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Beacon piles, one with a disc, one without and a much shorter support post. (Click image for credit and larger view.)
Researcher documenting beacon pile at Pickles Reef. (Click image for credit and larger view.)
Researcher documenting support post at Pickles Reef. (Click image for credit and larger view.)
Researchers measuring distances between the piles for the site map.(Click image for larger view.)

Beacon F: Pickles Reef

Coordinates: 24° 59.459' N / 080° 24.897' W
Depth: 6’ to 10’

The beacon at Pickles Reef labeled as "F" is located 5.7 nautical miles east-southeast from Key Largo. Nearby anchorages at Tavernier and Rodriguez Keys provided shelter for sailing craft transiting the area. The beacon is inside of the reef’s barrier grooves that are located to the south by southeast in water six to ten feet deep.

The site has three piles embedded in the seafloor. Two of the three piles measured 11 feet long and both were angled at 60 degrees; the third was slightly less angled and measured only 3.5 feet tall.  Archaeologists believe that the sharply canted piles resulted from storm waves battering the beacons. One of the eleven-foot piles has a disc-shaped flange, which indicated that it was a tri-vane variety that replaced the single vane beacon represented by the other eleven-foot pile. The 3.5 foot long pile was part of the support system used to secure the tri-vane beacons.

Site Map

Click for a printable Pickles Reef site map.


Pickles Reef is a shallow reef crest-back reef zone with relatively flat outcrops of reef structure or framework. The area experiences mostly clear water, and the survey revealed more species and denser populations of benthic organisms than the beacon sites documented further south. Researchers documented mustard hill coral, encrusting fire coral, and gorgonians such as sea fans, sea plumes, and sea rods. Several sponge varieties were present along with numerous species of fish and invertebrates. 

pdf Pickles Reef Totten Beacon Biological Survey 08/25/14 (556 kb)

 Click on image for credit and larger view.


Three-Dimensional Models

Explore the beacon remains on the seafloor without getting wet! The image below shows part of a 3D model created using multi-image photogrammetry. Click the image to load the model, then click, hold, and adjust your mouse to view it from different angles.

Pickles Reef Totten Beacon Base by Corey Malcolm/Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

This model shows the submerged base of the main shaft of the Pickles Reef beacon and one of the three shorter, supplemental, support-points it was once tied to. The large iron disc on the main shaft might have helped the crew installing it to turn and auger the shaft into the seafloor. The Pickles Reef beacon shaft was bent by some unknown trauma.


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