Fleet. In 1999 it was identified as the best choice for an artificial reef off Key West.

It’s taken more than a decade to get the Hoyt S. Vandenberg an ex-military tracking ship the 1,100 miles from Virginia to the Florida Keys. And her journey isn't over. She served her country well above water and will continue to serve thousands of divers and give millions of marine plants and animals shelter and a home under the sea.

stern of the Vandenberg

This isn't the only artificial reef in the Florida Keys. There's a trail of shipwrecks all the way from Key Largo to Key West. The Spiegel Grove measuring 510' long is only thirteen feet shorter than the Vandenberg. It sank prematurely nine years ago on May 17, 2002. It's now covered with marine life.

The Adolphus Busch, a 210' artificial reef was sank in 1998. It's located off the Lower Keys in 114' of water.

There are many other shipwrecks, beautiful reefs and dive sites to explore in the Florida Keys. These dive sites aren't just for scuba divers, many of these are snorkel friendly too. Check out my dive site list for the GPS Coordinates and water depths to help you plan your dives. If you need to find new dive equipment here's a good place to find whatever you're searching for.

Watch the Vandenberg Sink via the Internet

The whole world got to watch the sinking of the Hoyt S. Vandenberg as an artificial reef live via the Internet.

David Ulloa, technical diver and underwater videographer will film and broadcast the sinking of the Vandenberg. Ulloa has worked for Discovery's Military Channel on a documentary detailing the sinking of the USS Oriskany aircraft carrier off Pensacola, Fla.

"As a diver, I've been keeping track of the project for a while," he said. "This has always been on my radar," said Ulloa.

The sinking is expected to take less than four minutes. After the sinking and the live broadcast, Ulloa plans to add monthly video updates of the wreck so divers and students can track the marine life and coral growth that will become part of the ecosystem.

Ulloa plans to maintain the site for at least a year, and will be tracking how many visitors it receives. The site is up now and can be viewed by clicking here.

It's great to be able to share the Hoyt S. Vandenberg with the rest of the world. Thanks to today's technology you can watch the new artificial reef off Key West in the Florida Keys grow into it's own eco system from any place on the planet.

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