FLORIDA East Coast Shipwrecks Mercedes I Wreck Ft Lauderdale
Historical and current Florida East Coast Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers, fisherman and marine historians.




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MERCEDES I Ft. Lauderdale

The freighter Mercedes I was built in Hamburg, Germany, in 1952. She was 194 feet long, had a 30.6 foot beam and displaced 496 gross tons. She was originally named Jacob Rusch and later renamed Rosita Maria and Rita Voge, before being given her final name Mercedes I in 1976.

On November 23, 1984, while the Mercedes I was sitting peacefully at anchor, a storm began stirring up the surrounding seas. This powerful storm ripped the freighter from her anchor and sent the vessel hurling towards shore. The storm left the Mercedes I high and dry on the beach up against the sea wall of Palm Beach socialite, Mollie Wilmot, who owns the house next to the Kennedy family compound. Her crew of twelve were not injured and literally walked to shore.

After the accident, the owners of the Mercedes abandoned her, leaving the state to try to pull her off the beach. After several unsuccessful attempts and three months of salvage workers utilizing heavy winches, they finally pulled the ship off the beach. At a cost of $223,000 from a Federal fund, the Mercedes I was finally pulled from the beach by the Donjon Marine Company of New Jersey.

By the time of her dislodging from the beach, the Mercedes I had become a celebrity to the media because of her strange wrecked location. The ugly freighter had been littering one of Florida's most expensive stretches of real estate.

The hulk of the Mercedes I was purchased from Donjon for $29,000 by the Broward County Environmental Quality Control Board, with the intention of sinking the ship to create an artificial reef off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. In preparation for her sinking, the Mercedes I was stripped. Holes were cut in the ship's sides and interior bulkheads to make her safe for divers. Hatch covers were removed and exit signs were even painted on the interior walls to help divers find their way out safely. All of the preparation work was done by volunteers from the community.

On March 30, 1985, the Broward County Bomb and Arson Squad loaded the ship with 350 pounds of TNT. With at least 20,000 spectators looking on, the ship was towed out to sea where upon detonation, she became enveloped in a cloud of smoke and flames before sinking to her final resting place. Millionaire, Mollie Wilmot, who had lived with the rusting hulk in her backyard for three months, watched the sinking from the Goodyear blimp.

The Mercedes I has become quite a popular dive site. Dive boats are constantly hovering over the wreck while teams of divers go down to explore her remains. On a clear day, even snorklers can see the Mercedes sitting perfectly upright on the ocean floor. Although visibility here has been reported to be as good as 100 feet, the norm ranges from 50 to 60, and the current can sometimes be strong. Because of the depth and the strong current, this wreck is for the more advanced diver.

The Mercedes I now rests in 97 feet of water, one mile off the shore of Ft. Lauderdale on a sand and coral bottom. This wreck now abounds with marine wildlife. Divers can see many species such as schooling bait fish, bonito, jacks , barracuda, angelfish and parrotfish. For divers interested in macro photography, this wreck is inhabited by hundreds of arrow crabs that make for a great shot. One mile north of the Mercedes is the wreck of the Rebel which was sunk in 1985.

Photo: The Mercedes I. was once named Rosita Maria. Photo courtesy Bill Schell collection.
On November 23,1984, a storm left the Mercedes high and dry on the beach. Photo by William

Basic shipwreck information and images for this section of this site was taken with permission from the book Florida Shipwrecks by Daniel Berg. You are invited to submit your shipwreck related articles, images and information. As long as the text, photographs, sketches etc are of professional quality we will showcase them. Full credit will be provide and a same page link to your web site can be arranged.

Florida Shipwrecks ebook
The Divers Guide to Shipwrecks around the State of Florida and the Florida Keys,

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By Dan and Denise Berg, 180 pages. Shipwrecks are an important complement to the natural coral reefs as a sport diving attraction in Florida. From the barley discernable ballast piles of the 1733 fleet to the almost perfectly intact modern ships sunk specifically as artificial reefs throughout the state, shipwrecks inspire an aura of mystery and fascination. Florida Shipwrecks is the most comprehensive, accurate, illustrated collection of information, photographs, sketches and stories ever written about the shipwrecks around the state of Florida. This downloadable ebook contains a wealth of enlightening information that gives the readers a nostalgic glimpse into the history and present condition of over 235 shipwrecks. Florida Shipwrecks includes over 240 illustrations comprised of 151 color photos, 83 black and white historical images, 8 dynamic u/w sketches. Divers , snorkelers, marine historians, armchair sailors or anyone with a general interest in history diving or the sea will surely find this ebook fascinating, as well as indispensable.


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