Hen and Chickens Brick Wreck

Shipwreck structure lying on the seafloor covered with round stony coral and long, flowing soft coral branches
Only the forward-half of the vessel wrecked at Hen and Chickens Reef remains on the seafloor. Photo: Matt Lawrence/NOAA

This riveted iron or steel shipwreck is located inshore of the triangular light tower at Hen and Chickens Reef. It is surrounded by a lush coral reef with many large soft corals covering the wreck. The wreckage extends along a 100-foot axis with its bow rising to within 10 feet of the surface.


The shipwreck is reputed to be an unnamed barge carrying bricks that broke free from its tow 8 miles northeast of Alligator Reef Light in July 1949. The barge, carrying father Macey O. Scott and his 18-year old son, Orville, drifted inshore before grounding on the Hen and Chickens Reef. Father and son clung to the barge's mast protruding above the water through the night. In the morning, Orville swam ashore at Snake Creek, a distance of 3 miles, to secure help. A boat carrying Orville returned to the wreck, rescued his father, and met up with the tugboat that had moved inshore and anchored after losing its tow (Miami Herald, July 28, 1949). The brick cargo was intended for the construction of a Key West home by George Aston. Ultimately, he lost 8,000 of the 26,000 bricks ordered from Georgia before the barge finally landed its cargo in Key West (Miami News September 4, 1949).

Diver swimming past wreckage with marine life attached.
A diver swims past colorful soft corals attached to the wreck at Hen and Chickens Reef. Photo: Matt Lawrence/NOAA


The shipwreck's characteristics indicate it was not a typical rectangular barge of the mid-twentieth century. Instead researchers believe it was once a steamship. The hull shape and construction features match this type of vessel. Scattered around the hull are a few bricks representing all that is left of its cargo. The shipwreck's condition presents a mystery as all that is left is the forward half of the vessel. Sanctuary researchers and a team from Diving With A Purpose mapped the shipwreck in 2022. Their work has led to the hypothesis that only half of the barge was raised and towed to Key West with its brick cargo.

Composite photo of the shipwreck
Orthomosaic image of the Hen and Chickens Brick Wreck. Credit: Diving With a Purpose/NOAA