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Florida Keys Dive Sites - The Wreck Alligator

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USS Alligator (armed schooner lost November 23, 1822)

USS Alligator was launched, November 2, 1820, and commissioned in March 1821. Alligator's short, but intensive, period of naval service was involved with combating the problem of the slave trade. In 1821, Alligator was dispatched to the coast of Africa, where her officers helped negotiate the purchase of Liberia as an American protectorate. The new territory was intended to serve as a haven for former American slaves, where they could start a new life. Alligator was one of the first Navy ships dispatched to Florida following the acquisition of Florida by the U.S. from Spain in 1821. Alligator was assigned patrol duty to help suppress the rampant piracy which existed in the Florida Keys, and off the coasts of Cuba. While returning from a naval action against pirates off the coast of Cuba, Alligator ran aground on Carysford (later renamed Alligator) Reef, in the Florida Keys, near present-day Islamorada, on November 19, 1822. When Alligator's officers and crew determined that she couldn't be saved, they set fire to her to prevent her re-capture by pirates. The vessel exploded when fire reached her munitions' areas. Her officers and crew were rescued and taken off the Reef. Alligator may be considered to be the first Navy ship wrecked in Florida.
   The site of USS Alligator is located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) and its location has been generally known by divers for many years. The site of USS Alligator is presently being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places by the Naval Historical Center. A brief reconnaissance survey project was completed in October 1995 by several state and federal agencies. One longer-term objective is to determine a management strategy for the site


Location Lat 24 51.07 Lon 80 37.21
200 yards offshore of Alligator Light, between coral heads
3.5 NM SE of Lower Matecumbe Key




Markers Mooring Buoys (also see FKNMS drawing below)
E 24 50.98 80 36.84        S 24 50.51 80 37.35
W 24 50.81 80 37.63       N 24 51.23 80 37.17

8' - 40'

Experience Level:  Novice to Intermediate
History See Above
Present Condition Little left but encrusted ballast stones
Sea-Life morays and scorpion fish around the ballast, corals and sea fans around site
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Local Dive Shops Islamorada
Web Sources Dive site: USS Alligator - Wreck       Alligator Reef (SPA)

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This page last updated: 01/04/2008