Today, the skeleton of the “Red carpet ship of the Windjammer fleet” can be found submerged on Long Reef in Biscayne National Park. The coral-encrusted remains are home to flurries of tropical fish.
Biscayne National Park has opened at least six sunken wrecks to visitors on a series of snorkeling tours called The Maritime Heritage Trail.
“Mandalay looks like a shipwreck dropped into an aquarium,” said park Ranger Astrid Rybeck on a recent snorkeling trip.
Along the Maritime Heritage Trail are shipwrecks that span nearly 100 years and include schooners.
“We know of at least 44 wrecks within the park boundary but there may be many, many more out there,” said the park’s official archaeologist, Charles Lawson. “There may be hundreds of wrecks out there. But we’ve started with offering trips to see [a limited number]. The tours are suitable for the novice and experienced snorkeler alike but,” added Lawson, “all participants must be able to swim.”
Lawson and Biscayne National Park rangers have mapped all the wrecks and laid out mooring buoys for those who want to explore from their own private vessels.
On the guided tours, a Biscayne National Park ranger will provide an overview of the park and the submerged cultural resources before leading an exploration of a selected shipwreck belonging to the Maritime Heritage Trail.
The $45 fee includes the boat ride with a ranger as well as all necessary equipment (mask, fins, snorkel and snorkel vest). Space is limited and reservations are required. Call the park’s concessionaire at 305-230-1100, or visit their website for reservations.
All trips depart from the park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center, nine miles east of Homestead, and are subject to cancellation due to weather, marine conditions and/or passenger minimums.