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GPS Location: N 25° 03.160’ W 080° 20.020’

She is a 285-ft. 1910 English-built ship. She sailed a crew of 38 with 12 rifles and one four-inch gun. The Benwood sunk in 1942 after colliding with another ship. The actual sinking of the Benwood, has been a subject of much controversy. One account is. The freighter was torpedoed during World War II by a German submarine off the Florida Keys. As she sailed in search of shallower waters, she was again hit, this time by a passing ship, the Robert C. Tuttle. Five shells on board exploded ending this ship’s possibility for being salvaged. A second account claims the two ships, the Benwood and the Tuttle, collided after rumors of German U-boats in the area required her to travel completely blacked out. The bow of the Benwood collided with the port side of the Tuttle.

From a Keys newspaper; The 360-feet long, 51-foot wide merchant marine freighter Benwood was built in England in 1910 and owned by a Norwegian company. She carried ore and was armed with 12 rifles, one four-inch gun, six depth charges, and 36 bombs.

On the night of April 9, 1942, the Benwood, under the command of Capt. Torbjørn Skjelbred, was on a routine voyage from Tampa, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, with a load of phosphate rock. Because of rumors of German U-boats in the area, she was traveling “blacked out” three miles off Key Largo.

As fate would have it, the Robert C. Tuttle, under the command of Captain Martin Johansen, also blacked out, was traveling in the same area on the way to Atreco, Texas.

It is reported that at 12:45 a.m., the Robert C. Tuttle sighted a black object and turned starboard (right) after signaling, "I intend to turn starboard," with one blow of the ship’s whistle. There was no response from the other ship.

At 12:50 a.m., the Benwood reported to have sighted a black object off her starboard. The captain decided to turn left and sounded the ship’s whistle twice indicating, "I intend to turn port."

Again, there was no response. Captain Skjelbred made last-minute efforts to avoid the Robert C. Tuttle by ordering the engine full astern. The maneuver failed. The ships collided.

The Tuttle survived the collision but the Benwood’s bow was crushed and taking on water. The captain turned her toward land and a half-an-hour later gave orders to abandon ship. The next day the keel was discovered broken and the ship declared a total loss.

The Benwood came to rest on a sandy slope in approximately 25 feet to 45 feet of water between Dixie Shoals (to the north) and French Reef (to the south) off of Key Largo, Florida.

Salvage began soon after the sinking and continued into the 1950s.

Her bow was dynamited to prevent a navigation hazard and her hull was used for bombing practice.

Today the Benwood, marked by a spar buoy and six mooring buoys, is protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Her peaceful remains are visited by hundreds of recreational divers. She also is an extremely popular night dive site.

The bow of the ship is the most-intact feature, forming a 25-foot profile in the water column. Large steel “knees” join the deck plate to the outer hull and sides of the vessel. These “knees” are massive reinforced triangles of steel which outline the ship’s hull shape despite the loss of the hull plates themselves.

The Benwood is a wreck that can be visited by all skill levels of divers. The added bonus is the opportunity to see the wealth of ocean flora and fauna that inhabit it.

The wreck is home to goatfish, grunts, moray eels, glassy sweepers, snapper, lobster, grouper hogfish and more. There is also an abundance of healthy of sea fans, sea whips, brain coral, sponges and fire coral. (Be careful to avoid contact with fire coral and other corals. An encounter with fire coral is painful and bumping into other types of coral will damage it.)

Night divers can be treated to a show of bioluminescent (light producing) creatures.

Moderate current is often present. Divers at all levels will find this a great day-time dive. She lies between French Reef and the Dixie Shoals. She is marked by a spar buoy and four mooring buoys.

Comments

sdweller - 8 days 8 hours ago.
Here’s a link to my Dive Center’s Page on the Benwood Wreck. It is a pretty good synopsis of it’s history.
seadwellers.com/benwood-wreck-key-largo/
sdweller - 11 days 7 hours ago.
A very underrated Wreck in Key Largo...it’s shallow but loaded with marine life. And it’s more intact than you might expect for a wreck this old.
divercharles - 24 days 1 hour ago.
Rating Added: 4
This wreck has always been kind to me, even with a sportier current. On one dive my buddy and I spotted a school and we moved over nearby, stood on the floor and waited, and soon enough we were surrounded in a school tornado. Just a wonderful sight. Not much to her left, but it’s always a nice dive.
Seeteufel - 4/04/2017 9:28 PM
Rating Added: 4
3/26/17 viz 30’, excellent marine life, moderate current as wind had been blowing for days.
todd999 - 8/16/2016 11:49 AM
Rating Added: 3
nice dive spot. eels all over
Lacolombiana - 7/22/2016 12:26 AM
Rating Added: 4
The night dive here is amazing! There is so much life there, it’s ridiculous. My favorite was the grouper we ended up unintentionally feeding. Every time we illuminated a fish with our flashlight, the grouper would come up and eat it! That grouper ended up visiting several groups that were underwater doing the same thing. No wonder he was so big!
Jouari - 9/07/2015 7:29 PM
Rating Added: 4
This was my last dive to get OW certified and my very first wreck. Amazing experience!
ScubaSmacks - 6/25/2015 4:12 AM
Rating Added: 4
06/16/2015 - There were so many fish here! My first dive in the ocean, and it was amazing. This was a good beginner dive.
mee0214 - 5/23/2015 6:24 PM
Rating Added: 4
Not a very deep dive, but it was teeming with sea life, including the largest sea turtle I have ever seen. Very enjoyable dive.
Seadragon - 1/30/2014 2:41 AM
I went scuba diving here on 9/6/2006. Average viz: 41-50ft/12-15m.
dolphngirl13 - 1/07/2014 2:15 PM
I went scuba diving here on 9/2/2012. Average viz: 41-50ft/12-15m. Water temp: 76-80°F/24-27°C.
dolphngirl13 - 1/06/2014 7:15 PM
Rating Added: 5
Visibility wasn’t as clear, but the wreck is shallow and there was a multitude of fish to see. Be careful of the fire coral.
oceanfloor - 12/15/2013 12:02 AM
Rating Added: 5
I dove it this past summer (2013). It was an awesome comfortable dive. Has a lot to see. Saw the largest moray eel I’ve ever seen. I really enjoyed it and want to go there again.
allisonfinch - 11/15/2013 10:51 AM
Rating Added: 2
horrible decline since first there in 1970
iamdean - 9/29/2013 8:32 PM
I went scuba diving here on 9/21/2013. Average viz: 31-35ft/9-11m. Water temp: 81-85°F/27-29°C.
The Benwood is a debris field. The wreck is spread out and you can see some plates and ribs in areas. There is a cam shaft from the engine and the anchor. Plenty of fish life.
AThunder - 9/21/2013 10:56 AM
Rating Added: 5
Excellent coral for a shallow wreck. Multiple ship sections and tons to see.
sjfriend - 1/21/2013 6:55 PM
Rating Added: 4
Been to Benwood a couple of times and always has lots of fish. One trip we had 3 nurse sharks enjoying the ship at the same time. Very open wreck and fun to explore.
bvarn1 - 1/12/2013 1:37 PM
Rating Added: 3
There were a lot of fish on the wreck,
j1mbr0wn - 9/07/2012 9:46 AM
Rating Added: 4
Nice old wreck. There was a large school of small barracuda on the deck. The dive went on forever because it was so shallow. Got to check out almost every nook and cranny. Some large parrots, a few moreys, sting rays, a school of porkfish, and a whole mess of small reef fish. This is a very established ecosystem, and I’ll be back soon.
ponomo1 - 8/26/2012 12:08 PM
Rating Added: 4
Excellent vis and great water temp when I was here a few years ago. There was lots of fish life everywhere that you looked.

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