By Chris Curle and Don Farmer - Marco News
The next time you visit one of our Gulf beaches, look west toward the horizon.
Now, imagine that your vision extends that far under the water, where would see centuries of history preserved in countless shipwreck ruins on, and sometimes embedded in, the floor of the Gulf.
Many of those shipwrecks are now bountiful reefs, teeming with sea life. Others hold secrets in their hidden hulls and sunken sterns.
This is the story of one shipwreck, probably about 100 years old, about 30 miles off the coast of Marco Island. It probably will never yield any treasure, nor has it revealed many secrets about its history.
In short, this shipwrecked steam paddle-wheeler offers mystery and curiosity, as well as fun, for experienced divers and others enamored of undersea history.
The stern-wheeler ship sits in 75-80 feet of water, with its highest protruding parts only about five feet above the sandy bottom. Around 1980, a fishermen’s nets snagged on the shipwreck and led to its discovery.
After divers examined the scene, some thought the paddle-wheeler might have carried materials to build Fort Jefferson, in the Dry Tortugas, but that theory has since been discredited, because the fort was completed in the 1860s.