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Benwood Back to Diga's HomePage

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Diver Level: Openwater

Maximum Depth: 45 feet

Location: 25-03.144N, 80-19.930W

A site on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Shipwreck Trail

The Benwood is located between French Reef and Dixie Shoals in 25 to 45 feet of water. She sank after a collision in 1942 with the Robert C. Tuttle.


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 thirty-six 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 Robert C. Tuttle, also blacked out, was traveling in the same area, bound for Atreco, Texas. The two ships were on a collision course. 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-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 1950`s. It is believed that she was dynamited as a navigation 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.


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 shape despite the loss of the hull plates themselves.

The first deck has been punctured in many places, forming a network of "nooks and crannies" perfect for fish habitat. Divers can peer through these holes into the cargo hold and see the space where ore was once carried.

Marine Life Commonly Observed on this Site:

Watch for these fish and invertebrates: goatfish, grunts, moray eels, lobster, glassy sweepers, snapper, grouper, and hogfish.

Look for these bottom dwelling organisms: sea fans, sea whips, brain coral, fire coral, and sponges.

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