THE EAGLE, Florida Keys

Min Depth: 65 ft.
Max Depth: 110 ft

The Eagle wreck was a 287-foot freighter sunk intentionally near Lower Matecumbe Key, Florida, to become an artificial reef and diving spot. It was formerly in the service of the Eagle tire company, thus its unofficial name. The Raila Dan was the Eagle’s first name after she was built in Werf-Gorinchem, Holland, in 1962. She went through several different owners and seven name changes during her troubled life.

In 1985, while en route from Miami to Venezuela, the Eagle experienced her second fire (she had an earlier major fire in 1977), damaging the vessel beyond repair. The ship was docked in the Miami River until October of 1985 when a group of local divers, dive shops and a combination of the Monroe County Tourist Council, the Artificial Reef Committee and some local businesses raised $10,000 to purchase and clean the vessel.

The Eagle wreck has several interesting features, including two large mast assemblies and propeller. The bridge area provides a nice swim through. Railings, ladders and cable winches are still visible. A school of blue runners usually mark the start of the diving exploration atop the wreck. On the site, beautifully adorned crow’s-nest and forward cargo boom, both of which are thickly covered in coral, sponge growth and an array of fish, can be seen. Schools of baitfish swirl around the Eagle’s superstructure and gaping cargo holds, together with other sea lives including tarpon, schools of permit, parrot fish, goliath grouper, green morays, snook, triggerfish, spotted eagle rays and stingrays.

Due to Hurricane Georges, the Eagle has been split in two, allowing divers to peer into the belly of the ship without entering an overhead environment. Dive instructors consider the Eagle an excellent location for teaching deep, advanced wreck and navigation diving but keep an eye on the blue: The ship is a favorite with divers, but it’s even more popular with pelagics, from bull sharks to sawfish, cruising the Gulf Stream.

To find out which dive charter boats are going to visit this site, and others like it, visit Scuba Schedules and navigate to either the Upper Keys scuba diving region, or the Lower Keys scuba diving region.

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