The Benwood

Benwood wreck

The Benwood was built in England in 1910 and sunk in 1942 when it collided with another ship. She lies between French Reef and Dixie Shoals on a bottom of low profile reef and sand in depths ranging from 25 to 45 feet.

 

History

The Benwood, built in England in 1910, was owned by a Norwegian company and registered as a merchant marine freighter. She was 360 feet long with a 51-foot beam. She carried ore and was armed with 12 rifles, one four-inch gun, six depth charges, and 36 bombs.

On the night of April 9, 1942, the Benwood was on a routine voyage from Tampa, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, carrying a cargo of phosphate rock. Rumors of German U-boats in the area required her to travel completely blacked out with the Keys coastal lights three miles abeam. The ship Robert C. Tuttle, also blacked out, was traveling in the same area, bound for Atreco, Texas.

The bow of the Benwood collided with the port side of the Tuttle. The Tuttle was not in immediate danger, but the Benwood’s bow was crushed and taking on water. The captain turned her toward land and a half an hour later gave orders to abandon ship. The next day the keel was found to be broken and the ship declared a total loss.

Salvage began soon after the sinking and continued into the 1950s. It is believed that she was dynamited as a navigational hazard and was used by the U.S. Army for aerial target practice after World War II. This is one of the most popular shipwreck dives in the Keys.

Archaeology

The remains of the Benwood are scattered over a wide area. The bow of the ship is the most-intact feature, forming a 25-foot profile in the water column. The hull structure is mostly intact up to the level of the first deck. Large steel knees join the deck plate to the outer hull and sides of the vessel. These knees are massive reinforced triangles of steel which outline the ship’s hull shape despite the loss of the hull plates themselves.

 

 

 

Site Map

Benwood site map

Click here for a printable version of the Benwood site map.

View a map showing the locations of buoys at the Benwood shipwreck site.

 

Virtual Dive

Explore the ship's remains on the seafloor without getting wet!. Click on the image below to start your dive.

These sanctuary views can be enjoyed on a personal computer or a smartphone. To access the dive on a smart phone, text the message, "fknms", to 24587 and follow the link in the response. Pair your smartphone with a virtual reality headset or goggles of your choice (and click the googles icon ) for an extra-immersive experience.

Images created in collaboration with The Ocean Agency.

Interactive 3D Model

The image below activates a 3D model created using multi-image photogrammetry. Click the image to load the model, and then click, hold, and adjust your mouse to view the model from different angles.

The photogrammetric model is composed of 6460 aligned images collected June 1, 2017 by scientific divers from FKNMS, Indiana University, and the Boy Scouts of America, with support from a NOAA Preserve America grant. The area modeled isabout 3070 square meters, with an estimated position error of 8.5 cm. Model and texture resolution were reduced for upload.
Photography was processed by Matthew Maus, Indiana University.

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