SS Copenhagen, a 19th Century cargo
steamer, struck a coral reef in 25 feet of water off present-day Lauderdale-By-The-Sea
on May 26, 1900. The shipwreck is one of just 11
underwater archaeological preserves in Florida, and was officially dedicated as the state's
fifth shipwreck preserve in June 1994. In 2001 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places!
Dive boats often
visit the shallow wreck, which is popular with local
scuba divers and snorkelers. With an estimated 10,000 visitors per year, it is by far the most popular underwater preserve in the state. Some divers even swim out to the site from the beach and then enjoy lunch at the Sea Watch Restaurant on State Road A1A (the shipwreck is directly off the restaurant); the
Sea Watch is also where officials from the Florida
Division of Historical Resources Bureau of
Archaeological Research held a
reception in 1994 to officially dedicate the site as an historical
preserve. Click here to see the state's SS Copenhagen brochure. The brochure is available at Town Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and local dive shops. There are also informational beach signs about Copenhagen off Washingtonia Park and near the Sea Watch Restaurant.
Constructed in England and launched in 1898, the
single-screw steamer's final voyage began on May 20,
1900. The SS Copenhagen left Philadelphia
bound for Cuba with a cargo of nearly 5,000 tons
of black coal. On the sixth day of its voyage, the schooner accidentally slammed into a reef three-quarters
of a mile offshore.
The bulk of the ship's cargo was salvaged, but attempts to pull the
vessel off the reef failed. The SS Copenhagen remained above water for
decades and was used as target practice by U.S. Navy
pilots during World War II. Much of its flattened
structure has become part of the coral reef, providing a
home for spiny lobsters, tropical fish and other marine
life. Divers sometimes report seeing lumps of coal and spent ammunition shells on the site.