For marine life enthusiasts, this wreck is host to numerous large species of reef and bottom dwellers, including the colourful parrotfish and other wrasses; the romantically named damselfish (tiny anemone fish); and the not-so quixotically designated surgeonfish, known for its scalpel-sharp spine. Charters take off from the docks at Key West to hunt for “trophy wreck fish” here, so don’t be surprised to see a variety of dive, snorkelling and fishing boats lurking on the surface near the wreck site. The deeper you go, the more elusive fish and invertebrates you’ll see, including Nassau grouper, goliath grouper, barracuda, sharks, eel, conch, octopus and rock lobster.
Although your average or even novice diver can explore the Vandenberg quite comfortably, the currents can be unexpectedly strong. Divers should have an experienced team leading the way, and always carry knives in case of entanglement and use a buddy system. Other divers entering compartments can kick up the silt, and it’s easy to become disoriented. As always, at large or small dive sites, natural or artificial ones, safety is the main concern. Fortunately, the Vandenberg offers exactly what most experienced divers relish: a dive site so intriguing, a repeat visit is a must.
Written by Jen Karetnick