Divers exploring the 189-foot shipwreck Thunderbolt in the coming months can mark the 30th anniversary of the Middle Keys gem being intentionally sunk 4 miles south of Marathon and Key Colony Beach.
Considered by the diving community to be the queen of the Marathon wreck fleet, the easily navigable “T-bolt” rests in 120 feet of water, providing advanced divers as well as spear fishermen an interesting deep site populated by hundreds of reef fish and pelagic species.
Before its intentional sinking March 6, 1986, the ship was stripped of all but a few pieces of equipment. Its most prominent features are a cable-handling reel centered on the forecastle at approximately 80 feet and an observation deck at 75 feet. Aft, the rudder and propellers sit at 120 feet. The stern was cut away to expose the hull’s interior.
Originally named Major General Wallace F. Randolph, the vessel was launched June 2, 1942, one of 16 sister ships built as mine planters to guard coastal minefields for the U.S. Army. However, it was never commissioned and the Randolph’s duties were transferred to the Navy. The vessel remained idle in a Naval Reserve fleet.
In later years, Florida Power and Light Co. used the renamed Thunderbolt as a cable layer for researching electrical energy and lightning strikes, and eventually donated the vessel to the Florida Keys Artificial Reef Association.
Thunderbolt is one of nine vessels included in the “Wreck Trek Passport Program,” which rewards advanced- and wreck-certified divers who complete a series of nine Florida Keys shipwreck dives featured in an official Florida Keys Wreck Trek logbook.
Until January 1, 2016, divers who complete the nine dives in the logbook earn a collage print as well as a chance to win dive equipment and accessories or Florida Keys dive and lodging packages. For details about the Florida Keys Wreck Trek, visit fla-keys.com/diving/wrecktrek.
If you book directly through Tranquility Bay, you are guaranteed the best deal so call 855-606-4502 to speak with one of our on-site vacation planners and secure an unbeatable package.