On our certification dive offshore Key Largo some years ago, we did one of the first dives around Mike's wreck. No one knew what ship it was, so it was called Mike's wreck after Mike Butler, who made this dive site popular in the '80s.
Generations of fishermen in the Keys must have known about this shipwreck six miles off coast Key Largo, but it wasn’t until now, November 2012, that the unknown shipwreck was officially identified as the steamer Hannah M Bell.
Information gathered by staff from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries and volunteers from The National Association of Black Divers (NABS) during three years confirmed that the ship was the 315 foot (96 m.) steamboat Hanna M. Bell, built in England, in 1893. The ship did many transatlantic journeys transporting cotton, sugar and coal between Europe, the US East coast, the Gulf coast, Caribbean and South America. It grounded on Elbow Reef 101 years ago, on the 4th of April 1911. No one was killed, and people off loaded what was on the ship during three days until they abandoned it.
We have several artificial reefs offshore St Petersburg, Gulfport and Clearwater and so do the Florida Keys, but there are also hundreds, maybe thousands, of ships accidently sunken because of hurricanes, wars, pirates, groundings and so on. I think most of us find those shipwrecks a little more exciting to dive. Not all dive charters are telling the history behind the sunken ship you are about to explore, but some do, and that gives another thrill of diving there. We are working together with a dive charter in Key Largo that is doing just that, Ocean Divers, and we still have seats left for our New Year’s dives with them.
For more information about the identification of Hannah M. Bell go to http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/12/1911-shipwreck-identified-off-florida-coast/
Check www. Divegulfport.com