TALLAHASSEE – Secretary of State Ken Detzner today announced the creation of the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, a series of 12 shipwrecks located offshore of Pensacola, Destin, Panama City and Port St. Joe. The shipwreck trail was developed by the Florida Department of State’s Underwater Archaeology Team, in partnership with Panhandle waterfront communities, in an effort to stimulate tourism and educate residents and visitors about Florida’s history.
“This new underwater trail represents our latest effort to showcase a portion of Florida’s vast collection of shipwrecks,” said Secretary Detzner. “Each location along the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail offers an adventurous opportunity for heritage, recreational, and ecological tourism.”
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.
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 12 shipwrecks were chosen by a consensus of local dive operators, based on popular demand, historical context and ecological diversity.
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 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.
About the Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research
The Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, within the department’s Division of Historical Resources, is entrusted with the maintenance, preservation and protection of more than 12,000 years of Florida heritage. Archaeological and historical resources on state-owned and state-controlled lands, including sovereignty submerged lands, are the direct responsibility of the bureau. The bureau is composed of the five sections: Collections and Conservation, Mission San Luis, Education and Research, CARL Archaeological Program, and Underwater Archaeology. The five sections work together to ensure that Florida archaeological heritage will endure for future generations. For more information, visit www.flheritage.com/archaeology.