This massive wreck used to once be a Cleveland Class cruiser. Built in 1942 and commissioned in 1944, and measuring a total of 608 feet in length, this vessel is so far, and by far, the largest ship to be sunk and turned into an artificial reef off the coasts of Key West. The next biggest ship is the Spiegel Grove which measures 510 feet. The vessel is sunk at 200 feet, making it an exciting and challenging dive for technically qualified divers.
During World War II, the USS Wilkes-Barre was used quite frequently. The ship was not decommissioned until 1947. She was not used again until 1972, when she was used as a testing subject for underwater explosives. One of these test explosions split the boat in two. The stern sank immediately while the front section needed extra scuttling to sink properly. Because of the split, the ship’s two pieces lie apart, in depths of 140 to 250 feet of water. The two pieces of the ship serve as two separate dives with the stern providing an upright dive and the bow lying on its starboard side. This is a dive that is only for the most experienced of divers.