With abundant fish life, easily accessible reefs and water temperatures that rarely drop below the mid-70s, Fort Lauderdale and surrounding Broward County offer divers a year-round underwater experience. In recent years, the area's natural underwater habitat has been supplemented by the creation of two designated areas for the sinking of artificial reefs. Since 1982, the Broward County Department of Natural Resource Protection, with the help of the Pompano Beach Fishing Rodeo and various private individuals and companies, has created more than 80 artificial reefs off the coast of Broward County. The reefs are sunk at various depths to accommodate both divers and fishermen. Most commonly sunk are artificial reef modules, limestone rocks, ships and barges. To keep these wrecks from being navigational hazards, most lie in water 60 feet or deeper. Even though we have three distinct, healthy reef lines offshore, we began sinking artificial reefs off the coast for several reasons, said Ken Banks, director of the county resource agency. The first reason was to offset fishing and diving pressure on the natural reefs. It was also thought that the new habitats would create more fisheries. Sunk as a joint venture between Broward and Miami-Dade counties, five oil-drilling platforms donated by the Tenneco Oil Corporation were placed about a mile and a half offshore, near the county line. These rigs, known as Tenneco Towers, make the best artificial reef dive in south Florida. Only three of the platforms are within recreational diving limits. Their tops are in depths of 60, 80 and 100 feet. The area's ever-present current passes through these open structures, producing the healthiest and most mature sponge and coral growth of any site in Florida. Bull sharks are frequently seen patrolling the perimeters during the winter. Sharks are also seen regularly at the Captain Dan and Qualmann Tugboats wreck sites. The most famous of all Fort Lauderdale wrecks is the Mercedes I. The Mercedes, a 198-foot freighter, received national attention in November 1984 when it crashed into the seawall of Palm Beach socialite Mollie Wilmot, one door down from the former Kennedy estate. It took more than four months to remove the stricken vessel. The wreck now sits upright in about 85 feet. The hull has collapsed, and the stern and wheelhouse are now listing hard to starboard but are still attached to the rest of the wreck. The motorcycle placed by a prankster years ago is home to a cleaning station with multiple juvenile blueheaded wrasses. The combination of the wreck itself, a nearby coral garden and a ledge running north adjacent to the wreck makes the site a haven for fish life. The wreck of the Copenhagen, a 325-foot steam ship, was Broward County's first Underwater Archaeological Preserve in 1994. Just south of the site lies one of the original anchors and a plaque commemorating the site's distinction. The Copenhagen crashed into the Pompano drop-off in 1900 on a calm, sunny morning. The wreck sat about halfway out of the water until World War II, when it was first used for target practice, then blown apart to prevent U-boats from being able to sneak up close to shore behind it. The site is reminiscent of the famous Sugar Wreck of the Bahamas because there isn't much structure, but the site is loaded with fish and creatures. The Copenhagen sits in only 15 to 30 feet of water, making it ideal for both divers and snorkelers. Sunk in 1997, the Guy Harvey has quickly become one of Broward County's most popular artificial reefs. The 170-foot former freighter sits on the bottom in 140 feet of water. Harvey, a well-known marine artist, requested that the wreck be prepared for divers. Silhouettes painted by Harvey on the sides of the hull are gone but have been replaced by sea fans and sponges. Though the wreck's hull sits below the recreational diving limit, a disciplined diver can explore the main deck and wheelhouse at 100 to 120 feet. The Fort Lauderdale area sports a multitude of wrecks. These sunken ships are at a variety of depths to accommodate divers of all training and experience levels. More than a dozen dive operators make the trips. To learn more about the south Florida diving opportunities, plan on visiting Ocean Fest. Ocean Fest is a three-day open-air festival featuring more than 100 diving and snorkeling exhibits. There is also live music, seminars, photo contests and an underwater treasure hunt. As part of the event, more than 20 dive operators participate in one of the world's largest underwater clean-ups. Ocean Fest will takes place at El Prado Square in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a mile-long suburb of Fort Lauderdale.For more information about Fort Lauderdale diving, click onto the Pro Dive home page below.
Find exclusive opportunities and packages offered to Society members on the member benefits site.